Airline Fees: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios

In the airline industry, they call it unbundling, but you know it as airline fees – those charges on everything from checking bags to eating lunch. But which airlines have taken airline fees to new altitudes?

In the following table, you will see the base cost of a midweek round-trip ticket from Milwaukee to Denver, along with all the possible airline fees you could be charged on each airline – a worst-case scenario.

We’ve also listed tips on how to avoid fees for each airline, and turn that trip into a best-case scenario – which is, of course, no fees at all.

 

 

Airline Base Ticket Price Price with Fees Tips on Avoiding Fees
AirTran $341 Checked luggage (1stbag): $20Call center booking fee: $15Advanced seat assignment: $20Priority boarding: $10

Alcoholic beverage on-board: $6

In-flight Wi-Fi through Gogo: $12.95

Fee total: $83.95

Total ticket: $424.95

Book online, use carry-on luggage only, and choose a free soft drink on-board. If you fly frequently, purchase a 30-day Wi-Fi pass from Gogo at $39.95.
Alaska Airlines $624 Checked luggage (1stbag): $20Call center booking: $15Meals and snacks $7Alcoholic beverage on-board: $6

Wi-Fi through Gogo: $12.95

DigEplayer: $14

Fee total: $74.95

Total ticket: $698.95

Book online, use carry-on luggage only, and choose a free soft drink on-board. If you fly frequently, purchase a 30-day pass from Gogo at $39.95.
American Airlines $338 Checked luggage (1stbag): $25Call center booking: $25Meals and snacks $7Alcoholic beverage on-board: $6.50

Wi-Fi through Gogo: $12.95

Headset $2

Preferred seating: $39

Group 1 boarding $9

Fee total: $126.45

Total ticket: $464.45

Book online, use carry-on luggage only, and choose a free soft drink on-board. If you fly frequently, purchase a 30-day pass from Gogo at $39.95. Forego a headset, keep your assigned seat, and board after Group 1.
Continental $300 Checked luggage (1stbag): $25Call center booking: $25Meals and snacks $8Alcoholic beverage on-board: $7.50

Headset $1.50

Preferred seating: $89

DirecTV in-flight: $7.99

Fee total: $163.99

Total ticket: $463.99

Book online, and use carry-on luggage only.Forego your headset and DirecTV. Keep your assigned seat.
Delta $279.07 Checked luggage (1stbag): $25Call center booking: $20Meals and snacks $5Alcoholic beverage on-board: $6, Wi-Fi through Gogo: $12.95

Headset $2

Fee total: $70.95

Total ticket: $350.02

Book online, and use carry-on luggage only.If you fly frequently, purchase a 30-day Wi-Fi pass from Gogo at $39.95. Forego a headset.
Frontier $319.58 Checked luggage (1stbag): $20Call center booking: $25Meals and snacks $5Alcoholic beverage on-board: $5

Preferred seating: $15

DirecTV in-flight: $6, Movies $8

Fee total: $84.00

Ticket total: $403.58

Book online, and use carry-on luggage only.Forego DirecTV, and keep your assigned seat.
JetBlue $435.80** Checked luggage (1stbag): FreeCall center booking: $15Meals and snacks $5.99Alcoholic beverage on-board: $5.99

Preferred seating: $37.50,

Headset $2

Movies $5.99

Pillow/blanket kit $6.99

Fee total: $79.46

Total ticket: $515.26

Book online.Forego movies, and pillow/blanket. Keep your assigned seat.
Southwest $338 Checked luggage (1stbag): Free, Early bird check-in $10, Wi-Fi $5, Alcoholic beverage on-board: $5Fee total: $20Total ticket: $358 Forego early bird check-in, alcohol, and Wi-Fi.
United $300 Checked luggage (1stbag): $25Call center booking: $25Meals and snacks $5.32Alcoholic beverage on-board: $7.50, Wi-Fi through Gogo: $12.95

Fee total: $75.77

Total ticket: $375.77

Book online, and use carry-on luggage only.If you fly frequently, purchase a 30-day Wi-Fi pass from Gogo at $39.95.
US Airways $537 Checked luggage (1stbag): $25Call center booking: $25Meals and snacks $7Alcoholic beverage on-board: $7, Wi-Fi through Gogo: $12.95, Headset $5

Fee total: $81.95

Total ticket: $618.95

Book online, and use carry-on luggage only.If you fly frequently, purchase a 30-day Wi-Fi pass from Gogo at $39.95.
Virgin American $422*** Checked luggage (1stbag): $25Call center booking: $15Meals and snacks $6Alcoholic beverage on-board: $7, Wi-Fi $9.95

Fee total: $62.95

Total ticket: $484.95

Book online, and use carry-on luggage only.If you fly Virgin America frequently, purchase a 30-day Wi-Fi pass at $29.95.

* Non-uniform prices, such as meals, are averaged.
**JetBlue does not offer a Milwaukee-Denver route. This price is for a midweek round-trip ticket on JetBlue from Chicago to Salt Lake City.
***VirginAmerica does not offer a Milwaukee-Denver route. This price is for a midweek round-trip ticket on VirginAmerica from Chicago to Las Vegas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continental is the worst offender on airline fees: all those extra charges could cost half as much as the ticket itself! The fewest fees come from Southwest, which has prided itself on its commitment to keeping everything bundled – which, it turns out, can actually save you a bundle.

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Published: December 19, 2011