WHEN it comes to thinking of new ways to fleece their customers, travel companies are very difficult to beat.

Not a summer season goes by without a new ploy being revealed to extract more cash from the travelling public, without actually giving them anything extra for their hard-earned cash.

I remember the days when you went in to a travel agents, scanned a few brochures, picked where and when you wanted to go, and then paid.

A couple of weeks before the flight, you received your bulging envelope containing tickets, luggage labels and all the other holiday paraphernalia through the post, which was a fine build- up to the holiday itself.

Now many holidays are booked online, where the price is usually only a means of opening negotiations. The date you want to go is always at least twice the price displayed, and you have to pay extra for each piece of luggage, transfers to and from the airport, and a special premium if you want to sit with your wife and other members of the family.

Tall people also pay extra if they don’t want to spend the flight with their knees up around their ears, and you cannot have a sip of that fiery brandy you bought at duty free – you can only buy the grossly overpriced spirits offered by the trolley dollies.

And if you spy an attractively- priced holiday online offered by a major travel company, and go to one of its high street stores to book it, you have to pay a special premium to get the paperwork done – even though it is the same company!

Inflight meals , modest though they were, were included in the price, but now you have to pay extortionate sums for the curiously inedible fare served above the clouds.

A relatively new gambit is restricting people on two weeks’ holiday to a mere 15 kilograms of luggage per person, in the clear expectation that most passengers will shell out still more cash to bump up their allowance to the more usual 20kg.

It happened to us on a recent trip to Greece, and for once, I put my foot down and refused to pay the 15 pieces of silver demanded, despite the entreaties of Mrs Hextol, who was adamant that it was physically impossible for her to travel to foreign parts without her usual 30kg of luggage, allowing me a more than adequate 10.

I pointed out that every time we go abroad, we return with a significant number of items which have remained in the case untouched.

“We can manage with 15kg each, and by golly we will,” I declared bravely, and to my surprise, she capitulated with not much fuss at all.

I never take any part in the packing of holiday suitcases, other than ensuring I have a razor, a couple of pairs of shorts and some tee-shirts, so it’s always a surprise when we reach our destination and I find Mrs Hextol has somehow squirrelled away most of my entire wardrobe, once producing my pristine dinner suit from a corner of a suitcase into which I would have struggled to stow a handkerchief.

My only contribution is weighing the cases on the bathroom scales once she has packed them, and it came as little surprise that when she summoned me to weight my holiday wardrobe, it was many kilos over the 15kg limit.

I opened it up and to my surprise, I found my holiday attire included several dresses, a vast collection of underwear, curling tongs, several pairs of strappy sandals, enough medical equipment and ointments for an entire series of Holby City , and a lacy cardigan should it go cold at night.

Seeing my raised eyebrows, she declared: “It’s overweight because you are taking too many tee-shirts and shorts – you won’t need all those!”

A major cull occurred, involving the sacrifice of many items of my treasured beachwear, and at the second weigh-in, the scales stopped quivering at 14.9 kilos.

“Brilliant,” I enthused, and locked my luggage, while Mrs Hextol set about packing her case, which eventually, to my surprise, came in at bang on the 15kg limit.

As an afterthought, I reweighed my case – and found it had somehow gained another two kilograms while I was downstairs.

“Oh, it’s just a few light things I couldn’t get in – nobody will notice …”