Airline Fees and Holidays Flights

If you think fees are only charged for bags, think again. A quick refresher for anyone flying during Thanksgiving or Christmas (but it’s good advice year-round), and if you haven’t flown in a while some of these extras may surprise you.

  • Important note: For onboard fees, be sure you have a credit card because most airlines no longer accept cash.

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LISTEN: Travel expert Rick Seaney says some fees are actually worth paying.

Snack and beverage fees

Food: No free meals unless you’re in first or business class. In coach, you can usually purchase sandwiches, maybe a salad or a cheese/fruit plate and a variety of chips and cookies.

Drink: Most airlines provide free soft drinks, but you’ll pay for them on Allegiant, Frontier and  Spirit. All airlines charge for alcoholic drinks.

  • Important note: Some airlines still offer a few free snacks; JetBlue and Southwest in particular have a nice selection.

Early boarding fees

Sometimes this fee is bundled with other services such as a free bag or better seat selection, while other airlines like Southwest offer a stand-alone fee (EarlyBird boarding, $12.50). If you’re traveling with friends or family or want to be sure there’s still some free overhead bin space for your carry-on bag, this might be a fee worth paying.

Better seat fee

This varies from airline to airline but larger carriers generally charge a fee to sit closer to the front or in exit rows, while a few airlines including Spirit charge for all pre-selected seats (though this fee can be avoided if you accept the randomly-assigned seat the airline gives you).

  • Important note: Fees range from modest for better situated coach seats to steep ($100 or more) for roomier seats with more legroom.

Change fees

Unless you change your mind about a flight within 24 hours of booking it, you will be charged a change fee for any deviation from the itinerary by every airline – except Southwest. Change fees are expensive; American/US Airways, Delta and United all charge $200.

  • Important note: These fees are almost always waived for changes made in advance of bad weather, but check with your carrier.

Carry-on fees

Most airlines allow carry-ons for free. Exceptions: Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit. In some cases, the carry-on fee is actually higher than the checked-bag fee.

  • Important note: Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit do not charge for a carry-on small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

Some fees may be worth it, others not so much. We’ll leave that up to you. Safe (and frugal) travels!


Updated: February 9, 2016