Airline Fees Topped Six Billion Dollars in 2014 – How You Can Save

You may have seen the latest figures on airline fees from the U.S. Department of Transportation but if not, take a look – it’s an eye-opener.

LISTEN: Rick Seaney‘s startling observation about fees and fares.

Billions in Airline Fees

This is what U.S. passenger airlines collected in just two fee categories during 2014:

  • Baggage fees: $3.5 billion
  • Reservation change fees: $3.0 billion

In the 4th quarter of last year alone, the combined fees amounted to more than a billion. Wondering if more fees are on the way? They’re already here.

Latest Fee Changes

Here is the latest:

What You Can Do

Major airlines began adding first checked-baggage fees back in 2008 and there’s no going back: Fees that make billions for the airlines are fees that will never disappear. But they don’t call them optional fees for nothing because some, maybe most, can be avoided. Some tips:

  1. Use a carry-on: Most airlines don’t charge for carry-on bags and most will accommodate everything you need. FareCompare airfare analyst and CEO Rick Seaney used a carry-on during a ten day trip to Europe, and so did his wife. You can too.
  2. Use a small carry-on: Airlines that charge for carry-on bags (Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit) allow you a small bag for free, if it fits under the seat. This should be no problem for a quick weekend getaway. Tip: Wear a jacket with a lot of pockets and load ’em up.
  3. Try not to change plans: Yes,  emergencies occur and plans must change (and if it’s serious enough, throw yourself on the mercy of the airline but don’t expect much). But one way to avoid this fee is by being certain of your plans before you book your flight. If you do make a mistake, airlines give you 24 hours to change your mind. Note: American Airlines allows you a 24 hour hold on ticket purchase; the others allow you to make the purchase then cancel.

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Updated: June 5, 2015