Airlines charge several fees that are over and above the cost of your airfare. You can avoid many of these unnecessary expenses. Before booking your ticket, compare the total cost of airfare and added fees with various airlines. You may be better off going with an airline that has a higher fare, but lower fees.
Watch for Unnecessary Fees:
Most airlines charge baggage fees for checked bags. They also tack on additional charges for oversized or overweight bags. Southwest Airlines is one of the more passenger-friendly airlines where your bags fly for free.
To find out what your baggage fees will be, check with your airline or online at IFlyBags.
For example, on United Airlines, you’ll pay $25 for your first checked bag, $35 for your second, and $100 (up to $200 for international flights) for each additional bag. These fees are per flight, so that’s double for a round trip.
Your luggage cannot exceed 62 linear inches (measure length + width + height) and 50 lbs. For a family of four, where everyone has their own checked bag, that can add up to $520 round trip for a domestic flight. That ends up being a lot of money.
If your bag exceeds 50 lbs., you’ll pay an extra $100 to $400 per bag one-way, depending on the weight and if it’s an international flight. Oversized bags are an additional $100 ($200 for international flights) each way.
Baggage fees on multiple-carrier itineraries are determined by the first carrier. Some airlines may offer a discount for advance payment online, and some may not charge a fee to military personnel and their family, or First/Business class travelers.
The savings solution? When traveling as a family, consolidate your items into one or two checked bags. Pack only the necessities and leave extra space and weight allowances for items you plan to buy on your trip. Find out if your lodging offers appliances like hair dryers, etc. so you don’t have to pack these items.
Be sure to measure and weigh your bag prior to going to the airport.
Typical size limitations are 9” wide x 14” across x 22” high (45 linear inches), including handles and wheels and 40 lbs. maximum weight. Check to see if the airline charges for a carry-on bag—some do, and the list is growing.
The airlines have a restriction on the number of carry-on items you’re allowed. If you have any extra or oversized bags, you may be forced to check these bags at the gate. You’ll be charged a baggage fee and will not have access to them during the flight.
When traveling with children, check with the airline on what’s allowed on board. Many will let you bring a diaper bag, stroller, etc.
Ticket Processing Fees:
Some airlines charge a fee if you purchase your tickets over the phone or at the airport counter. These fees could be anywhere from about $25 to $45. Plan on booking your ticket online with the airline or through a travel agent.
Priority Boarding Fees:
For an extra fee, some airlines will allow you to board the plane earlier than other passengers. This fee could be about $9 on up.
Choosing Your Seat Assignment or Requesting Premium Economy Seats:
Most airlines charge an additional fee for seats that are wider or have extra legroom. Some also charge for advance seating assignments. Prices for premium seats vary substantially with each airline. Some offer either wider seats, more legroom, or a package deal that includes other amenities.
In-flight amenities oftentimes are not included in the cost of economy tickets. For alcoholic beverages, you’ll be looking at a whopping $5 to $9 per drink, and food or snacks can range from about $6 to $8. You’ll also pay extra for that pillow, blanket, or movie.
A savings solution would be to bring your own snacks and meals that are easily transportable. You can also download movies or TV shows on your phone or notebook.
Same Day Flight Changes:
Some airlines may allow you to request a same-day flight change. There may be a charge of $75 or so to get on an earlier flight. There are stipulations — the request may need to be made a number of hours in advance of the new flight’s departure time.
Ticket Change Fee:
You have a 24-hour window from when you book a non-refundable ticket to cancel or change it and receive a full refund. Any changes or cancellations after that time will incur a penalty fee. For example, United Airlines charges $200 ($400 or more for international flights) for a non-refundable ticket change fee. Other airlines may charge from $75 to $250 or so for domestic ticket change fees.
Southwest Airlines will allow you to change a non-refundable ticket without charging a fee. You can even cancel and rebook a new ticket up to ten minutes prior to your flight’s departure time — without incurring any added charge. That’s a real benefit that most airlines do not offer.
There’s an added fee for traveling with your beloved pet. Be sure to inform the airline in advance — there’s a limit on the number of animals that can be transported on the plane.
If your pet is under 20 lbs., they may be able to fly in the cabin for a fee. They will need to be in a pet carrier that will fit under your seat. Some airlines may restrict pets in the cabin to cats, dogs, rabbits, or birds. As an example, United charges $125 extra each way to fly with your pet.
Pets over 20 lbs. would fly in cargo for an added fee based on their weight and the distance of the flight. Some airlines (like Southwest) will not allow pets to travel in cargo.
Foreign Transaction Fee:
Many credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee if you book your airline ticket through an overseas company. The fee could be as high as three percent of the price of the ticket. For a family of four paying $750 per ticket, that ends up adding $90 to the overall cost.
To avoid this fee, use either a credit card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee (like Capital One) or book the flight through a partnering airline located in the U.S. For example, if booking on Lufthansa, go through United, its partnering airline.
Many of these fees are avoidable. By knowing what to expect, you can plan on eliminating these extra costs and have more to spend on fun activities.
For insightful travel ideas, check out my book:
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad