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Airline Fees Rise To As High As $450
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What could be worse than a very affordable trip planned after a careful review of cheap travel options, including cheap fares, cheap airplane tickets, discount travel deals, and cheap vacation packages, ending up costing far more than budgeted because of having to pay outrageous airline fees?
Delta Air Lines recently increased its change fee on select international flights to $400 which is a $150 increase over its most expensive ticket change fee in 2011.
American Airlines today charges $450 for an overweight (weighing 71 to 100 pounds) checked bag on select international flights. The same bag “only” costs $400 on United Airlines’ international flights and Hawaiian Airlines’ Asians flights.
Airline fees have become a major source of income for the industry. Baggage fees alone for the largest 15 U.S. airlines came in at $2.6 billion during the first nine months of 2013, with another $2.1 billion resulting from reservation change fees.
The industry’s position, according to the Airlines for America trade group, is that charging passengers fees “for services they value and are willing to pay for” has “enabled airlines to provide consumers the ultimate choice and control over what they purchase.”
If no fees had been charged last year, airlines would have lost money and, the trade group contends airlines would have offered fewer flights.
A recent two week USA Today’s survey of airline fees found that some fees are difficult to find or are missing on airline websites, and terms of some others are vague or incomplete.
For example, United Airlines’ website says that its fee for Premier Access, which provides priority check-in and boarding privileges, starts at $9. On some flights the price can cost as much as $59.
Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air charge the highest single checked bag fee. Spirit customers must pay $100 to check a bag at the airport gate. Allegiant charges $75 for a bag checked in at the airport for a Hawaii flight.
Both airlines charge much lower fees for customers who check a bag in advance and online.
Almost all airlines charge more for reserving a ticket over the phone for what used to be referred to as a “free” frequent flier award ticket.
Spirit and US Airways charge some of the most expensive fees for such bookings. Spirit charges $25 for a phone booking vs. nothing for an online booking, as well as an additional charge of $100 for a reservation made within six days of departure.
Members of US Airways frequent flier program must pay $90 to reserve a “free” award ticket via the phone for an international flight. “Free” tickets reserved online require payment of $50 for a Hawaii or international flight.
Elite frequent fliers and passengers with very expensive tickets sometimes get away with paying lower fees or even no fees services and amenities that coach passengers must pay. Fees can be different for passengers originating at foreign airports and can vary by flight or because of other factors.
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