Airlines Continue to Tweak and Raise Those Annoying Fees

A little tweak here, an adjustment there – the airlines can’t leave well enough alone as they constantly tinker with a variety of fees which means confusion for travelers – and money out of their pockets.

The worst airline fees ever

Latest Fee Changes

Consider these recent fees changes. They may not affect most passengers, but some will feel the hit:

  • Delta raised its second checked-bag fee for U.S.-Japan flights to $100 (first bag is free).
  • United’s new baggage subscription plan gives economy travelers a year’s worth of first checked-bags for a flat rate but if you can’t manage seven flights a year, you’ll overpay.
  • Starting July 1, Frontier charges economy passengers $1.99 for soft drinks. At an unspecified date in the future, it will also begin charging some customers for carry-on bags.
  • American recently allowed customers traveling without standard size carry-ons to board early. A sneaky way to collect a checked-bag fee?
  • Southwest’s CEO said the airline famous for two free bags will not be “pinned down into perpetuity on what we might or might not do” which seems to open the door – at least a micro-crack – to bag fees.

5 ‘gotchas’ of air travel

Passengers Pay Billions

It’s no secret why fees are so popular: they rake in big bucks for the airline. Try $6 billion for the airlines last year – and that was just from baggage fees and change fees alone. Delta led the pack followed by United and American but not included in those billions were fees for extras like pillows, blankets or snacks and drinks.

What Travelers Can Do

The very best thing any potential traveler can do to avoid overpaying is to shop smart by comparing airfare prices. Other suggestions:

Travel with carry-ons instead of checked bags: The only airlines that charge for hand luggage are Allegiant and Spirit, and Frontier will at some point in the future.

Fly airlines with free checked bags: This list has dwindled to JetBlue and Southwest.

Just say no to extras: If you think you’ll be hungry, pack a snack. If your airline charges for all drinks, bring an empty bottle from home and fill it with water once you pass security. If you get cold on planes, bring a jacket.

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Published: June 4, 2013