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Date: 21/08/2012

Cheap flights - just how cheap are they once all the hidden charges are included

Budget flights have soared in popularity in recent years, with more and more airlines offering a cut-price alternative for those willing to travel without the frills.

However, many firms have hit the headlines in recent times for slapping unexpected charges onto the cost of a ticket. So, can you trust the price you are quoted or should you dig around for hidden extras?

Unless you are planning on a short trip, the chances are you will need more than just hand luggage. However, if you haven't been on a budget flight before you may be shocked to learn that checking a suitcase or other bag into the hold will incur an additional fee.

Some travellers try to get around this by cramming as much into their hand luggage as humanly possible, but airlines are now wise to this trick and many impose restrictions not only weight, but on the dimensions of your carry-on bag. It is usually possible to reduce the cost of your luggage by paying for it in advance.

Check-in also attracts other charges that you may not have anticipated. As well as extra costs just for checking in, you could be rocked by as much as £60 to print off a boarding pass if you do not do it yourself at home. Checking in online and printing your own boarding pass could save a fair wedge of cash.

If you have any other extras that you need to take on board, or babies that will be held in your arms, do not assume you will necessarily be able to carry them on free of charge. Despite not having their own seat, babies are charged at around £20 per infant on some airlines, whereas others allow them to travel for free.

One of the most controversial charges of all is the booking fee or admin charge, depending on what the airline chooses to call it. This is added on once you come to pay and can be either a flat rate per person or a percentage of the total cost. This hidden charge has come in for a lot of criticism and from January 2013, airlines are supposed to make all their charges far more transparent.

Budget flights can provide a very cheap alternative for a getaway, but if you are not careful you could end up paying far more than it would cost to travel on a regularly priced package. If you have baggage or any extra requirements, it is important to look at the fine print very carefully to make sure you do not get a nasty surprise when you are handed the final bill.