Air travel can be a hassle and a big part of that is all those annoying fees. It’s hard enough finding a cheap flight only to find you also have to pay for everything from pillows and blankets to meals or even snacks – and of course, those expensive baggage fees.
Passengers hate fees but since they make money for the airlines, they are not going away.
Listen as airfare analyst Rick Seaney gives editor Anne McDermott a quick rundown on best and worst fees:
Timeline: Brief History of Airline Fees
5 Fees that are Worth the Money
Yet some fees are worth the money. Here are five that make our ‘fees worth paying’ list followed by a few airline examples (but note that many airlines offer these ‘optional’ fees). All fees listed can change without notice.
1. Early Boarding Fee
This fee, offered by many airlines, gives an easier boarding experience plus it’s helpful for those with carryon bags since they get first crack at the limited overhead bin space. Some airlines offer early boarding as a single perk while others include it in a bundled fee package.
American: Boarding 1 option gets you earlier boarding for as little as $9 each-way.
American: Boarding and Flexibility package offers early boarding a change fee discount.
Southwest: EarlyBird Check-in offers automatic check-in plus early boarding for $10 UPDATE: This fee has jumped to $12.50
2. Bigger Seat Fee
A cheap way to approximate an experience a little closer to business or first class; nice on long flights.
Delta: Economy Comfort offers more legroom and free drinks on some flights; fee revealed at booking
JetBlue: Even More Space offers more legroom plus early boarding; fee revealed at booking
3. Credit Card Fee for Bags and More
If you need another credit card, many airline-branded cards offer the perk of free bags but note that card fees can be steep.
American: AAdvantage Citi Executive MasterCard offers one free bag plus extra miles; about $450 a year
United: MileagePlus Explorer Visa offers one free bag plus early boarding and more; about $95 a year
4. WiFi Fee
If you need to work, or just want to amuse yourself (or the kids) on the plane, this is a modest fee.
US Airways: WiFi connection starts at $4.95
Virgin America: $4.95 – $14.95 depending on length of flight or $34.95 for monthly pass
5. VIP Club Day Pass Fee
Airport lounges can be handy spots during layovers or delays and not just for the free drinks; there is generally WiFi, food and some even provide showers. The biggest perk though is having an airline representative at your disposal to help with last minute flight problems.
American: AA Admirals Club costs $50 for one-time single day access
United: United Club costs $50 for one-time single day access and fee can be applied to year’s membership
Virgin America: the Clubhouse costs just $35 for one-time single day access. This airline’s San Francisco club in particular has been getting raves on Yelp with comments like, “spacious, stylish, amazing” and more.
What fees are you okay with paying? We’d love to hear, so tell us on Facebook.