Worst fee-greedy airlines
These airlines have taken a la carte flying to a new level, charging for everything you can think of and then some.
If you haven't flown in a while you might have missed the conversion to a la carte aviation. Airlines have feasted on fees consumers have to fork over if they want to, say, bring luggage or not sit in a middle seat or actually sit with members of their own families.
No airline has made fees more part of its bottom line that Spirit, which has a fee for just about anything from carrying on a bag ($25) to booking by phone ($10). The airline industry calls the practice "unbundling," with the idea being that there is a basic airfare and most anything on top of the basics you can pay for if you want it. Spirit, as a discount airline, often starts out with the lowest prices -- which could remain cheap if you don't pick your seat or bring on a bag or anything else that can move up the price.
The larger carriers have joined the fee game, not nearly to the extent of Spirit, which draws nearly 40% of its revenue from the dreaded fees, also known as ancillary revenue.
Here is a list of the airlines that make the biggest percentage of their income from charging fees to consumers, according to a study by the ancillary revenue consultancy IdeaWorksCompany:
- Allegiant (29.9%)
- Jet2.com (26.5%)
- Ryanair (21.8%)
- Tiger Airways (20.8%)
While the airlines that make the biggest percentage of their revenues from fees we humble travelers have to pony up are mainly discount airlines, the major carriers still collect boatloads of cash from fees. Here are the U.S. airlines that collect the most in fees:
- United ($5.4 billion)
- Delta ($2.6 billion)
- American ($2 billion)
- Southwest($1.7 billion)
- US Airways ($1.1 billion)
The abundance of fees and how different airlines handle them can be incredibly confusing for travelers. JetBlue and Southwest, for example, are holdouts when it comes to certain fees. JetBlue allows travelers to bring one suitcase on board as part of the fare and Southwest allows two. Also, Southwest allows passengers to change flight reservations without the standard penalty most airlines assess -- often $200 plus the difference in fare.
So when you're booking a flight, be sure to check not only what the airfare is going to be but also what "extras" you can expect to add in, like bringing a suitcase. Check sites that detail the various airline fees including Kayak.com, TravelNerd.com and SmarterTravel.com to help come up with a more realistic total.
Also, if you have a particular airline's credit card, check to see if you get certain fees waived.
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If you're visiting family or friends it's cheaper to mail you clothes and personables to them.
I use to be in a "can't wait to fly mode" now I can't stand it!
Yup, suck up every buck, but don't spend it on aircraft repairs.
I quit flying commercial airlines in 1975, and would never fly again. I like my old Cessna 172.
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