Six Airline Fees Worth the Money

It’s holiday time. If you’ll be flying, you paid plenty for your ticket. The last thing you need are more airline fees.

But before you shut your wallet, take a look at the following fees; they’re not expensive and they could make your life a whole lot easier. Sometimes it pays to pay a little more.

LISTEN: Rick Seaney says some fees are worth it.

But don’t pay this fee – the worst one ever.

1. Cut-in-line fees

That’s what I call early boarding fees and whether you’re traveling solo, with little kids or seniors or just want to board early while there’s still bin space for your carry-on, this fee can be worth it. And it doesn’t have to cost much either. Some examples:

  • Southwest: $12.50 – EarlyBird boarding
  • American: From $20 and up – Main Cabin Extra includes more legroom
  • Virgin America: $30 – Express seats include early boarding, seats toward the front and priority security screening

2. VIP lounge pass

This isn’t about luxury. It’s about having an airline representative dedicated to solely to helping lounge guests, which sure beats waiting in a long line out by the gate. The costs runs from about $40 to $50, but the beauty is you don’t have to buy it until you need it. Keep your eyes open for introductory-priced passes around the holidays.

3. Locked-in fares

All U.S. carriers are required to give shoppers 24 hours to change their minds about a flight, but if you need a while longer to make a decision, United’s FareLock may be helpful. Pay a fee (as low as $7 though it could run much higher), and your reservation will be held from three to seven days. If your travel plans are up in the air at a time when ticket prices are soaring, this could save you money.

4. More room on the plane

Pay a fee, get a bigger or better situated seat. Most airlines offer this option though it may be bundled with other services you neither need nor want. Prices range from frugal to expensive and Spirit is a good example of this (price range: $12 – $199) but the discounter’s notoriously snug* and non-reclineable seats could make even a mid-range price worth it.

*According to SeatGuru, Spirit’s seat pitch (the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you) is the smallest among U.S. airlines.

5. Fees for movies, music and more

Entertainment fees can include anything from headsets ($2 on Delta) to bundled games or premium movie changes (starting at around $5) and Wi-Fi prices vary by length of flight (Delta’s 24 hour Wi-Fi pass is $16).

6. Faster security

Okay, this isn’t an airline fee but it is worth paying: TSA’s PreCheck program. Membership costs $85 (good for five years) and provides a pre-9/11 security experience with dedicated checkpoint screening lanes, walk-through metal detectors and you do not have to remove your shoes and jacket.


Updated: December 11, 2014