Mind Candy

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Hidden airline fees: What are they and can you avoid them?

Posted by mandyf on December 1, 2012

Hidden airline fees are becoming an ever increasing burden on travelers worldwide. For the traveler that flies every now and then on business and can pack light it generally isn’t a very big deal. For those who have to travel or are taking an extended vacation in which they can’t pack light it has become a nightmare. In 2008 when fuel prices began spiraling out of control airlines looked for ways to offset the cost without raising fares which would potentially drive away customers. What ensued was a large amount of travelers suddenly realizing that a $200 ticket could actually cost an extra $25 or more dollars, and that the amenities once common were now only available to those who were willing to pay extra. Recently the trend has gotten worse for travelers as carriers, specifically United Airlines, expects to make an extra $1 billion on hidden fees this year alone.

The first step to avoiding hidden fees when possible is to know what they are. Not all carriers are equal in this regard as some have a fee for everything seemingly and others just one or two. Some are fairly reasonable, and others are plain old outrageous. Let’s be honest, do you think paying a dollar for a glass of water is fair? What follows are some common hidden fees to look for, or that you should just be prepared to paid for, because in some cases there is no escaping them.

The baggage check in fee is the most common and was actually the first of the new fees to catch on fast and hang around. Some airlines stated that when fuel prices stabilized they would drop the fee, but so far none have. Stability in this case truly is in the eyes of the owners. In general you can plan on paying $15 per bag checked. Two carriers are planning to increase the rate to $20. If you fly Delta Airlines to Europe be prepared for a charge of $50/bag for each one after the first checked.

Some others fees to be prepared for are:

On U.S. Airways and United Airlines you will have to pay a $5 baggage fee at the airport if you do not book online. United Airlines implemented this in June of 2009, U.S. Airways will kick this off beginning July, 9, 2009.

On AirTran seats that offer extra legroom cost an extra $20 per seat.

Allegiant Air who is a small national airline touting them self as a discount carrier really isn’t when you get through their list of fees. Even if you purchase and print your ticket online they charge you $13.50 for the convenience of doing their job for them.

A similar European discount carrier, Raynair slaps fees on everything including just checking in for your flight! It costs $6.75 to check in because they are eliminating check in desks. If you pay the fee at the airport at the boarding gate the fee doubles to $13.50 per ticket.

Vueling which is a Spanish airline has gotten really sneaky and started charging passengers to pick a seat. it doesn’t matter what seat it is, you have to pay an extra fee on top of the ticket to sit down. A “basic seat” costs about 3 Euros which is around $4, but you can jack that price up if you want to sit on the aisle or the window.

Of course there are the increasingly popular “overweight traveler” fees which can double a ticket price without batting an eye.

Then for some real gouging you need only look at good old United Airlines one more time. Sure you’ll pay extra for the headphones to hear the movie, that’s nothing new, but how about paying for your meal on long flights too? How about the outrageously overpriced beverages which just keep getting more expensive every year even when their price on the store counter is fairly stable? Don’t be surprised to see them install pay toilets at the rate they are going.It’s not that far fetched, Raynair is seriously talking about lavatory charges as well as charging for using airsick bags! Imagine that. The solution of course is to just get sick on the way to the lavatory one would suppose.

None of the above fees can be avoided, it’s just that simple. If you use any of those carriers they will hit you with those fees at a minimum aside from the last batch from United. That is of course if you can avoid eating or drinking on a long flight. There are some fees people wind up accepting without realizing it which they can avoid however. Sometimes people register online or over the phone and get in a rush or fail to read the fine print denoted by an asterisk and get an unpleasant surprise when they see their final bill.

United Airlines door to door luggage service catches people off guard at times. They check the box and without realizing it sign up to have FedEx come to their house and pick up their luggage and ship it to their destination. It is great if you hate the hassle of toting bags around on travel day, pretty bad when you see how much it costs to pay for it.

United and a growing number of other carriers on their coattails have instituted “premiere check in” programs. They bill them as speedy check in, but are they necessary? The angle is that for $25 per ticket you will get through both the airline and security check in process faster. The problem is there is no guarantee this will actually happen and there is no refund if it doesn’t. Some frequent travelers have claimed this only saves about 15 to 20 minutes at best on average. The general feeling is you just don’t need it.For the most part all it does is increase your odds of getting overhead compartment space directly over your seat.

The good news is you can dodge the premiere traveler fees, you can work around the food and beverage and movie charges. The bad news is airlines are making a ton of money off the check in fees, baggage fees, and convenience fees are are almost universally planning to increase them all as well as add in more. The airline executives actually have an annual conference focused just on this area of the business alone. Further bad news is if they do decide to charge for lavatory fees or sick bags there is nothing you can do about it if you need them, it is perfectly legal. They can even charge you to turn on the overhead reading light and buzz the stewardess if they want to. it really has gotten that bad.


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