I had to make airline reservations this week and it both amazed and sickened me to see how many airline fees there are. They are actually worse than bank fees because most bank fees can be avoided. Unfortunately, the worst airline fees are much more difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.
These fees vary by airline and are just a few of the worst examples.
Ticket related costs
Carry on luggage. Thankfully, most airlines haven’t started charging for carry-on bags. Most airlines actually prefer that you carry on luggage, as it reduces the overall amount of work their ground crew performs, and most people pack lighter, which reduces the weight the airplanes carry. But some airlines see this as an avenue for revenue. The worst offender? Spirit Airlines, which charges up to $100 for a carry on bag. Their official stance is that they don’t want anyone to have to pay it. I don’t believe them.
Checked luggage: $15-100. Most companies charge around $20-25 for a checked bag, which is reasonable, and you can often get a free checked bag if you use an airline branded credit card. The higher prices are usually for a third bag, or those that weigh more than 50 lbs. More than that and you may need a second mortgage.
Buying tickets over the phone: $10-20.Most people have internet access nowadays, but some people still prefer talking to a real person. That phone call is gonna cost you if you book over the phone with American Airlines, US Airways, Southwest, JetBlue and several other airlines.
Ticket reservation changes: $30-250. Once you make your plans, keep them or it will cost you a lot of money!
Paper Tickets: $50-70. Add an additional fee if you need them overnighted to you. Thankfully you don’t need a physical ticket nowadays.
Seat reservations: $5-20. Some airlines only charge this if you reserve your seat prior to receiving your boarding pass. Other airlines charge you up to $7-$20 for an aisle or window seat, or $20 to sit in an emergency exit row.
Taxes, fees, and surcharges
Taxes, airport improvement fees, security fees, etc: $$ a lot. The taxes and fees vary widely.Some examples include: September 11th Security Fee (up to $10), Passenger Facility Charges (up to $18.00), Federal Domestic Flight Segment Fee ($3.50 for each leg of the trip – another reason fewer layovers is better!), U.S. International Departure tax ($15.40 per international departure; note: doesn’t include taxes for the arrival country), US International Arrival tax of $15.40, US Customs fee of $5.00, Immigration (INS) fee of $7.00 and Animal and Plant Health Inspection fee (APHIS) of $5.00. Most of these taxes are government imposed and are unavoidable. Just check the fine print before buying your ticket!
Fuel surcharges: $0-300. The rates are higher for international flights. The worst part is, you may not even know how much your fuel surcharge will be until after you buy your ticket!
Fees for redeeming airline miles
Airline Mile Redemption: $25-100. Northwest charges customers $25 to $100 to redeem frequent-flier miles for a (previously free) ticket. Several airlines also require miles to be redeemed over the telephone, forcing customers to incur additional fees to talk to a real person. You’re better off using a cash back credit card.
Airline Mile Redemption without sufficient notice: $75-100. Some airlines require frequent fliers to give advance notice before redeeming miles. This can range anywhere from 3 days to 22 days depending on the carrier.
Rebanking airline miles: $50-100. Decide you don’t want to redeem your miles? Gotta pay to put them back.
Food, pillows, and extras
Food: $2-10. Many airlines have dropped complimentary pretzels and soft drinks and replaced them with drinks and snacks for purchase. $5 beers anyone?
Pillow and blanket: $7. This is the Jet Blue special (but it does come with a $5 coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond).
Extras: $2-10. Movies, headphones, etc.
In flight advertising. This isn’t really a charge, but it is just one more way the troubled airlines are making a buck at your expense. Don’t be surprised to see advertising on tray tables, in flight magazines, movies, radio, air sickness bags, overhead bins, seat cushions, lavatories, boarding passes, over the loud speaker, etc. Thankfully some airlines have less intrusive advertising than others.
Always read the fine print before purchasing your ticket
Some of these fees are entirely avoidable, while others (taxes and airport fees) are required. If you pay attention and plan well, you should be able to avoid many of these fees.
Photo credit: gTarded