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A $450 airline fee?

Yes, there is such a thing. A new survey illustrates that we're paying dearly for services that used to be cheaper or included in the ticket price.

By Karen Datko Sep 21, 2011 7:22PM

It seems the sky's the limit for airline fees, according to a new survey by USA Today. The highest fee is now a stratospheric $450 charge by American Airlines for overweight bags on Asian flights.


If you fly closer to home, you're not off the hook. Fees for the first checked regulation-weight bag now top out at $43.  Post continues after video.

Small wonder that in the first three months of 2011, airlines took in $1.38 billion just from baggage and change-reservation fees, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. (Baggage fees accounted for about $783 million of that.)


"That's $59 million more than they collected in the first quarter of last year, and $1.1 billion more than the first three months of 2007, when extra fees first began to appear," USA Today reports. This is the same industry that's bent out of shape about the Obama administration's plan to gradually increase the fee travelers pay for airport security.

Those change-reservation fees range from $50 to $150 for domestic flights, and are generally much higher when you fly outside the country. Checked-bag fees are all over the map, starting with $0 at Southwest and JetBlue. You can find USA Today's complete listing of fees here (and our hat's off to Gary Stoller, who did the research).


Here are some other highlights of USA Today's new survey:

  • They'll usually charge you to book your free frequent-flier flight on the phone, and some even charge you if you do it yourself online.
  • Discounts that were available for those who paid fees online seem to be going the way of the dodo bird.
  • Blessedly, Spirit Airlines is still the only carrier that charges for carry-on bags.

The airlines' dependence on fees prompted Andy Murdock at the Lonely Planet blog to speculate about possible future fees. A few highlights:

Accurate departure gate info -- $5.
Guaranteed Gerard Depardieu-free aisle -- $5.
Having chatty neighbor moved to other seat -- $100.
Air sick bags -- $5 reserved in advance, $100 at moment of need.
$1 per square of toilet paper, or buy five get one free!

That "chatty neighbor" fee almost seems worth it, no?


But, seriously, folks, what's an airline passenger to do? MSN Money's Liz Weston offered some suggestions in "How to beat pesky airline fees." Note: Since that article was written, new federal rules compel airlines to clearly disclose fees at their websites.


Other suggestions:

  • Travel light. Blogger "MJP" at Go To Retirement says carrying a small backpack instead of a suitcase is "traveling light -- boomer style." I ordered a carry-on backpack that's roomy enough to hold all I need for an upcoming two-week trip (including a clothesline to hang my hand-washed garb on) and will fit under any seat.
  • Get the right credit card. Airlines often waive the checked-bag fee if you're carrying their brand of  plastic.

The reality is, we'd just better get used to it. Airlines fees are so profitable that they're not going away.


More on MSN Money:

Sep 22, 2011 1:29AM

As always you have the power to change this. If everyone was really tired of this,

refusing to fly for 1 week would change all the BS including the TSA. There are

2 things that people understand , a hit in the head or the wallet. The American

people choose to be divided and conquered. people get what they get,

so stop bitching.......

Sep 22, 2011 7:57AM
I used to laugh at my mother for "mailing" herself around the country - 8 children to visit...

I now see her logic - she sends most of her clothes and laptop  and other items via UPS and when she arrives it has already been delivered. Never been lost or diverted, cost maybe $25.00. She boards her flight with a fanny pack and enough clothes for a 1 day emergency. She's 82 and I think she's onto something!

Sep 22, 2011 10:40AM

How about making the fees illegal.  Or better yet, allow the passengers to charge a fee.


1) Late departure - $100 per 1/2 hour

2) Lost luggage - $500 per item + the value of the content of the luggage, TBD by customer.

3) Snotty steward/stewardess - Free drinks.

4) Turbulance - $50 per bump

5) Masks come down out of ceiling - 3 free plane tickets and change of underwear.

6) Late arrival - See late departure


Time to fight back!!!!

Sep 22, 2011 8:50AM
Sep 21, 2011 11:54PM
Screw these airline companies.  I fly Southwest were they dont charge for the first bag and you can add an extra carry on...FOR FREE!  Yeah you dont get meals or preferred seating but who gives a sh%$t!  You'll make it either way.
Sep 21, 2011 10:59PM
I flew a year ago to visit a friend.  I actually mailed my luggage via fedex and it cost me 18 dollars.  I sent a weeks worth of clothes and shoes and had no problem with delivery.  And this was the week of Thanksgiving!  It got there 1 or 2 days before they said it would.  I realize not everyone can do this, but if you can, I recommend it.  The airlines are soooo out of line!
Sep 22, 2011 7:14AM
Other than cross-country travel or international travel, we are now traveling by car and taking advantage of the opportunity to visit old haunts, experience new vistas and visiting friends and relatives along the way.  No lines, no security hassle and I've crunched the numbers, and it's actually cheaper than flying in the long run. And...for relatively close travel, time on the road is about equal to travel to the airport (arriving two hours before flight time), parking the car, waiting in lines to check bags (if you check bags), actual fly time, retrieving bags at the other end, renting a car, etc. Oh, and you can carry that pair of nail clippers, your pen knife, and a whole bottle of shampoo.

Sep 21, 2011 10:17PM
Here's a prime example of what you get when the Gov't steps out of an oversight role and a vital industry is DEREGULATED. It's easy to see why corporations spend millions in lobby money to  buy off  congressional support for as much deregulation as possible. It's nothing more than a green light to steal the public blind and make windfall profits at the expense of the American consumer. Corporations only act responsible when it's a crime to do otherwise. Wall street is another prime example, of course congress is ensuring nothing  changes with regards to regulating  that industry also. 
Sep 22, 2011 9:03AM
The last time I flew was from Tampa to NJ in 2001 shortly after 9/11.  I arrived at Tampa airport already hassled from other things and my laptop strap had broken, so I was having some difficulty with my luggage.  The airport was full of soldiers and, out of all the people getting on the plane, an airline employee picked me to frisk and inspect.  She went thru everything in my wallet and everything else.  I always hated flying, but that trip was the frosting on the cake and I have never flown since.  From the sounds of things, I'm glad I don't.  I'm sick enough of bank fees and everybody else charging "convenience" fees, etc.  There out to be a law against these ridiculous charges, especially in this economy.  As far as I'm concerned, they can take their airplanes, airports and all the rest and shove them.
Sep 22, 2011 4:58AM
I haven't flown since the airlines started this gabbage 9 years. I take a train or drive. Airlines can are a bunch crooks out to rip you off and they can go to hell, they'll never get a cent from me.
Sep 22, 2011 9:01AM

The last time I was going to fly it was from Alabama to Pittsburgh.  The plane had a problem and they were going to put me on a later flight and divert me to Atlanta.  I told them refund the money and drove.  IF I could have got a seat on the soonest connection after they dumped me in Atlanta, I still beat the jet into Pittsburgh by an hour.


Figuring getting to the airport early, going through security, waiting, the dogleg, waiting and the time for driving from the airport at the other end, it takes only about 2 hours more to drive FROM HUNTSVILLE, AL to PITTSBURGH, PA.  I also don't like being treated like cattle, a terrorist, or crammed into the new smaller seats all the airlines seem to be using...not to mention the extra "fees".  I don't plan on flying again. 


I do wish there was a better train connection, though and that train fares were a little cheaper.  I am not sure why AMTRACK thinks charging the same rate as an airline is going to get it more customers when the train takes so much longer.  I think the price point to really spark interest in train travel would be about 40 percent less than airfare.

Sep 22, 2011 9:25AM

>>> Emirates charged me over $550 USD for a bag that was 1.5 kilos over the limit. When i asked them to let me have the bag to take a book out that would put me under the limit, they refused to do so


They would have gotten a letter from my lawyer, suing them for extortion.  There comes a time when common sense must prevail.


Anyway, airlines generally get less of my business these days because I have a 800 mile rule of thumb.  Trips less than 800 miles each way generally make more sense to drive than to fly.

Sep 22, 2011 8:26AM

I'm waiting for the day to come when they start making people step on scales and paying for their own weight to get on the plane.


The last time I flew was ridiculous (through Spirit airlines). First, I ordered the ticket online. Then, they wanted to charge me $30 per carryon, or $40 per checked bag up to 40 lbs. Then, they wanted to charge me $15 per seat to select my seat in advance (I waited until the day of the flight).


After spending all of this money (by selecting my cheapest options), I arrived to the airport only to be told prematurely that my flight was cancelled. After arguing for 5 minutes, I convinced her to look on the computer - it wasn't cancelled.


I don't understand how airlines are allowed to charge people so much money and then treat their customers in that kind of manner. I feel really bad for the person who was charged $550 and not even given the option to get the bag under the limit.

Sep 22, 2011 1:11AM

Just read many of the comments here and it appears Soutwest Airlines is the airline to fly these days. Hey does anyone know if their newly acquired Air Tran flys direct from Phoenix to the Caribbean. That would be nice!

Sep 22, 2011 12:37AM

Most major airlines these days are out for your wallet and they dont give a damn about you as a customer. The only airline I really enjoy flying with anymore is Southwest Airlines!!!..I have flown Southwest on numerous occasions and never encountered a problem with a flight, or rude staff member. In fact, they a fun, friendly and I love the fact they don't assign seats or charge ridiculous fees for baggage.

Sep 21, 2011 9:44PM

Fly SouthWest


Only at


The other airlines hate them yes, because they've never taken a bailout, and have always been profitable


Bags are free, change is free, online is free

Sep 21, 2011 10:15PM
With all the fees, the tickets should be free.......... 
Sep 22, 2011 9:13AM
With all the fees they have at airlines, spend a minuet and think if you plan it well and are going to see Family or even a hotel. Pack everything and ship it UPS or Fed Ex. to your attention. It is much cheaper to ship 15 or 20 lbs to any where in the country rather then carry it with you.  Plus you save time at check in and when the plane lands.
Sep 22, 2011 9:58AM
As long as companies keep trying to appease stock holders, prices will go up and jobs will be cut. Gone are the days where a company is run for self satisfaction and employee and community family. GREED is the reason all this happens, GREED. Because people want something for nothing and they want it fast... PROVE ME WRONG!
Sep 21, 2011 10:50PM
Glad I don't fly anymore and haven't for eight years now. If I ever do it will be with Southwest. Then I only have to worry about my junk being touched by the TSA and pictures of my nude body on the screens in their secret corners.
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