HOLIDAY firms including Ryanair and Tui are advertising bargain summer breaks to lure families back after the half-term travel chaos.
But if you’re tempted to bag a last-minute trip, watch out for sneaky tricks that booking sites and airlines use to boost their profits.
If you’re tempted to bag a last-minute trip, watch out for sneaky tricks that booking sites and airlines use to boost their profitsCredit: Shutterstock
Harriet Cooke reveals the common traps and how to avoid them . . .
MANY travel companies use dynamic pricing, so costs change minute by minute according to the number of flight seats or hotel rooms sold, and what rivals are charging.
Virgin Atlantic claims that clearing your cookies before searching for flights won’t mean cheaper dealsCredit: Alamy
It can mean wild price hikes when fares suddenly become very popular, like last month when Liverpool secured a place in the Champions League final in Paris on May 28.
Easyjet’s cheapest fare from Manchester to Charles de Gaulle Airport flying out the day before the match cost £359, while the same flight two weeks before the game was £64, when we looked in the first week of May.
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Some people believe clearing cookies on your browser gets you cheaper prices, but firms we spoke to – including easyJet and Virgin Atlantic – said it wouldn’t affect prices.
HOW TO BEAT IT: Book as early as possible when demand is low. You might snag a last-minute bargain later, but don’t bank on it.
LUGGAGE fees can double the cost of a cheap flight. One Ryanair return flight from London to Majorca we looked at jumped from £30 to £79 once hold luggage was added.
Beware when booking, as luggage fees can double the cost of a cheap flightCredit: Shutterstock
The airline allows a cabin bag of 40x25x20cm (20 litres), which fits just one change of clothes, according to consumer group Which?
It will cost from £8 to take a 10kg wheelie bag onboard with you, or from £12.99 to put a 10kg bag in the hold. EasyJet’s free cabin allowance is slightly better, at 45x36x20cm (32 litres).
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “We found British Airways and Jet2-compliant bags (included in their cabin allowance) held 63 litres, and we were easily able to fit our summer clothes and essentials for a week in the sun.”
HOW TO BEAT IT: Check the cost of budget flights AND baggage against traditional airlines like BA. Pay for luggage when you book, as it’s cheaper than at a later date.
WHEN booking online, you might see messages like, “Don’t lose out! Prices may rise”, or, “Only two seats left at this price”.
Don’t rush to book when travel sites warn you of fares and accommodation selling fastCredit: Shutterstock
Some sites have a countdown for how long you’ve got left to secure your price.
One Sun Money reporter who looked at a hotel on Tripadvisor was sent four follow-up emails, which warned: “Fastest fingers first, prices may change any time on his hotel you were eyeing.”
HOW TO BEAT IT: Don’t rush to book when travel sites warn you of fares and accommodation selling fast. Chances are they’ll still be available if you take your time to compare prices.
SEAT FEE SHOCK
AIRLINES will typically charge between £6 and £10 if you opt for specific seats to guarantee you’ll sit with your family – but lots will still seat you together even if you don’t pay.
Ryanair is an exception as seats are randomly allocated. All airlines will sit passengers next to their children, but Ryanair says at least one adult must pay for an allocated seat – costing at least £3 – if they are travelling with a child under 12.
HOW TO BEAT IT: If you’re not flying with Ryanair, take a punt on being put together and check-in early to improve your odds.
ONLINE booking sites sometimes sell flights cheaper than airlines, but they may also charge more for extras, such as luggage and seats.
We used comparison site Skyscanner to search for a week’s trip from London Gatwick to Malaga for a family of four in August. The booking site gotogate.co.uk came up cheapest at £597, flying with Wizz Air.
At first glance, this is cheaper than basic fares direct from Wizz Air, which came to £676.
Once we clicked through to gotogate.co.uk, the fares dropped to £564, due to dynamic pricing. But adding a 10kg cabin bag and 10kg checked-in bag for each person, put the cost up by £940, plus £128 to reserve seats, bringing the total to £1,680 after taxes and a random £12 discount.
Instead, you should opt for Wizz Air’s Pack & Save fare, which allows each flyer a 20kg checked-in bag, carry-on and trolley bag plus allocated seats, for £1,049, which is almost £600 cheaper.
Gotogate said: “To have a competitive offering we are constantly working with our pricing to be as attractive as possible for our potential customers.”
HOW TO BEAT IT: Use price comparison sites such as Kayak, Momondo, Google Flights, Skyscanner, TravelSupermarket and Fly.com as well as checking airlines’ sites. But never settle on a fare until you’ve got to the checkout page, when all booking fees are included.
Gatwick to Malaga for family of four in August
Flights (£564), 4 cabin bags + 4 hold bags (£940), seat reservations (£128), taxes and fees (£60) minus £12 discount
Total: £1,680 (inc taxes and discount)
Flights – Pack and Save fare inc 8 cabin bags, 4 hold bags, seat reservations, taxes and fees (£1,049)
Total: £1,049 (inc taxes)
MOTORSPORTS fans Ava Kelly and partner Alex Pope from Tamworth, Staffs, racked up more than £100 in fees on top of flight costs when they went to Barcelona last month.
Marketing worker Ava, 35 and surveyor Alex, 33, used Travelzoo to book a £1,600 package trip to see the Spanish Grand Prix, and paid an extra £20 each on both their outward and return flights to take larger bags on the plane.
When they checked in online 48 hours before flying, they realised there was a fee just to sit together – so they paid £6 each on the way out, and £8 each on the return.
Ava, who works for the price comparison site loveenergysavings.com, said: “It’s morally wrong to seat people apart unless they pay more, if they have booked a flight together.
“It creates a bad feeling between the customer and the airline.”
WATCHDOG ACTS ON FUNERALS
The Financial Conduct Authority has published an initial list of 24 companies it wants to authorise to sell funeral plansCredit: Shutterstock
FUNERAL plans will require authorisation by the financial regulator from next month.
The decision comes after the collapse of several high-profile funeral plan providers.
The failures have left thousands of customers out of pocket.
In March, Safe Hands collapsed with 45,000 customers.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published an initial list of 24 companies it wants to authorise to sell funeral plans. They include Co-Op Funeral Plans, One Life, and Plan With Grace.
The firms represent 87 per cent of existing funeral plans.
There are 66 funeral plan providers operating in the UK, according to the FCA.
But the products have been criticised by industry leaders for not providing good value for money.
Some providers have been accused of pressuring consumers into buying plans and using misleading sales tactics.
The rules will make sure plans offer fair value and meet consumer needs.
They will come into effect on July 29.
Emily Shepperd of the FCA said: “We want to see an improvement in the way customers are treated, with better value products, better sales practices and better controls in place so consumers can be confident that they will receive the funeral they expect.”
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ANYONE on Universal Credit and other means-tested benefits will get £650 in total from the Government to help with the cost-of-living crisis.
It is part of a package of funding to help struggling households. You do not have to do anything to get the money.
A first amount of £326 will be paid automatically into claimants’ bank accounts next month.
A second payment of £324 is slated for autumn. The exact month has not yet been confirmed.
People on pension credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and income support will get the money.
Those on working tax credits and child tax credits will also receive the cash, but at a later date.
To qualify you need have been in receipt of these benefits on May 25, or have made a claim by then, which goes on to be successful.