Vol. 10, Issue 1June 2018


Airlines Pile on Extra Costs

Finding a good airline fare used to be much simpler. You decided where you wanted to go, when you wanted to go, and then you looked for the least expensive flight option. It was relatively easy to compare prices, because the cost of the ticket itself was the only consideration.

Well, times have changed. Now the cost of the ticket is only the beginning. More and more airlines are charging passengers for things that used to be part of the friendly service, such as:

Booking and change fees. The add-ons can start before you even get to the airport. Some airlines charge a fee if you don’t book online and if you don’t print your ticket out before you get to the airport. And if you need to change your reservation, most airlines charge a sometimes-hefty fee.

Seat choice. Some airlines make you pay extra if you want to choose your own seat – even if that seat is in the economy section. That means if you want to sit next to a friend or family member, or if you want a window or an aisle seat, you are going to have to hand over some cash.

Baggage fees. Most major airlines charge a fee if you want to check your bag. The most common fee is $25 for the first bag, although some airlines charge more. Increasingly, airlines are also charging for carry-on bags. In addition, you will pay extra if your checked bag weighs more than the airline’s limit: usually 50 pounds, but sometimes less. Some fees do not apply for international flights.

In-flight services. Remember when you used to get an in-flight meal, or at least a free cup of coffee or soft drink? Well, virtually no airline serves meals on domestic flights to passengers not in first class, and increasingly airlines are charging for that coffee or soft drink. Similarly, you might have to pay extra for a pillow and/or blanket. And if you want to get some work done on the plane, make sure you understand what you might end up paying for wi-fi.

Using frequent-flier miles. Your frequent-flier miles might not actually get you a free flight. Some airlines charge a significant fee to use your frequent-flier miles to book travel within a certain number of days of departure.

The bottom line is that you need to understand all the fees you will face when you book a flight, because they can significantly increase the cost of your ticket. You might be fine with a bare bones approach, in which you pay the lowest fare but don’t get to bring anything except a purse or briefcase and must sit wherever the airline says.

But if you want a little more by way of service or features, you probably will have to pay more than the cost of the ticket.

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