Airline fees climb to $5.7 billion

US carriers collected $3.4 billion in baggage charges and $2.3 billion for reservation changes last year.

By Kim Peterson Jun 14, 2011 12:53PM
All those fees airlines slap on to check bags and change flights are adding up to big money. New figures show that U.S. airlines collected almost $5.7 billion in fees last year, a 10% increase from 2009.

The biggest fee hog was Delta Air Lines (DAL), which led the industry in fees for both categories, Reuters reports. In fact, Delta collected more than 20% of the entire industry's total. American Airlines, owned by AMR Corp. (AMR), came in second. You can see the full list here.

Check out the following video report about the fees.

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How important are these fees to airlines? Without them, they would be in sorry shape. U.S. airlines made $958 million in profit last year, all from baggage fees, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Bottom line to all the fees: The airline industry increasingly has built its financial model on penalizing its customers," Scott McCartney writes. "Not a recipe for lovable customer service."

So don't expect airlines to ease up on the fees anytime soon. In fact, many are just getting started, revving up their websites to offer destination tours, car rentals, event tickets and other add-ons. For a fee, of course.

Sometimes the fees aren't exactly clear to customers when they make reservations. How much is being charged and for what? The government has given airlines a deadline to provide more accessible bag-fee and fare information.

But the airlines are asking the Transportation Department to push back that deadline until next spring so they can train employees and upgrade their technology, Reuters reports.

All those fees aren't provoking real complaints, however. People are more satisfied with airlines than they were last year, according to a new study from J.D. Power & Associates. On a scale of 1 to 1,000, overall airline satisfaction climbed 10 points from last year to 682.

But satisfaction with airfares and fees dropped to 555 this year from 582 last year, The Los Angeles Times reports. JetBlue Airways had the highest overall satisfaction rating among low-cost airlines.

As if that weren't enough, now airports are saying they want to raise fees as well. Right now, airports can lob a $4.50 maximum fee on passengers, and they say that amount is too low, The New York Times reports.

"Airports should be permitted to charge a user fee at whatever level they can charge that would also work in the market," the president of a trade group representing the nation's commercial airports told the Times.

Jun 14, 2011 4:34PM
You've gotta love getting penalized when you have no choice in the matter.  Who doesn't need to take bags with them when they fly?  Everyone does and there's not a darn thing you can do about it.
Jun 14, 2011 4:43PM
This is why I fly Southwest whenever it is possible.  They're a no frills airline, but they don't try to stick you with a whole bunch of unannounced fees.  There's no fee for changing your flight (aside from a fare difference), and no fee for up to 2 bags under 50 pounds each.
Jun 14, 2011 6:01PM
I've found it cheaper to ship my bags via Fed Ex or UPS now. Dead serious! You ship up to 5 days before you leave, you've got a tracking number to monitor it, AND you can insure it. Why should I get screwed by the airlines? I have to deal with the crappy parking, go through pat downs, and then wait around (most of the time, the flights are late). I refuse to pay extra for that kind of 'service'.
Jun 14, 2011 5:14PM

I don't work for an airline.  I want the airlines to be highly profitable.  The alternative is poor maintenance airplanes that crash.  


My average flight is 3 hrs.  I don't have to eat and drink.  I don't need flight "attendants."  If you can't go 2 or 3 hrs without eating and drinking, go to the hospital not an airport.  The public is stupid to pay for the "frills" while flying.  The movies are not necessary nor are the peanuts.  Just get me to the destination, and I will go to a decent restaurant and eat at a table with people I know and not be cramped, elbow to elbow with gawd knows who sitting beside me.

Jun 14, 2011 6:40PM
LOL, johhnyt, Funny, you must be a flight attendant.  An air marshal, a video about the exits, and a sign on the bathroom door is all that is needed.  I don't eat peanuts, lol.
Jun 15, 2011 10:40AM
Started driving. Tired of the hassles at the airport. Now don't have to rent car, check baggage and all the delays. Much more enjoyable trips. If I do fly any more luggage will be fed-ex.
Jun 14, 2011 5:34PM
alur77....You may think you  don't need flight attendants, but in reality you do. They are there for more reasons than handing out peanuts. They do that because the airline has to pay them ....even if they aren't doing anything (they'd probably be having them cleaning the plane if they thought the passengers wouldn't complain) they they make them hand out peanuts to people like you who don't want them, or do you take them anyway seeing as how you already paid for them and all?  
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