Low cost my arse.

The last ten or fifteen years have brought us the delight of the low cost, no frills airline, famed for their little tiny fares to exotic climes. And so it was with high expectations that I navigated my way to BMI Baby's website. Not only are they a low cost airline and so much cheaper than BA, they are also not in dispute with their cabin staff and so there's a fighting chance that my holiday to Perpignan won't be spent in the terminal at Manchester airport.

So onto the website I go and duly find that for £34 per person outward and £46 per person return me and Mr Vicola can go to Perpignan and spend a week in the sunshine sipping beer by the sea and going brown in Mr V's case and well, slightly beige in mine. Then it asks me if I want to book seats together as they can't guarantee we'll be sat together if we don't prebook the seat. Lovely idea. Except it's a further £8.50 per person per flight for ordinary seat and £11.50 if you want the seats that mean you don't have to telescopically fold your legs backwards into your body cavity to sit in the space. Fuck it, it's only an hour and a bit flight and sitting separately means we're less likely to have had a row by the time we land.

Then we get to the baggage and check in section. Do we want to check a bag into the hold? Well unless I want to be wearing the same undercrackers for a week, which I don't, then yes, a bag would be good. So I tick the '1 bag and check in' option. £18.99 per person per flight. Because of course if my bag were not in it the plane wouldn't be bothering with the hold at all, it'd just leave it on the runway. And the people without a bag don't need to check in because the magic fairies tell the airline they're on the plane so I can completely see why I have to pay extra to alert the airline to the fact I'm on their aircraft.

Then I go to pay. I'm a bit peeved at all the extra costs and the fact that the website was so slow you could almost hear the Latvian immigrants peddling in BMI headquarters to keep the servers running but it was the 'please wait for the verification page, do not hit the refresh button, it may take up to 45 seconds for your payment to process' page that really gripped my shit. At least it did once it'd been there for 15 bastard minutes. So now I don't know whether I've paid for the flights or not.

I duly look up customer services and dial the number, where I'm informed by the woman on the line that this is a premium rate number and so from a BT landline I'll be paying 65p a minute, from  my mobile the cost will be racking up faster than Tiger Woods sex stories. The automated woman then goes on to waste more time telling me about BMI's website. Well thanks for the revelation darling but if I could get the fucking website to work would I be racking up the national debt of Moldovia on this call? No madam, I would not. Eventually I get through to someone who tells me that he's sorry my transaction didn't work out and he would get a member of his team to ring me back and take the booking over the phone. Utterly mystified as to why the man on the reservations line can't make a reservation but now fortified by a stiff gin and tonic I agree. With something less than good grace.

So the lady rings me back, we go through all the tedious details I went through on the website and it comes to payment time. 

Lady: So how will you be paying? Credit or debit card?

Me: Credit card.

Lady: Well that will incur the handling fee of £4.50 per person per flight.

Me: And if I only choose to pay for one of my flights and just gatecrash the other one?

Lady: Madam must pay for both flights.

Clearly humour is not dealt with on the call centre training course.

Me: So what if I use a debit card?

Lady: That will be £3 per person per flight.

Me: So what you're saying is that there is no way I can avoid getting ripped off at payment stage? Is there any charge for paying with magic beans?

Lady: Magic beans?

Never mind. The gin and tonic is wearing off so it's time to get off the phone before I get barred from BMI altogether. So I share my credit card details with the robbing harpy on the other end of the line. 

So, bearing in mind the amount stated for each flight, £34 outward, £46 return for each of us, the final cost for us both to get to Perpignan? £336 .27.

Low cost airline my arse. I've a good mind to write them a VERY sternly worded letter.

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16 Responses

  1. That's over a 50% mark-up … just on the fees!AACK!Oh … and glad to see you got over the doldrums you were in earlier …

  2. BMIBaby and BMI are both owned by Lufthansa, which surprises the hell out of me because I love Lufthansa, they're up there with Aer Lingus as one of the best European airlines to fly with.However.BMIBaby seem to have learned how to price their flights from Ryanair – who have to be the King of Ripping You Off.

  3. I find that whenever I try to book flights with a low cost airline this always happens, though in my case its usually with Jet 2. It does give me a lot of rage. I particularly hate the way they ask you to pay for your seats to be allocated together- its bullshit! And so much money to take a suitcase! argh!

  4. Manchester airport is very much already in the news on Australian TV with a "customs" series about all the drug trafficers and idiots trying to gatecrash their way into the UK.Sorry you had to put up with all the crap….I've also had the experience of not knowing whether the website "sent" the confirmation or not……also took me a week of phone calls to get a refund.Virginblue is our low cost airline…..it shook up the others and still offers the best service.Hope eventually it all works out OK for you.

  5. Hello..I never found out…Did you get there? I would say 'you get what you pay for'..but I just did. Further..I remember commenting something along the lines of sub contractor many times means sub standard. They do not have corporate guidelines..which for all of it are lacking in customer friendly for 'bump up cash'. There are many of us who seek to protect a quality and standard of living. Then there are the robotic unreal plastic variety..who have the sensitivity of the ever deaf rattler and care to appear just as dangerous. 'On with the 'magic beans' and to hell with robots'..A quote that probably should be if it is not…Peace Tony

  6. It's the paying for the bags in the hold that really, really pisses me off. Blimmin' ridiculous. I feel your pain.

  7. Yes it is, because they are a shower of venal bastards who are publicising something that they don't deliver, ie low cost fares.

  8. Even I refuse to fly Ryanair since the debacle about the idea of putting coin operated bogs onto their planes. Either they meant to do it, which is going to leave the aircraft swimming in the piss of people who forgot to bring a pound coin on with them or it was a publicity stunt, which would make their management a bunch of pikey shysters. It's also becoming a little bit chav to admit you fly Ryanair….

  9. I work on the principle that they always seem to sit you together anyway and if they don't, it just means that me and Mr V won't get a chance to have the obligatory whispered row on the plane. I'm not paying 40 odd quid to sit next to him for an hour or so on the way there and back, I live him so I'm sure I can survive that time without being glued to his side.

  10. We don't have Virgin Blue.
    I'm intrigued by the drama about Manchester airport, I've not heard of it but I can't say I'm surprised. The loos in the baggage reclamation area of Manchester airport have yellow sharps disposal bins in them. I kid you not. For the junkie that just can't wait to clear the arrivals lounge before jacking up I assume.

  11. I have in fact finally managed to book the tickets but when I tried to go onto the website to add reserved seats with extra legroom they tried to charge me a further £46. So I gave up and acceoted that I'm going to be spending an a hour and half squeezed into a seat between obese people with my legs folded into an unnatural shape. What fun.

  12. Why do they feel the need to charge extra for bags? That really grinds my gears. My baggage allowance is 18kgs, now there are a lot of people on any flight who are more than 18kgs heavier than I am so it can't be a weight issue, it's just a way of ripping off the customer because who the hell is going to be flying to Perpignan with just hand luggage? It's hardly the centre of the business conference world.

  13. Ah So..Well you are getting your trip at least..The seat arrangement reminds me of certain elevator experiences in the sixties and seventies on the continent. Esp. France. I was thinking, at the time, of opening a company where deoderant was the main item..but when in anywhere..do as or get out..Peace Tony

  14. Ever heard the phrase with 'rubbing salt' and 'wound' . . . a word of warning, the booking stage is not the end of the surprises, another way these budget airlines bump up their charges by stealth is on the plane, a mars bar at Sainsburys that costs 50p will cost you around £2.50 on the plane and a sandwich which would cost £1.80 at Marks & Spencer will cost you £5.00 on board. A 50p can of coke will cost you £3.50 and that's a really small can, not the size you'd find in the supermarket or corner shop. If your luggage weighs just a tiny bit more than 18kgs they will charge you for 2 but in addition, companies like Easy Jet will charge you double rate at check in desk compared to pre-booked on-line baggage and make sure you check the size of your hand luggage allowance, if it's 1cm too wide, high or long, they will charge you check in desk rates and demand it goes in the hold. I recently searched for flights to Amsterdam and discovered that when all the maths have been done, booking a return flight with British Airways was actually cheaper than Easy Jet. All these companies try their best to fool us by the temptation of low prices for the flight and as you discovered, it all unfolds with additional costs. The service you get with budget airlines is shameful most of the time and having used easy jet about 15 times, I have never had a flight which was not delayed. The whole experience is bitter usually. The last flight I took I spent 8 hours at the Airport and just 40 minutes actually flying, we all spent more time waiting at the gate to board the plane than flying and then immediately after that wait, more time waiting on the plane to take off than flying to Amsterdam !What's also shocking is how much the Government charge as Airport Tax. I booked a flight for £69.00 one way a few weeks ago and the Airport Tax accounted for £60.00 of that so the Airline only charged £9.00 for the seat. Our government are making a killing. My little bit of advice for you, pack some lunch to take with you before you travel because food and drink on board with these airlines may be the salt in the wound for you. Despite all that, have a great time when you get there and get home safe, best wishes.

  15. This was a great read – though so frustrating for you. I hope you had a great time.

  16. Oh dear, you may appreciate this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XpIRR_gV4cAustralia has four major domestic airlines, two of which are owned by Qantas, yet I can still book a 3.5 hour flight to visit GOF for $305 return (including the obligatory $20 baggage fee and $7 payment fee. Paying to pay? WTF?). I haven't checked the exchange rate lately but 300 *pounds* for an hour long flight seems absolutely ludicrous. I hope there's some damn good beer in Perpignan. And sunshine.

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