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Airline fees and how to avoid them

February 20, 2011

We all hate paying way more than what we should be in fees – whether it’s booking fees or baggage fees or fees for using the toilets! We have compiled some of those fees and solutions on how to avoid them.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Airline fees (PDF)
Also check out a list of various fees that airlines charge from Kayak

Booking Fees:

Booking ticket over the phone:
Fees: Most airlines charge $25 for booking a flight over the phone.
Solution: Use discount sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline, which used to charge booking fees, and now they don’t. You can also book on the respective airlines’ website to avoid any booking fees at all.

Changing flights:
Fees: On most airlines expect to pay at least $150 for changing your flight, in addition to the difference in cost of the new flight.
Solution: Gone are the days when we paid for changing a flight if the fee of the flight changed. If it was the same, we paid nothing! There’s really no creative way to avoid this fee, so if you aren’t set on your travel date, you may opt for a higher priced ticket. This will give you some room to change your flight without getting hit with the fee since it’s essentially an open-ended ticket. Because of overbooking, these days some airlines also give an option of cash of up to $400-$800 if you choose not to fly that particular flight.

Using old Frequent Flyer Miles:
Fees: Airlines like American and US Airways charge $5-$50 for using the rolled-over frequent flyer miles from a previous year.
Solution: Use those frequent flyer miles the next time you travel. Instead of keeping your frequent flyer miles exclusive to one airline, opt for a credit card that allows you to fly on any airline. This allows you to pick and choose once you decide to use your miles.

Choosing a seat:
Fees: Some airlines charge on average $20 each way for choosing your seat.
Solution: Want to save money and get a nice, comfy spot? Check in early. Most airlines give you the option of checking-in online, 24 hours before you depart. When you check in online, you’ll be prompted to choose your seat for free.

Bags & Airports:

Checked Bags Fees:
Fees: Anything between $15-$40 per checked bag.
Solution: Pack light. Simple! Depending on the number of days you’d be spending away, pack as condensed as you can to fit into one piece of luggage and carried on. Be prepared to grab your seat once on the plane and a space for your luggage.

Carry-on bags:
Fees: Spirit, the airline that was the first to charge customers for checked bags, is now charging for carry-on bags. So which one will you choose – checked or carry-on baggage fees?
Solution: Combine as much as you can in the check-in bag since they allow bigger bags than carry-ons, allow more weight too.

Checking bags at the curb:
Fees: Some airlines charge $2-$5 per bag to check-in at the curb.
Solution: Start working out so that you can drag them to the terminal!

In-Flight Entertainment

Non-alcoholic beverages:
Fees: Airlines in US (and across Europe too) stopped serving food a while ago and now they’ve stopped serving beverages as well. Some airlines like US Airways are now charging $2 per non alcoholic beverage and it’s only a matter of time before the other airlines follow suit.
Solution: Pack your own and grab a drink at the terminal. The price may be the same, but you’ll have a larger selection and can buy a bottle, which means you can take the drink with you post-flight. If you’re a water-drinker like me, then carry an empty bottle in your carry-on baggage and fill it with water at the fountains before boarding.

Headsets:
Fees: Airlines, now, are charging for headsets.
Solution: There are really good headsets out there that has deals on it and long laster. Check out SlickDeals.net or Deals2Buy.com or 1SaleADay.com for some amazing deals on headsets.

Blanket and pillow Fees:
Fees: Most airlines have eliminated this one for under-six-hour flights, but some still charge.
Solution: Invest in a travel pillow if you’re the traveler that goes long distances regularly. Women can also invest in a cashmere or cashmere blend shawl, which is lightweight, but warm. The shawl can double as a blanket for a long flight and can easily be stored in your carry-on.

Toilets:
Fees: Yeah, really! RyanAir charges 50c (Euro) for short distance flights to use the toilet.
Solution: Most of European airports have amazing restrooms. Make use of them right before boarding. If you still gotta go, well, then you gotta go!



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