The 6 Most Outrageous Airline Fees

Airline financial data from the Dept. of Transportation shows that airlines are making more money than ever from those annoying airline fees. FareCompare knows you want the best flight deal with the fewest gimmicks, and our goal is to help you beat the airfare game. Here are six of the most egregious airline fees tacked onto cheap airline tickets today.

1. Boarding Pass Fee

Starting November 1, 2012, Spirit Airlines will charge $5 for each boarding pass printed by a Spirit agent. You can still print your own for free, or get one from an airport kiosk. Spirit defends the fee by saying that fares will simultaneously become $5 cheaper. Starting in June 2012, passes printed at kiosks will cost $1, but fees will be waived at airports where there are no kiosks. Across the pond, Ryanair has a policy that if you do not arrive at the airport with a pre-printed boarding pass, you will pay to have one issued.

Archives: Spirit Airlines New Fee to Print Boarding Pass

2. Change Fees

Some airlines do not charge fees to change your ticket (apart from the difference in fares), but many do. In 2010, Delta took in $698 million in change fees, followed by American ($471 million), United ($321 million), US Airways ($253 million), and Continental ($237 million).

3. Checked Luggage Fees

This is another big revenue generator for airlines, bringing in $3.1 billion in 2010. Many airlines make exceptions for people who pay with airline-branded credit cards and for active duty military, but as fees go, these are among the most unpopular with fliers.

Archives: Airline Baggage Fees: Know the Different Fees for Different Bags

4. Carry-On Bag Fees

Believe it or not, Spirit now charges for bags that will not fit underneath the seat in front of you. It will set you back $30 online, or $45 at the gate. But how do you know if your bag will fit if you are booking online? Spirit gives 16 x 14 x 12 inches as its benchmark dimension.

FareCompare Domestic Airline Baggage Fee Chart

5. Fees for Paying by Credit Card

Allegiant Air and RyanAir charge fliers for the “convenience” of paying by credit card. You can only avoid it by buying a ticket in person at an airline ticket office. This fee falls into a gray area of the law covering credit card merchant agreements in the United States, but if Allegiant does well with it, you can expect more airlines to try it.

6. Booking Fees

All major airlines (except Southwest) charge fees when a passenger books a flight by phone. Delta, Frontier and United all charge $25 per ticket.

But there is good news for travelers, too. Some ancillary industries are using these annoying airline fees to their advantage. For example, Intercontinental Hotels and Kimpton hotels allow customers to submit proof of checked luggage fees for reimbursement on some stays. And some airline-branded credit cards exempt fliers from checked luggage fees when they pay with the cards. Delta Sky Miles Credit cardholders get a free checked bag on every Delta flight, saving up to $50 on a round-trip ticket.

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Published: July 20, 2011