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4 airlines fees actually worth paying

Spending a little extra can make flying a little less miserable.

By MSN Money producer Oct 2, 2013 6:17PM

This post comes from Catey Hill at partner site MarketWatch.



Want a snack on your next flight, or an extra inch of legroom? You better pony up some cash because airlines are charging for more "perks" than ever before. While many of the new fees can and probably should be avoided, experts say, some are well worth it.


Airline passenger raising his glass © Blend Images/SuperStockLast year, the airlines raked in more than $27 billion in fees and extra charges, which is more than double the take from 2009, according to an analysis by consulting group IdeaWorksCompany . Some airlines make an average of $30 per passenger from fees alone and earn one fifth of their total revenue from fees.


Among the fees worth skipping are: printing your boarding pass (Spirit Airlines charges $10 for passes printed by one of its staff members), onboard snacks (most airlines charge for at least premium snacks), and booking by phone ($10 on Spirit). Some carriers like Frontier now charge for carry-on bags ($25 - $100 if you book your flight through a third party), so make sure the total cost of your ticket, with these fees included, is still worth the price — or else opt for an airline that doesn't have these fees. Even the popular priority boarding fee is something you may want to skip, experts say. If you're one of the first to board right when your zone is called, you can usually get your bag on the plane, says Alex Trettin, the president of the Travel Leaders franchise in Tacoma.


Still, there are fees that even the budget-conscious may want to consider paying — if only to make a long flight or irritating layover more bearable. Here are four:


Premium economy seats


These seats, which have a variety of names like "economy comfort" and "premium economy" typically offer more legroom, as well as the ability to recline further and power outlets for charging laptops and phones. It usually costs about $10 to $50 to get one of these seats, depending on the length of the flight, says Rick Seaney, the CEO of


When it's worth it: Seaney says this upgrade isn't typically a good deal on short flights, but "once you hit the three-hour mark, these fees start to look better." Make sure you look at what these premium seats offer — how many inches of legroom and other perks (some even throw in priority boarding) — as it varies significantly by airline.

One-day airline lounge passes


The lounge areas for airlines have perks like free snacks and drinks (sometimes including beer and wine), free Wi-Fi, as well as quieter areas and nicer seats than in the general waiting area. The price for a one-day pass is about $50 and passengers can usually bring small children (under age 2 or 3) in for free.


When it's worth it: "For a long layover of two hours or more that's worth it," says Trettin. And it may be especially worth it for those with multiple stops, since many airlines let you use this in each of the locales (as long as it's on the same day), adds Bonnie Lee, the CEO of the Travel Leaders franchise in Albertville, Minn. So if you take off in one airport and have a layover in another, you could use the lounge in both, she explains. Note that if you have an airline credit card, you may be able to get this perk for free (just beware of the annual fees and other charges that these cards carry).


Seat assignments


As anyone who's been relegated to the middle seat and then sandwiched between two large people knows, the middle seat can be a recipe for a very uncomfortable flight. It used to be that you could guarantee yourself an aisle or window if you just booked early and picked your location, but now some airlines like Spirit are charging you to pick a seat (their fees between $1 and $50). "If you don't buy a seat, it's a free for all," says Kim Reicherter-Spect, a travel agent with Tzell Travel in New York. "You don't want that."


When it's worth it: Seaney says that like premium economy seats, picking your seat can be worth the money on longer flights, usually those that are three hours or more. Lee says that picking a seat is especially good for families with young children, who want easy access to the front or back of the plane near the bathrooms.


In-flight Wi-Fi


Many airlines charge for Wi-Fi —S outhwest charges $8 per day per device, Delta and American charge $14 — and while travelers grumble about paying it, it's often worth it, experts say. "This is one of the biggest fees we see people paying for," says Trettin, as it not only provides entertainment to passengers (and a break from the sometimes limited in-flight TV and movie options, even though you usually can't stream video and music), but also the ability to get work done.


When it's worth it: Wi-Fi is often worth it for long flights, especially on airlines that have limited entertainment options. Frequent travelers may especially benefit from this, as there are package deals (a monthly subscription to Delta and American's Wi-Fi costs about $40) that can help them save money. Lee says that families may also benefit quite a bit, as they can buy one monthly subscription and share that cost by sharing the login.


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Oct 3, 2013 9:21AM
My last business trip was the most comfy I have ever taken. I only had to go a few hundred miles out of town so I drove.

Awesome perks included...

1 - My wife came along at no extra charge.
2 - Leg room galore.
3 - I was allowed to smoke a cigar on the way.
4 - I didn't have to get molested by TSA goons.
5 - I brought all the luggage I wanted at no extra charge.
6 - I got to see out the front window.
7 - Affordable snacks and drinks.
8 - No loud mouthed idiots.
9 - Nobody behind me spreading what ever disease they happen to have at the moment.
10 - We left on time and arrived on time.

Oct 2, 2013 9:42PM
It's getting too expensive to travel. Yeah, sometimes you can find good hotel offers or a great cruise deal but after all these additional charges like luggage, hidden fuel charges, water, parking, food and whatever else you might need it makes it almost impossible for a family to go anywhere. The cost of living is getting higher but my paycheck is getting lower because the government and everyone else wants a piece of my paycheck.  I'd travel more if it were cheaper. In the end everyone suffers because less money gets exchanged because people get priced out. And hidden fees such as "resort fees" should be outlawed. It's bait and switch and should be against the law.
Oct 3, 2013 9:33AM
WE figured out that by the time we leave our house, park the car in a lot, take the shuttle to Logan Airport, check the bags, go through security, sit in the lounge, sit on the plane, fly to Dulles, wait for our luggage, wait at the rental car counter, get our rental car that Boston to northern Virginia is 7.5 hours for the two of us.  It takes an hour more to drive, which costs less, lets us chat about any subject we want and spend some quality 420 time.
Oct 3, 2013 11:33AM
Sorry MSN Money Producer but none of those perks are worth the fee's. I travel as part of my job and have seen the quality of service go down as the prices went up. CEO pay rises, stockholder dividends rise and service and quality go down. Time to invest in alternatives like hi speed rail.
Oct 3, 2013 9:30AM
how about all of the above being the norm instead of being extra charges....I do not fly any more because of the crap service, expense,  cramped seats, (no I am not fat), and the TSA B.S. 

"Limited entertainment options"... Gee, has it occurred to you to read a book?


And if other people are allowed to bring screaming babies into the airport lounge, doesn't that defeat the point of peace and comfort for $50?

Oct 3, 2013 12:07PM
This article is assuming the person travelling isn't already stretching their household budget just to be taking a flight to begin with.  Maybe the author of this article doesn't think adding another $50 - $150 to their travel is much, but I sure do.
Oct 3, 2013 6:00PM
Southwest, free bags and no BS fee's.
Oct 3, 2013 10:31AM
The airlines have cut flights so they can raise prices and now cut services during those flights and charge you more if you want those services back. They find every way they can to raise the prices and charge for crapy service and know you can't complain or you will be deemed a trouble maker and placed on the no fly list. This has worked out so well they are cutting the flights again (they are disguising it as purchasing bigger panes for more comfort on regional flights "DELTA") and it will be another round of how much are you really willing to pay for a miserable flight. By the way, who are these so called chefs the airline hires to make this designer food that tastes like total crap and the airline makes you pay more for the ticket to eat this low grade dog food? If you are going to charge us more to eat on your filthy seldom cleaned planes at least you could offer something worth while to eat or at least cut the price of the ticket if we have to eat dog food on your flights. Chinese airlines give you a free meal even on as short of a flight as 1 hour in coach.
Oct 6, 2013 6:21PM

Sure glad all the Hotels I stay in don't treat me like Airlines ... you know > pay $119.00 for a room and then when you show up ...


$23 for sheets and Pillows

$18 for Towels

$27 for TV access

$14 for wifi

$6 for soap

$32 for Air Conditioner

$43 for parking my rental

$11 Every time I use the elevator

Oct 3, 2013 10:17AM
Just more crap to make traveling more FUN - NOT !!!!!!
Oct 2, 2013 7:50PM

Airlines shouldn't be allowed to charge extra for seat assignments unless the seat has increased legroom.  Charging a customer extra just to sit in an aisle seat or at the front of the cabin is just sleazy. 


The #1 reason why airlines are forced to keep coming up with new and exciting ways to gouge their customers is because of increased fuel costs.  And who is to blame for increased fuel costs?  The Evil Religion-controlled OPEC.  They fix the price of oil and sell it to infidel nations at extortionately high levels whilst people in Evil Religion countries can fill up for only a few cents per gallon.  So, if you're pissed off about high fares and add-on fees, blame the Evil Religion!!!  OPEC hu Akbar!  

Oct 6, 2013 3:37PM
Let's be honest no airline fees are worth it all of them are ridiculous and if people would wise up and boycott the airlines for a week or so things would change very quickly.
Oct 6, 2013 4:42PM
A two hour layover isn't what I'd call a long layover, it's just enough time to get to your next gate imo, especially if it's an international flight.
Oct 3, 2013 2:14PM
Seat Assignments:  Especially good when you can chose a seat in an opposite section of the plane from a shrieking kid.
Oct 6, 2013 5:40PM

Why is it that we have become so accustomed to these "airline fees" that we forget that most of these "perks" that we now must have, and pay for, were free just a few short years ago??  Why are there differences in seat leg room, as currently offered by the airlines?-- it use to be that we all got the same space.   But now the airlines take from one set of passengers in order to "create" a chargeable perk for the few that want what we all use to have-- for free!!  Just look at baggage fees as another example of similar "fee mania"!!  It is no wonder that airlines rank low in customer surveys-- and that more people are driving, than flying, to close destinations.  Face it folks-- do we really need any of these perks at all when we fly??  The max that you are on a domestic flight is 5 hours-- and that is only if it is a nonstop-- a certain rarity in today's airline scheduling,-- so why pay for these " benefits", since you probably will only be in the air a couple of hours, tops, on any one flight segment. Tell me you can't be "inconvenienced"  without an internet connection for that long,  or is it that you are so vain that you don't want others to think less of you for sitting in a NORMAL economy seat!!??  International flights are different-- but most of these annoying fees don't apply to those flights.  So are we that addicted to our cell phones and tablets that we can't go an hour or 2 without them on domestic flight?  Come on, get real.  Wifi for work sounds good-- but, between the "no electronic devices"  periods and the number of times you, or your seat partners, "want to get up"-- just how much work can you do?-- let alone the fact that you are attempting to perform any work at all on a plane-- (by the way--if that is a necessity in your job, then you have greater issues than airline fees and perks). 

We all bought on to these airline fees and charges when the airlines were crying and bemoaning about high fuel costs a few years ago, so we all accepted "fees" to help them out with costs.  Now all of that "higher cost" structure is in the past, "except the fees" because the airlines have found them to be a "honeypot" to gouge the air traveler, even though they readily admit that their "cost crisis" has long passed.  Greed now takes the day; and the airlines just want to sweeten their "bottom line" by adding fees to that which they had historically provided to the air traveler as part of their travel experience!!  Currently they want to "al a cart" everything in their list of flight amenities which entails "up charges"; and we the "traveler lemmings" just run down that fiscal path that enhances their profits margins without substantial objection because we are too self involved in getting something better than the other guy regardless of the cost!!  How disgusting that we air travelers have developed such little "backbone" in the past few years!!! 

Oct 3, 2013 11:39AM
At 6'2" tall, I am happy for more leg room. And being so tall, I've had to pay extra all my life for longer clothes and larger shoes so paying more for leg room on a flight is just S.O.P. for me.
Oct 6, 2013 6:44PM
We're certainly not what you'd consider well-to-do, just middle class couple trying to enjoy a middle class retirement.  But despite my frugality, I'm sometimes willing to pay a bit extra for good service and an enjoyable whatever.  That certainly has not applied to any flights my wife and I have taken in the past ten or so years.  Costs are up, of course, but decent service and comfort are largely things of the past on any airline.  The "fees" are especially irritating but the attitude of the employees (who should be happy to have a job in these times, and show it) really sucks.  On a recent trip via Frontier from Florida to the Northwest U.S., it was particularly messed up. One dear old biddy (I'm old so I can say that) at our connection in Denver told my wife she could only have one carry-on besides her purse or she would have to pay extra.  We tried to explain that the small bag was for her knitting, and that and another small item would fit inside her regular carry-on.  We had to do it to prove it.   On the way home, we experienced another delight at Denver.  This one came after the airline held our flight for bad weather - understandable - then had to call in another pilot who got us as far as the end of the taxiway before telling us we would have to return to the gate to refuel since we'd been held up so long.  When we got to the gate, the next surprise was that another first officer had to be summoned because the guy on board, like the pilot, had run out of hours.  All these things seem to come as a surprise to the Frontier folk, resulting in our arrival in Orlando three and a half hours late.  Let's face it, flying these days is about as much fun as hitch-hiking ... and less comfortable.    
Oct 6, 2013 3:35PM
And of course flying non-rev, I don't have these luxuries (unless another airline is nice and upgrades us). Otherwise, I'm stuck in the middle. That's my theme song for flying non-rev. ;) Stuck in the Middle with You.... Can't beat flying free though so I won't complain.
Oct 6, 2013 5:17PM

Who rates Good, etc.  I don't need luxuries, I need a cost I can afford.  For this the guy at the top, who used to make $9m in 2011 is probably making a lot more and telling everyone who they are not making enough money.  Poo.


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