Budget airlines not so cheap after all

It costs £40 for a flight from London to Malaga. Add a £15 administration fee, £15 for luggage and £5 for paying by debit card. That cheap flight suddenly is not so cheap. And then there is that final choice — an extra £10 a head to join the speedy boarding queue and get first pick of the seats.

I have never bothered with speedy boarding myself, so I cannot see myself forking out to get the numbered seat I would have got if I had just booked through another airline. But I would like to see the speedy boarders’ faces when they find all the best seats have gone. Then again, the laugh has sometimes been on me.

A while ago we did not hear the call for our flight and only joined the queue right at the end. The last four seats were all singles. I was not that bothered but my wife did not think it would be that great for our six- and three-year-olds to sit by themselves. Half an hour later the plane had not moved because the cabin crew had failed to persuade anyone to swap seats, forcing the pilot to intervene.

But just sometimes you win. The speedy boarders’ idea of the best seat does not always coincide with mine. Their idea is to be at the front to give the illusion of travelling first class. Mine is an emergency seat with extra legroom and once I was so amazed to find a whole row free that I grabbed it for myself and the kids. The steward looked at my son, now 15. “He is 16, isn’t he? There’s an age requirement for these seats.” I looked him in the eye: “Yes.”

The steward paused before deciding there were bigger battles to be fought. The small victories are sometimes the most satisfying. —

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John Crace
Guest Author

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