4 Flyer Profiles: Which Fees You Should Pay, Which Fees to Avoid

A wise old philosopher once said, “Know thyself” and I’m here to help you do just that.

  • What kind of flyer are you?

Once you know the answer, you can figure out which fees you should consider paying and when to keep your wallet shut tight.

Listen as air travel expert Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott offer tips for cheapskates:

Predictions for 2013 (Yes, More Fees)

Four Flyer Profiles and Fee Recommends

Take a look at these four passenger profiles and see where you fit in.

1. The Once-a-Year Vacation Flyer

  • Flights: One or two a year usually
  • Planning: You buy tickets at least two weeks in advance, often much earlier
  • Finances: Sensibly frugal

Most of us fall in this category and we want to save money. The simplest way: travel with a carry-on. To keep the weight down, buy liquid toiletries at your destination and wear your heaviest clothing and shoes. Stash items you might normally pack in coat pockets. If you must check a bag, look for fares on JetBlue or Southwest since both still offer free checked-bags, but compare the price of the airfare – there’s no point paying $200 just for the free bag if another airline has the same flight for $100.

Rick recommends: Avoid most fees but keep an eye out for cheap early boarding deals or faster dedicated security lines so you’ll be among the first on the plane and have plenty of room to stow your carry-on – JetBlue is experimenting with this little perk at 40 airports nationwide and it only costs $10.

Weirdest Air Travel Stories of the Year

2. The Business Flyer

  • Flights: Once a month or even once a week
  • Planning: Last-minute purchases
  • Finances: The perk allowance isn’t as generous as it used to be

You’ll get more money for fees from company bean counters if you can show them how much more productive these extras will make you.

Rick recommends: Wi-Fi connectivity is a must and a good bargain (starting at around $5). Seat upgrades can be important too especially if you must hit-the-ground-running the moment you land; look for bundled fees like Delta’s new options (priority boarding/Wi-Fi) or American’s (bags, change fees and more) or JetBlue with offers a bundle with bigger seats.

Note: Don’t forget that the frequent flyer miles you rack up may entitle you to all kinds of automatic extras, and airline-branded credit cards can include free perks like exclusive check-in and dedicated  security lines.

3. The First Class Flyer

  • Flights: Several times a year
  • Planning: Something you don’t need to bother with
  • Finances: Something you don’t need to worry about

Rick recommends: Hah! You don’t need my recommendations. If you don’t mind paying anywhere from quadruple to 10 times the cost of a coach seat for the privilege and perks of sitting in the front of the plane, you’re not worrying about bag fees. Plus, you get bags for free anyway! Put the money you might have spent on fees toward a nice travel gift from the SkyMall catalog – and enjoy your flight.

4. The Pick-Up-and-Go Flyer

  • Flights: Depends on when the spirit moves you
  • Planning: Could be last minute, could be months in advance
  • Finances: On the cheap side, but travel is what you live for

Have backpack, will travel probably describes you best. But an occasional fee of the non-budget busting variety might ease your trip.

Rick recommends: You should consider early boarding or cut-in-line fees like Southwest’s EarlyBird for $10 so you get your pack stowed nearby but it can also be handy for warding off stress when traveling as a group with your friends. Also, consider paying for Wi-Fi so you can keep up with news and weather at your destination. And, depending on the fast food situation on the ground at your destination city (or lack of same), you might want to eat on the plane so bring your credit card since none of the airlines accept cash anymore.

More from Rick Seaney:

Worth-It Fees for Four Types of Fliers


Published: January 10, 2013