How to Avoid the Worst Airline Fees

Travel fees

Congratulations, you figured out how to get the cheapest flight possible. But what about those expensive fees? These simple strategies show you how to avoid the worst airline fees.

These fees are sometimes worth paying

Change fees

Arguably the worst fee of all is the change fee because it can cost as much as $200 for domestic tickets and $450 for international flights. 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 and there is no cancellation fee. If you’re not familiar with your airline’s cancellation policy, do a quick online search.

Southwest: This is only U.S. airline with no change fee, but you still have to call and cancel the flight at least ten minutes before departure.

Buy a refundable ticket: You won’t pay a change fee if your plans fall apart but this is not a good option for most of us because refundable tickets are very expensive.

Food fees

With the except of small packs of peanuts or pretzels or maybe a cookie, there few meals in economy class these days. Suggestions:

Bring your own lunch: It will be a lot cheaper and probably tastier.

Bring an empty water bottle: More and more airports have water stations beyond the security checkpoint; veteran travelers bring empty bottles through the TSA line and fill them up afterward.

Seat fees

The easy way to avoid fees for better seats is, don’t pay them. You will still get a seat, it just won’t be that great. However, if you fear being stuck in a middle seat on a long flight, here are some things you can do.

Keep checking: After you make your reservation, check online to see if a better seat has opened up (better, but still free); if not, keep checking each day but your best chance is usually during check-in. Remember, check-in begins exactly 24 hours before departure, and that’s when you should look online for a better seat.

Ask at the airport: If you still can’t find a better seat, see if anything is available through the airport kiosk, or ask your airline’s gate agent. No guarantees, but it never hurts to ask and you might get lucky.

Bag fees

With checked-bag fees starting at $60 round-trip on many airlines, using a free carry-on bag can be your best option. Always check our worldwide baggage fee chart before you fly, but here are some other strategies.

Southwest: This U.S. airline still allows a free carry-on and two free checked-bags.

Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit: These U.S. discount carriers charge for all bags including carry-ons but they do allow one very small bag for free, if it fits under a seat.

Overweight fees

All airlines have weight limits for checked-bags and some have limits for carry-ons as well. Generally speaking, you are allowed between 40 and 50 lbs. for a checked-bag, but this can vary. Know how much your airline allows and weigh your bags before you go to the airport because overweight fees can run into the hundreds of dollars. Our bag fee chart includes this information but be aware the fees and limits change without notice.

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

Rick Seaney
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