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We’re over paying for extras on flights

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Spending on better seats and more luggage has dropped in 2023, new research shows.

When international flying first opened up after the coronavirus pandemic, we were travel-starved and were happy to splurge on extras such as exit-row seats or extra baggage.

But it seems our enthusiasm for spending on those bonuses has waned in recent months.

Analysis by IdeaWorks and CarTrawler of airline revenues across shows that while airlines still make a lot of money from charging for seats and baggage, they've made less this year than in 2022.

"Pandemic-period travel changed the a la carte buying behaviours of travellers," the analysis notes. "They eagerly purchased the extra comforts and conveniences offered by early boarding, extra leg room seats, and assigned seating in the front of the cabin."

That trend hasn't continued in 2023, however. Last year ancillary revenue (anything paid for that wasn't the actual ticket) reached an average of US$42.11 (around $65) per one-way ticket, the analysis said. This year, the figure has dropped to US$37.59 (around $58).

In other words, we're getting a little more careful with our travel dollars.

What does all this mean for travellers seeking a bargain?

One of the most important pieces of advice I give people booking flights is simple: make sure you're comparing like with like.

A bare-bones Jetstar flight is not the same as a bare-bones Qantas flight. With Qantas, you can select your seat and your basic ticket includes checked luggage.

With Jetstar, you'll always pay extra for those options. You can pay more on Qantas for a better seat or more baggage, but there's a standard level included. Similar patterns apply for airlines across the world.

Consumers often get caught out and starting booking cheap seats without realising the full price they might end up paying.

Finder research shows 16% of Australians who have travelled with low-cost airlines have ended up stung by hidden fees.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't hunt down the cheap seats and skip fees when it makes sense.

I regularly travel with just 7kg of hand luggage, and I can easily make that work for a whole weekend.

But I do indulge myself and pay for seat selection. The middle seat is a bargain location I can do without.

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Image: Finder/Photographer: Angus Kidman

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