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How Can I Avoid Airline Surcharges?

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Dear EssentialTravel.co.uk
My husband and I have booked economy flights to go to LA over Christmas with our three children, who are 7, 4 and 18 months. I've seen a number of articles in the news recently about airline surcharges and I am concerned about how we might be affected by these, especially as the trip involves using two different airlines. We're flying to Washington with BA, but taking a flight with American airline Delta from there to LA. Ruthie Carr, Manchester

Stuart Bensusuan, Essential Travel.co.uk's Insurance Specialist replies:

Dear Ruthie,
Airline surcharges are a very real issue now and something that travellers need to be aware of. However, since you're flying out with BA, these won't affect you as much as if you were travelling with a budget airline. So the good news is you won't find yourself paying for airport check-in or in-flight meals and you are entitled to a free checked luggage allowance.

The only additional charges you do need to be aware of relate to going over the luggage allowance. For BA's economy passengers the allowance is two bags per person, including a collapsible pushchair and car seat for your youngest. Any additional bags will be charged at £90 (£72 if you pay online beforehand). You also have to be careful not to exceed the weight limit of 51lbs each bag or you'll be charged a flat fee of £25 each.

Once you switch to Delta however, it's a different story. American airlines are notoriously bad for additional surcharges. Delta only allows one bag per economy passenger and if you want to check-in a second bag, you face paying around £20 per person each way. If any of your bags are over the size or weight allowance, you risk a £100 fee per bag - therefore make sure you weigh your luggage before you leave the house. A good tip is also to wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane to reduce the size of your bags. As you're not flying too far with Delta, eat before you board the plane to avoid paying for any food. They do provide free snacks so the children shouldn't go hungry.

Any time you're thinking about flying take a look at our tips to avoiding airline surcharges below.

Have a good flight! Stuart

How to avoid airline surcharges

Read all the terms and conditions on the airline's policy thoroughly, so you are aware of any potential 'extra' charges before you turn up at the airport.

Book in - and pay for your bags - online, it's often cheaper.

In some cases it may be cheaper to rent equipment - especially sporting equipment - when you get there rather than taking yours with you.

Check your luggage allowance and don't exceed it. If you must travel with more than one checked bag, shop around for airlines that have greater luggage allowances, or at least cheaper excess baggage fees.

Remember the capsule wardrobe? Think carefully about what you are really going to need before you pack, so you only take what you need.

Taking boots, coats or heavy jumpers? Wear them on the plane and free up space in your luggage.

If you're flying short-haul then eat before arriving at the airport or take sandwiches to avoid paying for in-flight food.

Pack a comfy jumper in your hand luggage which can double up as a pillow.

As long as your travel insurance covers scheduled airline collapse, it may be cheaper to book flights directly through airlines' websites.

Take out our Superior travel insurance to ensure you are covered for scheduled airline collapse.

Last Updated: November 2008