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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.

By Mitch Lipka Jun 18, 2013 5:03PM
747 plane landed, Miami airport, Florida © Juan Silva, PhotographerFlying just isn't the same as it used to be. You'd pay to either sit in coach or first-class and would get some sort of food and drink and you could safely assume your bags, your choice of seats and boarding passes would all be included.

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:

  1. Spirit(38.5%)
  2. Allegiant (29.9%)
  3. (26.5%)
  4. Ryanair (21.8%)
  5. 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:

  1. United ($5.4 billion)
  2. Delta ($2.6 billion)
  3. American ($2 billion)
  4. Southwest($1.7 billion)
  5. 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, and 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.

More from MSN Money:

Jun 18, 2013 5:40PM
Remember when flying was actually fun ?
I do.

Jun 18, 2013 6:17PM
I'll fly - myself.  These airlines don't realize they are getting to be dinosaurs.  The smaller jet charter companies are going to expand, and the people absolutely needing to fly will use them.  Others will use the bus or train, or even ship, instead.  Just going for a vacation, forget the hassles at the airport, then the cost of the flying, just make sure your car is serviced, gassed up, and go enjoy the scenery.  End up costing less, and more fun for the entire family.  Might take a little longer, but well worth it.
Jun 18, 2013 5:44PM
Airline CEO's have to get richer and richer.  Just because an airline CEO only makes millions a year, they want to make billions a year.  They are GREEDY.
Jun 18, 2013 9:18PM
Spirit Air is far and away the worst airline servicing the United States.  Planes are filthy, they charge you for water, they ceaselessly hawk their credit card in the boarding area, they charge for printing a boarding pass at the airport kiosk, they charge for overhead bag storage,  If they could figure out a way to charge for oxygen and restrooms they would.  I have instructed my subordinates that if they ever fly Spirit on business that I would not approve their expense reports. 
Jun 18, 2013 10:02PM
Look around, greed is killing America and guess who doing something about it ! NO ONE.......
Jun 18, 2013 7:22PM
I'm not for the government running anything.  But when they ran the airlines you could just about get from anyplace to anywhere.  Book 1st class, business, or coach, that was it, no extra costs other than multiple drinks in coach.  Sure would be nice to return to the good ole days of flying.  Today the airlines and congress are out to rape every flyer, take all we have and then some.  Personally, I would like to see the airline industry totally collapse.   
Jun 18, 2013 7:33PM
United charge us $125 for being 12 lbs over weight on our check in lugage. They have seen the last of us.
Jun 18, 2013 11:38PM
Just do yourselves and the Airlines a favor and don't fly them. These fees will soon just vanish. The airline who doesn't charge a fee in the future will be the "winner". Customer service wins more customers.Customers "serviced" wins no customers. Just for the record,United Airlines SUCKS!
Jun 18, 2013 6:54PM
Get Skype, a nice car, and learn about Amtrak.
Jun 19, 2013 12:30AM
We and our relatives fly with Southwest all the time. Would someone kindly tell me what fees they charge. We have carry on, one or two checked luggage per person, have our boarding passes in hand on airport arrival. If we cancel, we get our points or cash for use on another flight. If we change flights there is no change fee however if the flight we change to is extra we pay the extra however not the extra as well as a change fee. We have flown Southwest for over ten years and never paid extra fees. On one occasion in all those years we used American Express points (38,000) a real rip off with US Air and paid $25.00 to check a bag each way. Needless to say US Air/American will never have our business again. From a recent survey Jet Blue gets high marks for air travel also.
Jun 19, 2013 2:36AM
Alegiant airlines is awful...  I went on a flight last year, when they came around with the pop and goodies, I asked for a diet, the lady said thats $3.00.  Then I said I dont want it, I will have a water please, she said, thats $3.00.  What the hell, is there no law that they have to provide at least water?  How long will it be before they charge a dollar or two to use the toilet??  Its sickening!!!!!

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!

Jun 18, 2013 11:57PM
This is awful, but all US airlines suck big time.  If at all possible, fly a foreign airline.  All US airlines, especially US Air are so bad they should be closed down.
Jun 18, 2013 7:52PM
my daughter flew home from college in may cost more to get her luggage home than her.  Three bags on american airlines the last bag was large. no discount at all to students. flying has gotten ridiculous


Jun 18, 2013 5:42PM
Can Not read article for all the advertising in the back ground Black letters on dark car interior does not work
Jun 18, 2013 6:56PM
Banks and airlines are charging fees to raise profits where they used to make profits without the fees. Banks used to compete in services and the lack of fees to attract customers. Now it's lots of service with poor quality and who has the lowest fees. Baggage fees are the same way. And where did they learn this tactic? From our own government. It really started when Al Gore, "invented the internet" and decided to put several "fees" on our phone service, long distance service, cell phone service, and internet service to fund internet capability to schools and poor people. Notice the recent uproar in the abuse of the subsidized low cost phone service? He didn't want to add a tax because that wouldn't be fair to people so he called it a "fee". How can you complain about a fee. Everybody hates taxes and adding a tax would have been political suicide so they called it a fee which sounds more palatable. I remember getting bills where the fees and taxes were up to about half the entire bill. So now we have airlines, banks, telephone service, internet service, the government, etc charging fees as a hidden way to increase revenue instead of letting competition lead to innovation,  success, better efficiency, and service. And with fees a CEO or politician doesn't have to have any skills in leadership, they just have to know how to raise a fee to cover a poorly run operation.
Jun 18, 2013 11:12PM
If folks stop flying then airlines would change , folks are in the need they will always have control! we have the control if we use our heads!
Jun 18, 2013 5:50PM
I still fly but only take my lunch in a hand carried bag that doesn't go in the over head, cheaper to buy clothes where your going rather then pay to take them along.
Jun 18, 2013 6:55PM

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.

Jun 19, 2013 2:21AM
Do not believe this article and the fees to US AIRWAYS stated lowest. What  a bunch of B--s---. I can only think maybe because no  one wants to fly with this overpriced, inadequate airline.
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