In a world where buying priority boarding from many airlines simply means you’ll be allowed to take a proper sized piece of hand luggage on the plane with you, it can feel like less of a luxury and more of a necessity.
Ryanair no longer provides much “priority” at all – up to half of all passengers per flight can book this “extra” from £6 per journey, which most will do purely to get the additional baggage allowance. The budget airline changed its rules last year; without priority boarding, passengers can only take one small bag (about the size of a rucksack) on board with them, while with it they can take a small bag and a bigger piece of hand luggage. Passengers used to get this included in the standard fare price.
Wizz Air offers much the same deal – the airline often seems to mimic Ryanair’s frequently changing baggage policies – and requires passengers to pay from £4.50 to secure an extra cabin bag bigger than a small backpack.
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But not all priority boarding schemes are created equal, according to Airport Parking and Hotels, which compiled a table to compare all the different perks offered by budget airlines.
EasyJet’s, for example, is only available to easyJet Plus members, who pay £199 annually, or those who’ve paid extra for allocated seats costing £8.99-£29.99. Perks include: a small personal cabin bag on top of the larger trolley bag included in the standard luggage allowance; a separate bag drop queue; speedy boarding; and seat selection.
For those flying with Eurowings, booking a Smart fare for around £21 entitles passengers to a 23kg checked bag (in addition to one cabin bag and one small personal bag), priority boarding, preferred seating, lounge access at selected airports, and a snack plus non-alcoholic drink onboard.
On Flybe, buying a Get More ticket costs around £32 at the time of booking. It includes a 23kg checked bag, reserved seating, priority boarding and free changes. The last is the biggest boon – it allows passengers the flexibility to change their flight to an earlier or later one on the same day at no extra cost, or to change route and flight as often as they like so long as they pay the difference in fare between the old ticket and the new.
Norwegian’s £5 priority boarding gives you just that – priority boarding. Forget more hand luggage or allocated seats, all you can do is skip the queue into the cabin.
Thomas Cook charges from £10 for its priority scheme, which includes priority check-in and fast-track security, and means your luggage will be unloaded first if you checked in a bag.
Tui doesn’t appear to offer priority boarding, but passengers can opt to pay from £16 for seat selection, which includes priority access to online check-in.
Which has the best perks depends on who you’re travelling with and what you appreciate most.
If what you most want is flexibility for when you fly, Flybe offers the best deal.
If you want to ensure you can sit next to your travelling companions, Flybe, Eurowings and easyJet could be the answer.
And if you’re after onboard sustenance or lounge access, Eurowings comes up trumps. Looking for a quick getaway? Thomas Cook might be a good shout.
It’s all in the extras.