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Hard times give rise to aeno-frills' fares.

Dubai In times of tight budgets and falling revenues, so called aeno-frills' or discount airlines become extraordinarily inventive when it comes to charging extra fees and applying additional costs that can inflate the basic airfare significantly.

This is the outcome of a survey of European discount carriers, conducted by the tourism section of the Austrian automotive association Oamtc, released on Monday, and a copy of which was obtained by Gulf News.

"What gets lost in times of financial crises, high oil prices and ash clouds has to be retrieved otherwise," says Silvie Bergant, tourism specialist at Oamtc.

The survey shows which extra fees travellers can expect to pay when flying with a discount airline. Popular European no-frills carriers such as Germanwings, easyJet or Ryanair impose an extra charge for every piece of luggage per route.

Germanwings takes 20 euros (Dh90) for each piece, easyJet charges 22 euros (Dh99), and Ryan-air a whopping 35 euros (Dh157) plus a surcharge of five euros (Dh22) in the busy months of July and August.

But this is not the only surprise. The free baggage allowance, 20 kilograms by international standards, has been limited by carriers like Ryanair and InterSky to 15 kilogrammes, which means that every excess kilogramme per piece of bagagge will be billed. Ryanair, for example, charges 20 euros (Dh90) per kilogramme exceeding the free limit.

Other hidden fees comprise various "service charges". Most of these discount carriers charge for internet bookings at a rate of five (Dh22) to 15 euros (Dh67).

If the flight is booked at a call centre or directly at the airport, these costs can rise up to 25 euros (Dh112) per ticket.

"With Ryanair it's mandatory to check in online, and the airline is still charging five euros for it," says Bergant.

Ryanair, the Irish airline which caused howls of protest last year when it proposed a charge of u1 (Dh5.50) to use its aircraft restrooms during a flight, seems to be the most inventive among the discount carriers.

It charges four euros (Dh18) for preferred treatment at check-in, a 20 euros (Dh90) toddler surcharge for children under two years travelling with their parents, and an administration fee of 20 euros (Dh90) for the refund of government taxes if the booking is changed.

And, of course, meals on board do not come free. Drinks and snacks are only available for cash, but all carriers allow passengers to bring their own meals, although hot drinks are not allowed.

Gulf discount carriers also do their maths. Flydubai charges Dh60 for the first checked bag and Dh150 for each additional checked bag if they have been pre-booked. Showing up with the luggage at the airport will cost Dh150 for the first bag and Dh500 for the second.

The weight limit is 32 kilogrammes for checked bags and 10 kilogrammes for hand luggage. Changing or cancelling the flight costs Dh100, seat selection is priced at Dh5 and seats with extra legroom cost Dh100 extra.

Sharjah-based Air Arabia offers free hand baggage up to 10 kilogrammes and up to 32 kilogrammes for checked baggage. Excess baggage fees are Dh10 to Dh50 per kilogramme, depending on the destination and ticket class.

Malaysia-based Air Asia, the biggest discount airline in South East Asia, has recently raised its fees for excess baggage. Checked baggage costs between $7 (Dh27) and $15 (Dh55) per piece, on Air Asia's long haul flights which cost up to $52 (Dh191).

Air Asia also adds airport fees (not to be confused with airport taxes, which have to be paid separately by the traveller at certain airports) to its basic fares, as well as a booking service fee. It charges extra fees for booking a preferred seat.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jun 23, 2010
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