Can the air travel consumer really get "free" airline flights? Let's take a closer look...
By Dave Smith
Low-cost Airlines The "free flights" mantra has been aggressively advertised by the low-cost budget airlines who are springing up all over the world and are well established in Europe. This has been a controversial issue in the past as the "free" base fares would include a hidden array of taxes, fees and charges - and these could vary quite significantly from airline to airline.
However recent changes brought in by an EU directive has forced airlines to be more transparent with their all-in pricing. You will now see they advertise one-way fares (rather than return) to make prices appear as low as possible.
Probably the only airline to regularly offer free flights is Ryanair. And these flights are actually now free with no extra taxes. If you don't check-in any luggage you will only pay a small credit card processing charge. The flights are available during special offer promotions and cover a wide variety of routes all over Europe.
Beware - if you do want to check-in at the airport - Ryanair will add charges equivalent to £24 or almost $50 per return flight for 1 checked-in bag. These fees are correct as of summer 2008.
So it is now really possible to fly for free with Ryanair. Get on their mailing list and they will keep you updated on their special offers.
Air-miles Can you get 'free' flights using frequent flyer air miles? The first consideration is that you have to actually 'buy' the miles - this is achieved by purchasing flights, goods and services and using affiliated credit cards.
The best way to accumulate mileage is if you can earn miles on expenses you would have incurred anyway. And also finding exceptionally generous mileage deals which do come up on occasion.
Secondly, you would have to redeem your miles in the most efficient way possible. Many air travellers don't even redeem their miles or do so in very inefficient ways.
Another point to consider again is even if you have a significant collection of miles, you will still be hit by the ubiquitous taxes and charges when you do use them - these can be significantly high. So it seems that these flights are not 'free', but merely a discount for loyalty.