Updated on June 12, 2010
Flight Pain: fees, fees, and more fees
I was listening to an NPR discussion about airlines this morning on my way to work. The main topic was fees. The fact that you will pay more than the ticket price is old news, but airlines are continuing to add to the already long list. TAM. Fees are now almost universal.
- Booking fees are old news. If you aren’t booking directly through an airline you are certainly paying booking fees. A few online booking agencies claim “no-fees.” They are just including that in the price which is good in my book. It can be hard to compare travel prices online when some include fees and others don’t. Compare the final cost prices if you can first before booking.
- Changing Flight fees can range from $10 to $50. Most airlines also charge the difference between the two tickets. If you ordered your ticket well in advance or through a special deal the difference could be more than the flight cost you had to begin with. The only way around this is to be sure of the dates and be familiar with the airlines policies. I know unexpected things come up, but you will just have to chalk it up to life.
- Baggage fees are a growing problem. Paying a fee for overweight bags has always been a part of traveling. These don’t really bother me as I rarely even check baggage and I am always a light packer but recently airlines have started to charge for overweight bags judiciously. Even if your bag is 1 lb over you will probably get charged with at least a $25 fee. The new trend in baggage fees is to charge for a second or even for the first checked luggage item. Spirit Airlines charges $10 per checked bag. And many airlines have gone to charging $25 or more for a second item. The only solution to this is to pack light. I spent almost two months in Uruguay with only my GoLite Speed pack as carry on. To be honest had I known I was staying for so long I would have packed more, but could have easily fit more in the bag.
Jetblue 1st bag: FREE, 2nd bag: $20, 3rd bag: $75
Northwest 1st bag: $15, 2nd bag: $25, 3rd bag: $100
Southwest 1st bag: FREE, 2nd bag: FREE, 3rd bag: $25
US Airways 1st bag: $15, 2nd bag: $25, 3rd bag: $100
United 1st bag: $15, 2nd bag: $25, 3rd bag: $12
- Paper Ticket fees usually aren’t a problem because no one uses them, but on some international flights you have no choice. My flight on TAM to Uruguay required them, and it was $20 per ticket
- Food and drinks will cost you a pretty penny at least on domestic flights here in the US. You can read about the food on TAM airlines in this previous article. You can bring your own snacks on most flights as long as it isn’t liquid or gel. If it is an international flight make sure the food is all gone before you leave the plane.
- Fuel Fees have risen in popularity along with increasing oil prices. The airline not feeling the pressure on fuel is Southwest Airlines because of a few key investments they used in order to hedge against increasing prices. Enjoy it while it lasts because this won’t last. The fees can range from $10 to $70 on long flights.
- Redemption fees are a twist of irony. Thinking of cashing in the frequent flyer miles or a voucher for a free ticket, it will cost you. These programs are subject to change and “free” tickets are no longer free. The fees can range from $15 to a few hundred depending on the ticket and how far in advance you are making the arrangements.
- Standby fees are new to me, but Southwest charges them in a way. You have to pay the difference between your ticket price and the “last minute” rate. This can be several hundred dollars as their prices are very good for advanced bookings. During our 9 hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale we were informed that it would cost an additional $94 each to fly standby on an earlier flight. Ok, so we would be paying extra to sit in a seat on an earlier flight that would otherwise be empty. The original tickets only cost $75, so we decided to wait.
- Pillows now cost $7 on Jetblue flights, but you do get to keep it. Great! that is just what I need.
- Human fees are charged when you book a ticket or make a flight change over the phone speaking to a person. These fees range from $10 to $20.
As you can see this is quite a discouraging list. Fees can easily add up to more than the ticket which leads me to wonder what exactly is the ticket price paying for?