Airlines play the Grinch with new add-on fees

Posted at 4:05 PM, Dec 16, 2014

We're about to hit the busiest travel days of the year. And this year, airlines are hitting us with more add-on fees at check-in time than ever before.

Did you find a decent fare? Don't celebrate: A new report in USA Today says all the new fees can easily add an extra $50 to $100 to that fare, per ticket.

That can really add up if the whole family is flying.

So it's good to know before you get to the airport where the Grinch may be lurking, waiting to put his skinny long fingers into your wallet just as you are stepping onto the plane.

Grinch-like fees

Among the biggest add-on fees that pretty much did not exist 10 years ago:

Carry-on bag fees:  This is a relatively new one and is how super discount airlines are covering the cost of their lower ticket prices. Look for these at Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant, among a few others.

Checked bag fees: $25 at most airlines except for Southwest and JetBlue (though even those two airlines are considering charging for checked baggage, according to the latest reports).

Snack and Coke fees: at many airlines now, especially discounters.

Booking by phone fee: $15 at most airlines.

Seat selection fees:  To avoid sitting in the rear seats next to the bathroom door, be prepared to pay $3-$15 extra on Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit. Otherwise they choose the seats for you. Comfort seats with extra legroom are now extra on all major carriers.

Changing an economy ticket fee: Now up to $200 at Delta, United and American (up from $150 in 2013).

In-flight Wi-Fi fee: $5 to $10. You will want it. So will your kids. That can be another $40 per flight segment for your family, for something that is free in every coffee shop and most hotels these days.

Doesn't that stink

And from the doesn't that stink file,  the most hated of the new fees: That fee for your carry-on bag.
Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit — the 3 deep discounters — now charge between $10 and $75 for a bag in the overhead bin.

If you can fit it under your seat it is free, which is leading to a cottage industry of tiny bags for air travelers.  But if it won't squeeze under the seat you will probably say" doesn't that stink!"

The major airlines are not charging that fee yet, though you can bet it is giving them some ideas.

What you can do

My advice? Check for fees, especially baggage fees, at the time you book your ticket, not when you arrive at the airport.
You can usually minimize those fees if you pay them at booking time (with some airlines they are just $10 as opposed to $25 at check-in),  and that way you don't waste your money.


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