8/2/2012 1:36 PM ET|
10 ways to avoid airline fees
Published airfares are only the beginning of what you could pay for your flight. These tips can help you minimize any surprise charges when you travel.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, annual U.S. baggage fees and ticket cancellation and change fees generate roughly $3.4 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively, for U.S. airlines. And the airlines continue to charge travelers more fees.
Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, the airlines most notorious for charging fees, have been rewarded for their strategy by investors. Spirit's stock price has increased more than 75% over the past year, while Allegiant's stock has grown more than 40%. In contrast, Southwest and JetBlue, which do not charge for carry-on bags or for the first checked bag, have both experienced declines of around 20% in their stock prices over the same period.
The bottom line: U.S. airlines are incentivized to charge travelers even more fees. Airline fees aren't going away soon. To avoid paying hundreds of dollars in fees (on top of rising airfare costs), travelers should be aware of the various types of airline fees, the varying fees by airline and the range of fee terms. Following are 10 ways to eliminate or reduce the fees you pay.
1. Fly Southwest or JetBlue
Baggage fees can be difficult to avoid. Many travelers go to great lengths to avoid these fees by stuffing everything into carry-on luggage. However, with both Allegiant and Spirit now charging for carry-on luggage, more airlines may follow suit. Short of wearing all your clothes on board or purchasing a special travel coat with multiple compartments, we recommend flying Southwest or JetBlue. Not only do both airlines still offer free carry-on luggage, they also waive baggage fees for the first checked bag. Southwest goes even further, continuing to offer a second checked bag free.
2. Measure and weigh your bags
While checking a bag can easily cost $40 to $70 round trip, the additional fees are what really break the bank. If your bag weighs more than 40 to 50 pounds, you will likely be charged an overweight baggage fee, which can run from $50 to $400 per bag round trip, on top of the checked baggage fee. If your bag is more than 62 linear inches (measured by length plus width plus height), you will likely be charged an oversized baggage fee, which can run from $50 to $600 per bag round trip, in addition to the fees for checked and overweight baggage, if applicable. It definitely pays to measure and weigh your bags. However, the definitions of and charges for oversized and overweight baggage vary greatly by airline. Be sure to confirm each airline's policies on oversized and overweight baggage ahead of time.
3. Book your tickets online
With the exceptions of Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, U.S. airlines typically do not charge travelers for booking tickets online. Booking online will help you avoid phone booking fees, which range from $15 to $45, depending on the airline. If you are booking a short flight, these fees can constitute a significant percentage of the total cost.
4. Be certain about your travel plans
Refundable tickets are significantly more expensive. While it most often makes sense to purchase cheaper, nonrefundable tickets, they can cost you much more if you need to change your travel plans. Ticket change fees range from $75 to $175. All the more reason to fly Southwest -- it is the only major U.S. airline that does not charge ticket change fees. Alternately, travelers can try to minimize change fees by changing tickets online. Online ticket change fees are $10 to $25 lower if you purchased your ticket from Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, US Airways or Virgin America.
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5. Book your tickets directly through the airlines
Surprisingly, some airlines charge an additional fee if you need to change a ticket that was booked by a third party, such as a travel agent or an online travel agent (e.g. Expedia or Orbitz). United, Frontier and Delta have ticket-change agency fees, ranging from $25 to $50. Delta, however, waives the fee if the change is made online.
More from US News & World Report:
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All of us are complaining about fees and high cost when flying. I call all the Americans to stop flying 1 day and see how the airlines drop their prices. Just one day.
They cut the weight from 70 pounds to 50 and number of bags from 2 to 1 and we did not do any thing.
Just stop flying one day. Don't fly. God bless America.
JET BLUE IS GREAT GOOD PRICES FIRST BAG AND CARRY ON FREE GREAT SERVICE FROM EMPLOYEES
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