The 5 Dirty Tricks of Flying

There was an interesting story on recently about travel rip-offs including “shady taxi drivers” (no short-cuts for these guys!). We decided to compile our own list of dirty tricks while sticking to what we know best – flying.

Dirty – But Not Illegal

Are any of these tricks illegal? No – which is why we avoided the tempting title, The Frauds of Flying – but you may feel like you’ve been scammed if you aren’t mentally prepared for these possibilities. Read up, then see our tips on how to circumvent these difficulties after each trick.

1. Change fee trick

Be sure of travel dates before booking airline tickets because if you want to make any changes – and you didn’t purchase a refundable fare or book with Southwest (which has no change fee) – you could pay a penalty of up to $200 per ticket.

  • Tip: Shoppers get 24 hours to make changes to tickets without incurring the fee.

Real simple: How to find a cheap flight anytime

2. Overweight bag fee trick

Does your checked-bag weigh 51 pounds when the weight limit is 50? Sorry, but on airlines such as American and United, that single pound will cost you an extra $100.

  • Tip: Ditch some toiletries or shove some items in your traveling companion’s bag (or wear that coat you packed). Better yet, weigh your bag before you go to the airport.

See all airline fees

3. Carry-on fees at the gate trick

Only Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier (in some cases) charge for carry-on bags, but it’s based on a sliding scale and the longer you wait to pay this fee, the higher it rises. If you pay at the gate, Spirit and Frontier will charge you $100.

  • Tip: Compare fees for carry-ons vs. checked-bags – with the above-mentioned airlines, checking may be cheaper. Otherwise, pay the carry-on fee when you book your tickets.

4. Phone fee trick

Making a reservation over the phone can cost you an extra $20 or more. Book online, exclusively.

  • Tip: No computer? Someone you know has one.

5. Non-free drink trick

Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier now charge for soft drinks and not just Cokes or coffee, either – prepare to pay for that little bottle of water.

  • Tip: Bring an empty water bottle from home (so you can carry it through security); fill it up at a drinking fountain once you pass the checkpoint.


Published: September 25, 2013