Unexpected fees add up quickly and cut into your travel budget. You can reduce or eliminate many of these hidden costs. Before booking your flight, know what additional fees you will have to pay that are not included in the airfare. You may be find that choosing an airline with a higher fare but lower fees will save you money overall.
Be on the Lookout for Unnecessary Fees
Most airlines charge baggage fees for checked baggage and charge an additional amount for oversized or overweight bags. Some airlines charge for carry-on bags as well. On Southwest Airlines, your bags fly for free. For information on baggage fees, check with your airline or online at IFlyBags, or SeatGuru.
- Checked baggage fees are per flight (double for round trip)
- You may be able to get a discounted rate when you pay in advance online
- Currently, some airlines charge around $20 for the first checked bag (62 linear inches and 50 lbs. max) and an additional amount for a second checked bag. For a family of four where each person has one checked bag, that can add up to $160 round trip.
- Some airlines do not charge a baggage fee if you are:
o Military personnel and family members
o In a certain class of frequent flyers
o Flying First or Business Class
- International flights may charge more (or less, if you are lucky) for checked baggage
- Overweight or Oversized Baggage: Bags that weigh more than 40 – 50 lbs. and are larger than 62 linear inches (measure length + width + height) will incur an added fee ranging from about $25 to $200 plus per bag.
- Baggage fees for multiple-carrier itineraries are determined by the first carrier
Carry-on bag allowances varies by airline. Typical size limitations are 9” wide x 14” across x 22” high (45 linear inches), including the handle and wheels. Maximum weight is 40 lbs. Check to see if the airline charges for a carry-on bag.
- Be sure to adhere to the airline’s carry-on policies. You are restricted to the number of items you can carry on-board. Any extra or oversized bags may become checked baggage at the gate. You will then have to pay a baggage fee and will not have access to them during the flight.
Some airlines charge a fee if you purchase your tickets via phone or at the airport counter. These fees range from $15 upwards to $45.
Priority Boarding Fees:
For an extra fee, some airlines will let you board the plane earlier than other passengers. The fees could be anywhere from about $9 on up.
Choosing a seat assignment/Premium economy seats:
- Some airlines may charge an additional fee for advance seat assignments
- Many airlines charge an added fee for wider seats and those with more leg room
Meals, Entertainment, Pillows, Blankets, Alcoholic Drinks:
These in-flight amenities are oftentimes not included in the cost of economy tickets. If you plan to purchase these items during the flight, check to see if the airline will accept either cash or credit cards.
You can also eliminate these costs by bringing your own snacks, packing a sweater or jacket in your carry-on, and downloading movies or shows to your phone or iPad.
Same-Day Flight Changes:
Some airlines may allow you to request a same-day flight change up to a specified number of hours prior to your desired new flight time. For example, the airline may stipulate that the request be made six hours prior to the new flight time. If your original flight leaves at 7:00 p.m. and you want to change to a flight leaving at 1:00 p.m., you will have to request the flight no later than 7:00 a.m. Airlines may charge a fee of $25 for an earlier flight.
Ticket Change Fee:
You have a 24-hour window where you can cancel or change a non-refundable ticket that you have just booked and receive a full refund. Any changes or cancellations made after that time will incur a penalty fee (estimate $75 to $175, or as much as $250 for international flights). Some airlines (Southwest Airlines) will allow you to change non-refundable tickets without charging a fee.
If traveling with a pet under 20 lbs., they may be able to fly in the cabin for a fee (estimate around $50 to $125 per flight). The airline has a maximum number of pets that are allowed in the cabin, so notify the airline as soon as possible. Pets over 20 lbs. would fly in cargo for an added fee (estimate around $100 to $225 per flight).
Foreign Transaction Fee:
Many credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee if you book your ticket on an airline that is an overseas company. The fee could be as high as 3% of the price of the ticket.
To avoid this fee, either use a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees or book the flight through their partnering airline located in the U.S. For example, if you are needing a flight on Lufthansa, book it through their partner, United Airlines.
For insightful travel ideas, check out my book: