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What the new airline rules mean to you

New federal regulations make the real price of airline tickets more transparent, but you still need to dig deeper before you buy.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 31, 2012 3:25PM

The post comes from Kimberly Palmer at partner site U.S. News & World Report.

 

USNews on MSN MoneyHere's some good news for air travelers: It just got easier to know how much you're paying to travel and compare prices in advance. That's because new rules from the Transportation Department that went into effect last week require airlines to include all required taxes and fees, as well as any baggage fees, when listing airfares.

 

Before these rules took effect, travelers searching for flights or glancing through ads would see what would appear to be amazing deals: Round-trip tickets to Las Vegas for just $99, or a flight to Ireland for $200. Alas, those deals were too good to be true. By the time customers finished paying for taxes and required fees, $20 or more would be added to the final ticket prices. Post continues below.

Now that these rules have gone into effect, it's easier to compare prices and estimate total payments. Searching for flights from Washington, D.C., to Boston on United's website, for example, brings up a $193.60 option that includes taxes and fees. On comparison sites such as Expedia.com, a search brings up an array of ticket options from different carriers, and all prices include taxes and fees.

 

The Transportation Department also now requires airlines to allow travelers hold reservations for 24 hours without making a payment, as well as cancel reservations within 24 hours, for reservations made at least a week in advance. And that's not all: The Transportation Department says it's also exploring whether all optional fees should be disclosed during the booking process.

 

For now, though, airlines can still add fees along the way, on everything from onboard Internet access to in-flight entertainment to food and drinks.

Here are some tips on avoiding midair surprises:

 

Look up the policies of your airline before getting to the airport. Say you're flying to San Francisco from New York next week on Virgin America. If you visit Virginamerica.com, you'll find that the airline sells sandwiches, movies and Internet access on board. (Travelers can watch live television for free.) Those meal and entertainment options might inspire you to pack your own sandwich and book to skip those fees. Or say you've booked a ticket on Southwest. You can go ahead and relax while packing your checked baggage, because the first two bags are free, unlike on most other airlines.

 

If the policies are hard to find, use a site such as SmarterTravel.com, which offers a fee guide, so you don't have to do any extra work.SmarterTravel.com's guide (.pdf file) shows the fee policies on all major airlines, so whether you're flying with Delta or Continental, you can get a breakdown of what to expect. Kayak.com also offers a useful chart.

 

Keep a fee guide nearby as you do your comparison shopping. You might think that a $300 round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Austin is a great deal. But if the airline will also charge you $50 for your two checked bags, $8 for a meal and $15 for the seat you want, you might be better off getting a slightly more expensive ticket on a more-inclusive airline. Or just remember to bring your own food and blanket along for the ride.

 

The bottom line: Consumers who do their own research in advance can avoid many travel fees. Since fee details can be hard to track down on airline sites, use comparison charts such as those on SmarterTravel.com and Kayak.com.

 

More on U.S. News & World Report and MSN Money:

1Comment
Jan 31, 2012 7:08PM
avatar

I don't understand why the interviewer didn't call the Spirit Airlines guy on the nonsense (to use a polite word) that he was putting out there.  Looks like they're lying at their website, too.  Wonder if they'll really get away trying to mislead people--it does sound like most people like what they're seeing.  I know I think it's a great idea.

 

And, wow, look at that more than $400 surcharge for fuel.  It's interesting because in the past when I've seen the addition of taxes and fees, I thought all of those were government or airport charges.  I didn't realize that there might be--and now I suspect probably are--"fees" that the airlines themselves add to what they claim is the fare. 

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