Airline charges for golf bags and heavy luggage are now so high that it is often cheaper to send them by courier, consumer watchdogs revealed last night.
Which? said passengers could save as much as £360 on a return flight to Spain by sending their golf clubs to the country via a luggage courier rather than them taking them with Ryanair.
Ryanair charges £250 to fly a 30kg golf bag one-way, compared with £120 with Direct Baggage or just £72.38 with SendmyBag.
The luggage couriers were also found to be cheaper than Flybe, Jet2, Monarch and Thomson.
Which? added that people travelling with Ryanair could even pay more to put a suitcase in the hold than having it couriered to their foreign hotel.
A Which? spokesman said last night: “It can work out hundreds of pounds cheaper to get sports gear chaffeured to your destination rather than putting it in the hold.
“It’s worth checking out the prices of couriers before booking your plane tickets but it will require a bit more forward planning as most couriers need to pick up bags a few days before departure.”
Airlines around the world make an estimated $36 billion (£23 billion) in so-called ancillary revenue and “upsells” such as baggage fees a year.
The sky-high charges have triggered a four-fold increase in volumes handled by SendmyBag.com over the past 12 months.
The company’s chief Adam Ewart last night said his company was handing so many cases, golf bags and skis that customs officials at Gatwick had set up a “fast track” procedure for the business.
He said: “Excuse the pun, but business really has taken off. We handling thousands of items a week, volumes are up 400 per cent on last year and we now deliver to 50 countries around the world.
“The thing is airlines see luggage and golf bags as a Golden Ticket. They don’t want it, it’s hassle for them, so it means they can charge whatever they want.
“If passengers take it with them, great, as they have to pay. If they don’t the airlines win as well as it saves them fuel and handling costs.”
Which? revealed that while Ryanair charge £250 for a 30kg golf bag, Flybe charge £167.99, Jet2 £145, Thomson £112.50 and easyJet £27 as long as the passenger has no other bag checked in.
Of the luggage couriers SendmyBag charge £72.38, FetchMy £69.38, and the Luggage Delivery Company £88.99.
A 20kg suitcase costs £35 to check in with Ryanair, but just £29 to courier with SendmyBag.
A Ryanair spokeswoman said that passengers paid £50 for a “generous” 20kg golf bag. She added 20kg was a more meaningful weight for a price comparison “rather than the inflated 30kg weight that Which? has used to skew Ryanair’s fee”. EasyJet were also unavailable for comment.
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary last month said he wanted to “price luggage out of the hold” to speed up turn around times and cut handling costs.
In May, the former Westlife star Brian McFadden launched a blistering attack on the Irish airline, claiming it was “stealing” money after being told he would have to pay £80 to take his golf bag overseas. He ended up taking a train from Liverpool to London so he could catch another flight with a different carrier.