Airlines keep stacking up the fees

Still hurting for revenue, carriers are constantly coming up with new ways to separate passengers from their money.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 5, 2013 9:43AM

Image: Airport check-in (© Corbis)Never underestimate the creativity of cash-hungry organizations looking for new ways to squeeze money out of their customers.

Consider the airline industry. It keeps coming up with new sets of fees that nickel-and-dime passengers from the moment they arrive at the airport until they reach their final destination.

But it's not that the air carriers are simply trying to hassle you. Like everyone else in this financially challenged landscape, they need the money.

"U.S. airlines eked out another year of meager profitability as expenses grew faster than revenues with record-setting fuel prices serving as a primary driver," John Heimlich, chief economist for the trade group Airlines for America, told the Los Angeles Times.

And so we're seeing more add-on perks such as United Airlines' (UAL) Premier Access fee. Starting at an additional $9, it lets passengers jump to shorter check-in lines and special security lanes at some airports and get priority boarding -- "so you can get to the gate, your seat and the overhead bin sooner."

But Amy Lee, senior analyst for, said the actual charges for Premier Access on a typical flight can run you a lot more. "So you will pay $50 to $100 to save about 30 minutes on your flight," she told the L.A. Times.

Some of these value-added fees might make some sense for the busy business traveler. If you want to use your computer in-flight, Southwest (LUV) offers all-day onboard WiFi service at $8 per device, or it can stream on-demand movies and TV programs to your laptop for $5.

And United recently started a service at some airports that will let you skip the baggage claim altogether. It will deliver your luggage directly to your home, hotel or meeting. That'll cost an extra $29.95 on top of the regular baggage fees of $25 for the first piece of checked luggage and $35 for the second.

These new fees are, of course, in addition to other fees for things that can make a potentially miserable flight much more comfortable, like extra legroom and in-flight food.

The Travelnerd site sings a lament familiar to many veteran air travelers: While airfares are arguably at an all-time high, the airlines continue to push additional and often confusing fees onto "financially weary travelers to boost revenues and margins."

The moral for cost-conscious travelers: Do your homework, compare prices and don't be caught off-guard by additional, unnecessary and sometimes unadvertised air fees.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 5, 2013 10:25AM
I'm waiting for an airline to step forward and offer an old-school flight experience.  Take out 15% of the seats and make them larger and with more legroom.  Have a pleasant, attractive staff who cheerfully serves quality beverages and snacks.  Include a nice meal service on flights more than 3 hours long that fall during normal mealtimes.  Never have an over-booking situation and have the best on-time record.  Have a policy where passengers are expected to dress nicely - no more pajamas and flip-flops.  Have a more lenient carry-on policy and include 2 checked bags in the price.  And offer a generous frequent-flier program.  I'd gladly pay an extra couple of hundred bucks for this type of flight experience.

As it stands now, we're herded like livestock on and off cramped planes and stuck on overcrowded flights with rude passengers and unfriendly flight crews who nickel and dime us to death, just so we can say we got a cheaper base fare.

So for now, as long as my destination is within 1000 miles or so, I'm driving.

Mar 5, 2013 12:44PM
I agree with BigBrute. I used to fly eight to ten times a year for short vacations in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Colorado, San Francisco & Florida between 1974 and 1995. Airlines would advertise, "Half the fun is getting there." And it was true. Flying was a great experience and you were treated well even in coach. It was like the airlines couldn't do enough for you. What happened? How did things degenerate to the point where I have only flown once in the past ten years, haven't flown once in the past four years and have absolutely no desire to get on an airplane? The last time I was on a plane I thought I was a prisoner of war.
Mar 5, 2013 12:38PM
Hey, here's an idea.  Don't like the cost of flying?  Don't fly.  Airlines will continue to charge more and more until people stop flying.  And yes, flying is optional.
Mar 5, 2013 10:56AM

Unless you must fly for your business or job I wouldn't set foot in an airport. I haven't got on an airplane in 30 years, and won't any time soon. Airline companies go in and out of business so fast it's ridiculous.

Service...don't believe it exists anymore. Drive your car or take the train.

Mar 5, 2013 12:47PM

Here's one they haven't come up with yet. Why don't they charge for admission to the airport?

Mar 5, 2013 3:29PM
I took my first flight 40 years ago.  It was wonderful.  The flight attendants were helpful and cheerful.  The airlines provided meals or drinks and snacks on board and each seat had a pillow and blanket.   YOu could check two bags free of charge and could bring on carryon free of charge as well.  Now, security lines are long, you have to practically get naked to get on a plane or agree to be irradiated or sexually assaulted just to get to your gate.  Once at your gate you will be greeted by the frowing faces of gate attendants whose disgust for the passengers is palpable.  Once on board you will see more frowing faces who seem even more disgusted by passengers.  No more meals or snacks are served free of charge in coach, if you want something you will have to pay a lot for nasty, cold food choices.  Seats are packed together so tightly the experience is claustrophobic.  And never forget the passenger is never right.  If you complain about anything you will be arrested and detained.  I have not been on an airplane in over two years when I was forced to fly to attend a family wedding, and I dread every having to fly again.  I understand airlines want to make money and the over the top security measures, but I will never understand why airlines feel free to treat their paying customers with disdain and provide them with deplorable service.  Perhaps if the airlines coupled the price gouging with better, friendlier service, people would be more inclined to fly.
Mar 5, 2013 1:29PM
I agree with big brute. The crap the airlines come up with to pilfer you money is ridiculous. So, if everybody would quit flying, than the airlines might wake up and smell the coffee.

But then again, greed is powerful.


I am waiting for standing room only seating in planes that way they can pack us in like sardines and make tons more money.


When they do that I quess they will have a fee if you don;t want your neighbors to be touching you. After all if they allow space between bodies then they will lose air fare.


Taking out the bathrooms will give them about ax extra 4 people per plane at $500 or $2,000 pure profit not to mention the cost savings of not having to clean the restrooms or use that special blue water.


THEN the next logical move will be to just lay us down on the ground and stack us like a core of wood that way if you are a short person they will not be wasting the space above your head.


Feel sorry for the people on the bottom however with all those people stacked on top of them.



Mar 5, 2013 2:03PM
I used to spend 90% of my time traveling for my job back when flying was cheaper and service was good.  I no longer have to travel for work so will no longer will board an airplane but mainly because after ten years of flying I hate it.  Now if I do travel for pleasure I will either drive or take the train. 
Mar 5, 2013 1:32PM
And some might wonder why I quit flying in 2007 even though I can afford to fly....
Mar 5, 2013 2:54PM
They can take those fees and shove it.  If I'm not the pilot, I drive or take a ship.    If neither of those options are available, I stay home.
Mar 5, 2013 4:50PM
I fly for business and only if the distance is over 350 miles.  By the time you leave for the airport, check in, go through security, be abused by the airline, herded like cattle onto the plane, crammed into a seat too small, put up with a stewardess that would rather be somewhere else, claim your bag, fight your way to the rental car counter it is quicker to just drive.

While driving I can always listen to an audio book, music, talk on the phone or just be by myself to think.  plus I can stop wherever I want to and eat at any restaurant that charges about half of what it would cost at the airport.

Screw the airlines.  They are sticking it to us any chance they can.   Just saying....
Mar 5, 2013 4:47PM
I have made 2 vacation plans that, purposely, did not include a flight, specifically because of the nickel and dimeing.
Mar 5, 2013 4:26PM

Is there any business, government, or group NOT stacking on the fees?  Everything is going up except salaries and they are going down!  The Headlines should read: Still hurting for revenue, Congress is constantly coming up with new ways to separate Americans from their money (except for Congress, itself).  Congress has admiteed the reason we are in the mess we're in is because they have not done their job!  Yes!! RICHARD SHELBY said that in an interview with local media on March 4, 2013.  He did not say he planned to give back any of his salary though, even though he admitted they (Congress) had not done their job!  Thiese ididot still want to take part of the old people's SS though...and they will likely do it! They are cowards, preying on the weak!

Mar 5, 2013 5:07PM
they no longer even wear a name tag. the company does not want you to write them about so and so's bad service because the airline does not care. they have leveraged 911 into a we do not need to care and you have no choice.
Mar 5, 2013 3:55PM
I am glad I have no need to fly.  I couldn't afford it, anyway.
Mar 5, 2013 6:12PM
Flying is optional and the airlines can raise their fees. But no customers means no cash flow. When will the airlines kill the goose that laid the golden egg. I dislike flying and there isn't anywhere that I need to go that requires flying. Good luck airlines your day will come
Mar 5, 2013 4:22PM
charge for going into bathroom an extra charge wash hands the paper use both for wiping and hand drying, than charge to get out of the bathroom
Mar 5, 2013 5:22PM
I have not flown since 1986 but I was hoping to take a vacation next year (have not had real one in 6 years) to celebrate the big 50.  I wanted to fly to Florida just to save the hassle of driving and to get to my destination quicker to enjoy my vacation more.  With the posts here I might rethink that idea.
Mar 5, 2013 2:45PM
No one has mentioned the amount that UNIONS cost the airlines! Cut them out and get the service we once had. They are tits on a boar hog. Useless but so powerful. They jack up the salaries and pensions for their members who then must pay for their leaderless ship. They take that $ for doing nothing that the airlines and workers can't do. Plus they use Big money for Liberal causes! FACT JACK
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