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Embedded fees Change fees Food & drink fees Seat fees Bag fees Packing video

Congratulations, you figured out how to get the cheapest flight possible. But how to avoid the worst airline fees? The short answer is, don’t pay them. In reality, that can be tricky unless you know these simple strategies that make avoiding fees easier. TIP: The fun packing video below will be a big help.

How to Avoid the 5 Worst Airline Fees

Some fees can be avoided entirely, some can be minimized. Here are some ways to avoid the 5 worst airline fees:

1. Embedded ticket fees

There are taxes and fees embedded in every ticket including money for such things as security or an airline’s jet fuel bill (on international flights) and while you can’t escape them, there is a simple way to pay less for your overall ticket:

Why do you need to compare? Because no single airline always has the best deal. This has been proven. If you only go to a favorite airline site, you could pay too much so always compare.

2. Change fees

This is widely regarded as the worst of all fees; it can cost as much as $200 for domestic tickets, and $400 or more for international flights. There are three ways to avoid it:

  • Review your ticket within 24 hours: U.S. airlines (and some international airlines) allow shoppers to change or cancel a ticket within 24 hours of purchase with no cancellation fee. If you’re not sure of the details in your airline’s cancellation policy, go to the airline’s website and search ‘change fee’ or look for this policy in the airline’s ‘contract of carriage’.
  • Fly Southwest: The only U.S. airline with no change fee (but you still have to call and cancel your flight at least ten minutes before departure).
  • Buy a refundable ticket: The problem with this is refundable tickets cost far more than regular economy fares but if you’re in a very uncertain travel situation, you might want to consider it.

3. Food and drink fees

With the except of small packs of peanuts or pretzels or maybe a cookie, there are no meals served on most domestic flights around the world (though U.S. flights to Hawaii are an exception). What to do?

  • Bring your own lunch: It will be cheaper and chances are good it’ll be a lot tastier.
  • Bring an empty water bottle: More and more airports have water stations beyond security checkpoints, or just fill from a drinking fountain.

4. Better seat fees

The easy way to avoid fees for better seats is, don’t pay them. However, that could mean you wind up in a middle seat. Instead, try this:

  • Keep checking: After you make your reservation, check online to see if better free seat selections have opened up, and keep going back especially when check-in time begins (24 hours before departure). If nothing’s available then, check at the airport kiosk, then check with a gate agent. You might get lucky.

5. Baggage fees

It’s easy to avoid fees of up to $50 round-trip because many airlines allow passengers to bring a carry-on bag for free (including many large carriers around the world plus smaller airlines such as Virgin America and Ryanair). So use a carry-on, except in these cases:

  • Southwest: This U.S. airline still offers passengers two checked-bags for free (but if you use a carry-on, you won’t have to worry about lost bags).
  • Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit: These U.S. discount carriers charge for all bags including carry-ons; and you should know that some charge more for carry-ons than checked-bags. However, Spirit allows small bags that fit under seats for free. See the :30 video for truly useful packing tips that will help you pack such a bag.
  • Basic economy fares: At the moment, American and United passengers in basic economy seats are not allowed to bring a carry-on aboard at all; they must be checked and paid for. They do, however, allow a small bag that fits under the seat. Do the math, add in the cost of baggage to the basic economy fare to see if it’s worth it to you.

VIDEO: Pack more in less space with the Sit & Zip Method – it really works.