Airline Fees: What to Expect Before Airport Arrival

Whether you’re a first time flyer or a veteran of the skies, it can be hard to keep track of all the airline fees–beside baggage fees–out there. And that can be a problem – but FareCompare is here to help. Knowing what to expect in airline fees before you get to the airport can help you save some serious money–and prevent turning a cheap flight into an expensive one.

First, remember that most airline fees are optional. But what was once considered a free convenience, now has a price. So, be prepared to count the additional airline costs before you arrive at the airport. FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney shared some insights on airline fees on ABC News Nightline:

Baggage Fees

Ah, yes, baggagee fees: the bane of travelers. Baggage fees can add $200 to a trip for a family of four, but there are alternatives:

  • Fly JetBlue or Southwest for free checked-bags
  • Look for airlines with the lowest baggage fees

Before you fly, take a look at the FareCompare Domestic Airline Baggage Fee chart, and then ask yourself – do I really need to check a bag? My advice: always use a carryon and you’ll save.

Hidden Airline Fees

There are some fees you may never know about, but they add up. For example, every airline ticket is loaded with a rather shocking amount of taxes and fees that can add up to as much as 30% to your ticket. Ouch. But there’s nothing you can do about these fees.

Then there are the “peak travel day” surcharges that the airlines have been adding to ticket prices since last year. These surcharges that can add as much as $60 to the cost of your round-trip flight. And, since these surcharges are rolled into the cost of the airfare, you may never know about them.

Save on surcharges by checking out the FareCompare Peak Travel Day Surcharge Calendar; at a glance, you can see the cheapest surcharges, as well as the days with no surcharges.

Surprise Airline Fees

If you haven’t flown for awhile, there are some convenience fees that may surprise you:

  • Blanket and pillows: JetBlue and US Airways charge a $7 fee for this amenity
  • Food: No U.S. airline offers free meals in coach, and many charge for snacks

Solution: Bring your own from home, whether it’s a packed lunch and/or a travel pillow. And check out the FareCompare Domestic Airline Fee Chart to uncover more surprises.

Worst Airline Fees

The so-called “change fee” is the fee travelers hate the most, and no wonder; if your travel plans change, it’ll cost you as much as $150 to get a new ticket, plus you’ll pay the difference in the new airfare, if any. If you know this before you make your reservations, there are three things you can do:

  1. Be certain of your dates and book your travel accordingly
  2. Pay more for non-refundable tickets allowing changes with no fee penalties
  3. Fly Southwest, which does not charge a change fee

Best Airline Fees

In my opinion, there are some airline fees worth paying for. They include the following :

  • Early boarding fees- get first crack at the over-head bin space
  • Extra leg-room fees – for a more comfortable flight
  • WiFi fees – if you have to work or want to play

Again, most fees are optional. You have the choice of whether to pay these fees or not. Which ones do you like, or hate? Have you had a few surprises of your own? Please share with us below.


Published: December 6, 2010