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BA takes swipe at low-cost airlines with price checker launch

LONDON - British Airways has gone on the offensive against the no-frills airlines easyJet and Ryanair by launching an online price checker highlighting their "hidden" additional charges -- just as Ryanair discusses plans for another new charge.

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BA's "Value Checker" allows consumers to see how much extra they have to pay the value airlines for additional features including using a debit card, checking-in and priority boarding. All of these come with the price of a ticket on BA.

The Value Checker shows maximum extra charges of £375 and £79.85 for Ryanair and easyJet respectively.

The launch of the price checker coincides with reports that BA is itself considering charging for items that come free with the ticket, including peanuts and wine.

Chief executive Willie Walsh recently told the staff newsletter BA News that "things will change" but it had to be wary about the damage additional charges could do to the BA brand.

However Ryanair appears to have no such qualms. The airline's chief executive Michael O'Leary yesterday confirmed plans to make passengers drop their bags off at the aircraft hold.

It also hopes to charge them as much as £5 to do it.

O'Leary said the move would save the airline as much as £26m a year and mean it would only need one baggage handler per plane as opposed to the five it currently requires. The new system, which is likely to be in place by next spring, will allow passengers to bring on an unlimited amount of luggage.

There are also reports O'Leary is looking at introducing in-flight entertainment in the form of a gambling game, but there are no details yet of what this will be.

Arguably Ryanair has been a pioneer in the development of extra charges that supplement its low ticket prices. Here is a selection of recent initiatives both planned and implemented from this year alone:

  • Announces plans to make passengers carry luggage to the aircraft. (June)
  • Ryanair plans to scrap toilets for seats. There will be one toilet and passengers will have to pay to use it. (June)
  • Ryanair adds mobile booking confirmation charge. Charges £1 for a booking confirmation to be sent by SMS. (June)
  • Charges £5 for online check-in, even though this means customers will have to print out their own boarding passes. This move makes it impossible to buy one of Ryanair's £1 tickets at face value. (May 09)
  • Considers launching an inflight mobile phone service. (March)

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