BA's 'value calculator' goes after Ryanair, easyJet

If nothing else, British Airways certainly deserves credit for their latest attempt to fight back against its two main low-fare rivals, Ryanair and easyJet. The airline has launched a "value calculator" on its website, which illustrates the various "hidden" fees that have made the low-fare airlines famous. BA shows what Ryanair and easyJet charge for checking baggage and food and drink, among other costs, and then contrasts those with BA's "no extra charge" column. You can check off as many boxes as you wish, and the total at the bottom of the columns update "With British Airways," the website says, "the price you see is the price you pay."

BA has a point. Alison Hunt recently wrote an article where she researched a long weekend trip in Venice from London on BA and Ryanair. She notes that if "you were to fly with Ryanair (£157.06), check into the hold just one piece of luggage (£20 in fees, both ways) weighing 23kg (another £120 due to the expensive restrictions Ryanair places on heavy luggage), pay by non-VISA Electron debit card (£20) and spend £8 each on sandwiches and drinks on each flight (£32) you could be looking at a grand total of £349.06 - £64 more than BA. Eek!" £350 is a far cry from the base £9.99 fare that Ryanair advertises. In other words, if you were to take advantage on Ryanair of the little 'extras' that you didn't pay any additional money for on BA, your ticket would end up being more expensive.

But the popularity of Ryanair is due to its 'a-la-carte' pricing - if you don't want it, you don't have to pay for it. Assuming that you didn't check any bags or purchase any food or drink onboard, you'd still have to pay Ryanair's ridiculous online check-in fee of £5 and debit card charge of £10. But even with the £15 in fees, your new price of £172.06 would still be less than BA's £285. And Hunt assumes that you'll forget your boarding pass, which Ryanair charges £40 for doing. If you keep track of things, your cost will be even less.

The moral of the story - be careful when booking on low-fare carriers, because sometimes you might end up being charged for a lot of 'extras' that you didn't know about. But if you're smart about it, you can still end up saving a good deal of cash flying on Ryanair or easyJet versus on British Airways.