The 10 Most Annoying Airline Fees

Forbes Traveler has put together a list of the top 10 most annoying airline fees, and it’s a good one — or is it a bad one? Airlines are feeling the effect of skyrocking oil prices and they’re trying their best to pass the costs along to you, their customers, without driving down demand. The result? These delightful fees. Gotcha!

Forbes Traveler’s 10 Most Annoying Airline Fees

1. Checked Baggage: $10-$100
American Airlines now charges $15 for the first checked bag. Ugh.

2. Talking to Real People: $10-$25
“It costs $20 to book through a representative at American Airlines, and US Airways charges $15—the same as discount airlines JetBlue and Southwest.”

3. Seat Preference: $10-$20
“United Airlines’ Economy Plus plan is unique: For a $349 annual fee, one member and his or her companion are seated at the front of economy section whenever possible.”

4. Rewards Redemption: $75-$100

Expect to pay this fee if miles are redeemed without “sufficient notice,” and because you can’t redeem the miles through the website, get ready to “pay for the convenience of booking through a ticket agent.”

5. Curbside Check-In: $2-$3+
Remember, this fee doesn’t include tip.

6. Traveling with a Child or a Pet: $10-$100 and up
“Delta recently doubled its [unaccompanied minor] rate to $100 and Continental upped its charge to $75 on direct flights and $100 on trips with connections.”

7. Changing a Reservation: $30-$200

“United Airlines has hiked its ticket-changing charge from $100 to $150. “

8. Paper Ticket: $50-$70

“Delta charges $50 to customers who still want a physical copy of their ticket.”

9. Airport improvement: $4.50-$20+
“…the airport-improvement fee has one short-term impact: It makes your ticket more expensive.”

10. Fuel Surcharge: $30-$300
“Fuel now accounts for 40 percent of a ticket’s price, and surcharges are regularly $65 each way on most major carriers. “

For the full article and slide show, click here.

Annoying Airline Charges [Forbes Traveler]

(Photo: Travelin’ Librarian )

Comments

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  1. sir_pantsalot says:

    How about an on time fee? If the airline gets you there on time then everyone on the plane pays an extra $10 – $25. I think people may not be as annoyed by that. Still it would be like paying a restaurant a food preparing fee.

  2. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    Aren’t ALL airline fees annoying? Or are there some that people enjoy?

    Perhaps this should be titled “Top 10 DUMBEST Airline Fees.”

  3. carblover says:

    i almost booked a northwest flight over the phone yesterday until they told me there would be a $15 fee per ticket

  4. magic8ball says:

    @sir_pantsalot: Sure – as long as the airline pays the passengers when the flight isn’t on time.

  5. juiceboxonfire says:

    The Onion has a better version of the list.

    [www.theonion.com]

  6. ClayS says:

    @sir_pantsalot:
    I would gladly pay an on-time fee.

    Bottom line is it’s going to cost a lot more to fly in the near future, and as a result, there will be less air traffic due to less demand. Less air traffic means fewer delays at busy airports, and an overall better flying experience.

  7. bravo369 says:

    hearing about all these fees, i have to ask whether people would prefer just being given a flat price that applies to everyone albeit that it will obviously be higher than what it is now…or to have all these extra fees that, if you are good, you can potentially avoid and keep your own costs down. I think i’d rather pay $800 over $500 knowing that’s all I will have to spend rather than get dinged $75 here, $80 there and just end up at the same point.

  8. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    Pretty soon flying will only be for the rich.

  9. LoSpaz says:

    I nominate AirTran’s warped business-class upgrade fees. They claim to charge different fees on different routes, between $40-$80 per person per leg, but as I recently discovered, they’ll hike that fee if your return flight gets cancelled and you dare to display a need to return home that day. Want to go home? Fine, pay us $60 each. We were charging $40 on your way down? Tough. Pay up.

  10. donkeyjote says:

    Here I thought all fees were equally annoying…

  11. Landru says:

    I wince when I think about flying anywhere. So I don’t.

  12. DeltaPurser says:

    @LoSpaz: I think you may be somewhat confused with two options: The Business Class upgrade is only for confirmed passengers on that flight. If your flight was cancelled and you wish to have a CONFIRMED seat on a different flight, you will have to pay more… You could go as a stand-by passenger for free, but if you want a confirmed seat you’ve got to pay. Fair, in my opinion…

  13. drewB says:

    I think people traveling with babies or pets should pay the surcharge to everyone sitting adjacent to them, personally.

  14. ironchef says:

    I bet they will start putting tip jars at the check-in counter and the jetway before you board the plane too.

  15. Shaftoe says:

    Though it does not amaze me that they apply these fees it is not suprising. the bottom line is that it costs more to fly the aircraft from point A to point B due to the rise in fuel costs. Period They refuse to do the upfront thing and just make the tickets more expensive to the tune of the fees and drop the fees. those are hidden costs that get you in the door and have you as a more or less captive audiance.
    Yeah flying is now for the rich and corporate travelers and that will require some adjustments in how we travel long distances and the technologies that drive that travel.
    LTA craft? Sail ships? Solar powered? It is the Fuel costs and Our relying on foreign sources that are at the core to this and as soon as we start making significant and radical changes to that we will always have this kind of problem.

  16. Shaftoe says:

    My last sentance makes no sense replace soon with until

  17. levenhopper says:

    #4 is wrong…I just booked a ticket through Continental using frequent flyer miles last night, with no fees. And I only provided 15 days notice.

    And it was all done online…hense no phone booking fees.

  18. LoSpaz says:

    @DeltaPurser: Nope, they offered me a confirmed, free coach seat on a later flight, but said if I wanted the next flight out, I’d have to pay for the business-class upgrade.

  19. LoSpaz says:

    @LoSpaz: “Free” being that I did not have to pay to be rebooked on that flight, not that they refunded my ticket.

  20. lelliott74 says:

    I just think it is insulting to have American Airlines say that they are charging customers for the services they want. Really!??! I don’t WANT you to put my luggage under the plane I WANT to carry it on so I know you won’t lose it. You force me to check it and now I have to pay for that? How about you just include the price in my ticket and not tell me about it…that way I am none the wiser and just disgruntled about the hike in fees. Ugh…or better yet, how about you pay me every time you lose my luggage? A person could get rich quick that way. :c)

  21. jtheletter says:

    All (or nearly all) of the cost increases are a result of fuel price increases, yes? So why the hell are umpteen different fees being used to cover these costs instead of simply applying a fuel surcharge that represents the actual fuel cost increase?

    The only answer is that they are willfully trying to obfuscate the true cost for some reason. My guess is that they don’t want people to plan trips based on fuel costs. If people held off travel during “expensive fuel” periods then there could be a precipitous drop in passengers those weeks and the airlines would be hard-pressed to maintain a steady income. While in and of itself that’s not a bad goal for any business, achieving that goal through essentially hoodwinking your customers on actual costs is the WRONG way to go about it.

    Someone in another discussion suggested it may be time for each passenger to step on a scale with all their bags and pay by the pound. It’s not a terrible idea really, weight translates directly to fuel requirements for flights. Why should all my miscellaneous fees be subsidizing people who over-pack or are significantly obese? This would be the only fee added to the ticket price and would essentially be a tailor-fit fuel surcharge with traceability to actual fuel costs for that period. [sigh] It’ll never happen though, way too sensible and transparent to the customer.

    And for the privacy people complaining about everyone in line seeing your weight, this is a minor issue and could be avoided through any number of simple strategies like not making the display visible to everyone around.

  22. Buran says:

    I have a not-on-Southwest-annoyance fee of 100% of the airfare. Southwest has it figured out. Why can’t the rest do what Southwest does, then start making a profit, and stop screwing the public?

  23. umbriago says:

    It’s getting so bad I had to pay a fee to get my shoes back after going through security!

  24. satoru says:

    The main problem is that Americans are just cheap bastards. We bemoan why manufacturing is going overseas. We whine when we can’t get the coolest cellphones available overseas. Most other countries realize that to get A you have to pay X amount. There isn’t a need to nickel and dime the consumer because they have a firm grasp on reality and how much things should cost.

  25. freshyill says:

    The only thing more annoying that airline fees is these fucking awful Forbes slideshows. Wait, did I say slideshows? I meant fluff shows meant to get you to look at 11 pages of ads. Fuck Forbes.

  26. farker says:

    @satoru:

    Cheap American Bastards invented or significantly improved:
    - Air travel/The airplane
    - The Automobile
    - The Internet
    - Telegraphs/Telephones

    So you can go to wherever you’re from and suck it.

    Seriously though, I’d also rather have a flat price with all the fees rolled up into it. That way customers could compare apples to apples on price, and decide if paying more for Continental because they provide better service and meals is worth it, for example.

  27. satoru says:

    @farker: I’m not sure how you go from noting that America has provided significant innovation over the past century, to an ad hominem attack on me. I’m just pointing out that the general mentality of American consumers is to get everything as cheap as possible. It’s that mentality that forces airlines to force hidden fees on consumers, rather than rolling the pricing up front. Sticker shock for American consumers is exceedingly high. They would rather pay an low cost up front and pay more fees later, than pay a higher up front cost, but an overall lower cost.

    Cellphones are in a similar boat. Manufacturers of cellphones for the North American market can’t be bothered to create innovative phones because without lots of subsidies, no one will buy them. They lose significant amount of money on the phones so they have to make them as cheap as possible, since that’s what the carriers want as well. Hopefully the iPhone will pave the way for higher quality cellphones here, as it seems to have dawned on people that you can get something decent if ou pay for it.

  28. basket548 says:

    @Buran:

    Southwest succeeds for many reasons, but the main and relevant one now is the fact that it had the foresight to hedge its fuel purchases well into the next five years or so. Hence, SW is paying FAR less for fuel than virtually all of its competitors.

  29. basket548 says:

    @jtheletter:

    It’s been brought up countless times in these airline articles, but the fact is that pay by weight will never see the light of day. Think lawsuits for those with glandular problems, ‘unfair’ scales, and ACLU.

  30. jamar0303 says:

    @satoru: Well, as for the cellphones, they’re usually available for free or nearly free. And in the case of Japan you actually get an incentive for signing that two-year contract- you get 50% off your monthly service plan fees.

  31. basket548 says:

    @farker:

    Consumers still CAN compare apples to apples. Figure out which services that you need and then pay for them, if necessary. Just because consumers have gotten used to a certain package of services doesn’t mean that they can’t be separated. All these fees are perfectly transparent, except for the last two, which are ALWAYS included in the price of a base ticket (that is, at the point of purchase, not added at the gate).

  32. DoktorGoku says:

    I’m glad you guys are giving this list more coverage. These fees are almost as underhanded as you can legally get in this situation.

  33. Howie411 says:

    The pet fee should have been #1 or at least #2. I’ve got a 9 pound dog and I fly with him a lot and I bring him on the plane. I pay between 60 and 100 so I can give up foot room (I already paid for) so I can squish my pet there. I can see paying extra if he had his own area or was under the plane, but I’ve already paid for that location.

    On a side note you can easily sneak you pet onto USair, the only time they check is when you get your boarding pass. After that they just assume you’ve already paid.

  34. A friend was flying into LAX from Portland yesterday. Her flight on Alaska got sent back to Portland 30 minutes in and the plane evacuated. Alaska put her on a United flight. Alaska said they would send her 1 bag onto LAX on a later Alaska flight, but United wouldn’t let her board without luggage because it is “against the FAA rules” to fly without baggage. United insisted she retrieve her bag from Alaska Air and check it with United. So she walks around the airport to Alaska Air baggage claim desk, signs a few release forms (Alaska also insisted they would handle the baggage, but relented), rushes over to the United check-in counter with her bag. “There is a $25 fee per bag, ma’am!” GOTCHA! They just wanted her baggage fee!

    Thankfully, she called Alaska and they were so appalled that United charged their re-routed passengers a baggage fee they agreed to reimburse each passenger.

  35. OttavioClaw says:

    I am a pilot for a major U.S. airline.

    I am also a consumer and just like the rest of you,
    I try to find the lowest price when I buy most things.

    I certainty understand the frustrations with all of these fees,
    but the reality is that the airlines are in a very precarious
    situation due to the unprecedented soaring cost of jet fuel.

    It would be unthinkable for most businesses to charge less than
    what it costs them to provide their products or services, but airlines
    are forced to do this because passengers are very price sensitive.

    If the airlines simply charged enough to cover the increased cost of fuel,
    it would be too expensive for most people to fly and they would simply
    make other plans or fly less often.

    This forces the airlines to try to recoup some of these losses through fees.

    The reality is simply this; either the airlines find a way to generate revenue
    or they will go out of business. You might say, “well fine, that’s the way
    capitalism is supposed to work” and I would agree with you except that
    the air transportation system is an incredibly complex operation and if
    several major airlines went belly up, no one would be going anywhere soon.

    I believe that because of the unique situation airlines operate in, the government
    should re-regulate the industry to some degree. Certainty not like it was before
    deregulation in the 1970′s, but with some level of intervention that would ensure
    the air transportation system continues uninterrupted.

    The airline business is an incredibly capital intensive business. The cash flow
    the airlines need just to run a normal schedule is insane. They must do whatever
    is necessary to survive and fees are a small part of this. Soon all of the airlines
    are going to cut their schedules to try and save money. Less flying means less
    fuel burned and money saved. It also means that their will be fewer seats
    available and that translates into higher fares through supply and demand.

    I know most of this will fall on deaf ears because most people take air travel
    for granted. But you should try to take into consideration everything that goes
    into making it possible for you to fly from A to B safely.

    There is an old airline joke:
    Do you know how to get a million dollars?
    Start with 10 million and go into the airline business.

  36. AndyRogers says:

    I wouldn’t mind the extra fees if overall service was improving. But flying has become such a hassle that I really can’t stand the thought of paying MORE for the privilege of standing in lines, being treated like crap by ticket agents and the TSA, sitting at the gate for 2 hours (because I’m an on time kinda guy) only to have you flight delayed 15 minutes then 30, then cancelled, being directed (with everyone else on the flight) to an understaffed customer service desk for reschedule where I’m once again treated like I’m “getting over” on the airline, ad nauseum. If you could GUARANTEE that my bags wouldn’t get lost, I’d pay 15 bucks. But if my bags get lost, and statistically it could, I have the ass.

  37. kepler11 says:

    hate to differ with you all, but I would rather have fees that I can avoid, than ticket price increases that I cannot.

  38. The biggest travesty of them all is the curbside check-in fee. I know I usually tipped 2-3 bucks before the fee. With the introduction of the flat fee, their tips have dwindled dramatically.

  39. spinachdip says:

    @farker: That’s kind of silly. The inventions are, save one, a century old, and the internet was created by combination of military needs and politicians with crazyawesome foresight, which is to say, modern day Americans had fuck all to do with it.

    And keep in mind that air travel as form of mass transport in the US is only viable because of the dirt cheap fuel. Meanwhile, European carriers have found ways to make air travel cheap and efficient without the benefit of the dirt cheap fuel.

    And look at everything where choices in the States lag behind other industrialized nations because either the people are unwilling to make a significant investment for the greater and long-term good, or the market players engage in excessive price wars and fail to reinvest in R&D or infrastructure. Broadband home internet, mass transit, intercity rail, healthcare – that stuff in this country is practically third world.

  40. DoktorGoku says:

    @spinachdip: I’m actually pretty new to flying, myself, so all of this still seems like a shock. I’m also considering a trip to Europe (Germany, specifically), in the next year or so- how are European airlines better? How can they pull it off?

    They’re not sarcastic questions, I’m genuinely curious. I’d love to know :/

  41. spinachdip says:

    @DoktorGoku: Re-reading my comment, I did a pretty bad job explaining the European airlines. I don’t know if air travel is better in Europe in any quantifiable way, but I do think travelers have better array of choices, since the discount airlines are more viable.

    The “national” airlines like Air France and Alitalia are still expensive, but the discount airlines like Easyjet and Ryan Air can be dirt cheap, cheaper than rail in most cases. They’re not perfect – they generally serve secondary airports, there’s no reserved seating, connections are spotty and charging for checked bags is common – but it’s a much more competitive landscape and I for one would be willing to live with the caveats for the fares they charge.

  42. howie_in_az says:

    I’m surprised the non-Southwest airlines haven’t started charging for air.

    “You want to breathe OUR air while onboard? That’ll be another $500. Ah, so you brought a SCUBA tank… but that puts you over the weight limit, so we’ll have to charge you another $350.”

    Actually, on a recent trip to Maryland, Southwest got us for $25 for having a bag 8lbs over their 50lb limit. Since they were 30 minutes late showing up, I’ve already emailed them asking for some sort of reimbursement, be it SW drink tickets or whatever.

  43. vlv723 says:

    I wish Southwest will allow pets in their cabin/cargo. Otherwise, next year, I will be in surcharge airline hell because of my dog.

    Speaking of Southwest, very funny commerical I just watched when the flight attendent was announcing all its fees.

  44. Buran says:

    @basket548: Then the rest should do the same and stop screwing us over.

  45. psychos says:

    1. Checked Baggage: $10-$100:
    Second bag? Okay. First bag? No, sorry, even if I’m not planning on checking anything, on the chance that I might check something on the way back, I’d choose another carrier over one with a first-bag-fee, all else being equal.

    2. Talking to Real People: $10-$25:
    Fine with me, AS LONG AS I CAN DO IT ON THE WEBSITE. That was meant for you, Delta. I’m not happy paying a $25 phone booking fee because your broken website doesn’t let me book nearly the variety of mileage tickets that your phone reps can. Yet you let me check three 70 lb bags for free on a regular deep-discount economy ticket since I have status with you? I’d rather you waive stupid phone booking fees when there’s no other way to book stuff.

    3. Seat Preference: $10-$20:
    Fair enough. I believe all the majors give this as a free benefit to elite members anyways; most of those “good” seats were blocked off as such beforehand in the past, it’s just now that they let you pay to pick them ahead of time instead of possibly getting them at the airport if nobody else has taken them.

    4. Rewards Redemption: $75-$100:
    Not too unreasonable. You (generally) pay more for last-minute revenue tickets, why not for last-minute award tickets? Again, this one has been around for quite some time. $100 is pushing it though. Some airlines do something like $50 for 15-21 days out and $75 for 0-14 days out, which seems more reasonable.

    5. Curbside Check-In: $2-$3+:
    Completely retarded. Bring your bags inside and check them there. If you’re disabled, this should be a free service, perhaps mandatory at major airports. This “fee”, as others have noted, hurts the curbside check-in folks more than it hurts the traveler. People who used to tip $2-$3 in the past to the curbside agent are now paying the airline $2-$3 instead and not tipping, the vast majority of them not realizing that their “fee” is not a tip and does not go to the person who is bringing the bags in.

    6. Traveling with a Child or a Pet: $10-$100 and up:
    This isn’t too bad. $100 to get your kid from one part of the world to another safely? Seems reasonable. Note that it says “Traveling with a Child”, where it should more accurately say “A child traveling alone.” As to the person who thinks it’s unfair that he/she has to pay extra to put his/her dog under the seat in front, I demand that you pay me $100 per flight segment for the sneezing endured, tissues used, and mental anguish that your dog will inflict due to my allergies.

    7. Changing a Reservation: $30-$200:
    $150 domestic? Wow. Going past $100 will certainly make me consider another carrier if that option makes sense. I’m willing to pay a bit more for a change fee on a non-refundable international ticket.

    8. Paper Ticket: $50-$70:
    So? Why would you want a paper ticket? I don’t want a paper ticket. It’s easier to lose. You’re more screwed if it does get lost. I have heard of people having very occasional problems with e-tickets; however, I have heard of FAR more people having problems with their paper tickets, even if everything there is in order. I had a 22 segment itinerary on a single PNR (round-the-world trip) a couple years ago, which HAD to be paper ticketed. (Delta, amazingly enough, didn’t charge me since it was their fault it had to be on paper.) The first change and reissue I made, which of course had to be in person, took 3 hours. The next time I had it changed and reissued, I’d dropped down to the 16 segment max for e-tickets so they converted it to one pretty easily; I was quite happy not to be lugging around that giant paper ticket anymore.

    9. Airport improvement: $4.50-$20+:
    I assume this is the PFC (Passenger Facility Charge.) This is not very well described. It can be up to $4.50; however, any airport wishing to charge more than $3 has to meet special requirements. So it’s more like $0 – ($4.50 * the number of airports you transit through), at least domestically. I believe “direct” flights (what a misnomer) do not incur a PFC at the intermediary airport(s).

    10. Fuel Surcharge: $30-$300:
    This is pretty much always included in the displayed ticket price through any airline website or 3rd party travel website. Fuel surcharges DO have to go up for obvious reasons. I prefer that the surcharge is indeed shown separately (usually the “YQ” tax) so I can more accurately compare ticket prices between carriers.

  46. donkeyjote says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Against FAA rules to fly without baggage? Where’s that crime stoppers tip line. I got a whole city full of business executives I need to turn in (For a handsome reward, of course)

  47. psychos says:

    Reading over the fare rules for a US Airways flight I’m on in a couple days, seems they’ve gone up to a $150 change fee as well. And I thought it was bad when Delta went back up to $100 recently since dropping to $50 a couple years ago… At least nobody else has implemented Delta’s soon-to-come 25k/40k/60k SkyGouger award redemptions for domestic coach; all others seem to be sticking with 25k/50k for now. That’s right, on the right dates, you’ll be able to fly “first” class on Delta for 45k vs coach for 60k.

    I used 60k DL miles to fly BOS-MGA round-trip in January in first class on CO. “SkySaver” awards were only available in first class, even though I’d prefer to fly coach on flights that short; but to fly in coach instead on the EXACT SAME dates would have cost me 70k instead. Yes, I understand capacity controls and all of that; perhaps coach was overbooked and F was looking wide open, so CO decided to offer up those seats in F that might otherwise go empty. Still seems stupid to me. Especially when the back of all of those BOS-IAH-MGA-IAH-BOS flights looked moderately empty.

  48. cyberscribe says:

    I predict that all airline tickets will at least quadruple in price within the next five years.

    Any takers?

  49. FLConsumer says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: Flying started off as being for the wealthy. Life was rather good back then, same with modern airlines prior to deregulation.

    @jtheletter: I absolutely agree! Bring out the scales! I’m only 134 lbs. Why can’t I bring on extra luggage to compensate for how much less it costs to transport my scrawny ass compared to the fat-ass sitting next to me (whose stomach ends up rolling over the armrest and into my lap). OR maybe a discount for us skinnies? Do a marketing tie-in with weight-watchers and maybe give discounts for people with weight-watchers memberships & people who are already at a normal or below normal BMI. Given the current health state of Americans, this would cost less per flight than peanuts for the flight.

    @OttavioClaw: While I agree that gov’t regulation may be a possible solution, I think the airlines have dug their own grave on this one. They’ve somehow decided to make a race for the bottom in terms of price and service. Airfare wars left & right for the past few years. Well, the party’s over. Airlines need to just raise their ticket prices (and give some actual service) and stop bellyaching they’re not making money. Increasing fuel costs have affected ALL Americans, yet most people have made adjustments to compensate.

    People are ALREADY taking flights less often, but not due to high costs. Instead, they’re avoiding flying because they’re disgusted with how they’re treated by the airlines. Great study released by the Travel Industry Association today: [www.tia.org] (PDF). 50% of frequent flyers (they call 5 or more trips/year a frequent flyer) are “dissatisfied” with air travel. I’d love to see the results of people who travel once a month or more. 41% of this frequent flyer group said they had avoided a trip involving air travel last year because of the hassle/problems with the current system. And that’s before price increases.

    I have several friends who work for various airlines and have seen some of the airlines’ accounting #’s. I know that profit margins are terribly thin on many flights, with some flights even being a loss. Do the smart thing. Raise your damn fares to a level that is sustainable for you, ditch the bullshit fees and don’t worry about the rest of the airlines trying to undercut you. Provide a solid, quality product (read: GOOD SERVICE, ON-TIME flights) and you will build a loyal following. Eventually the other airlines will follow suit and raise their rates accordingly or will find themselves up the creek soon enough.

    Also, get some experienced financial people in the corporate offices. Why should Southwest being the only airline who smartly locked in fuel prices at ~$50/barrel? They’re sitting pretty now because of it. In the meantime, the other airlines (esp. the legacy airlines) are choking on it.

  50. FLConsumer says:

    @donkeyjote: Flying without checked luggage isn’t against FAA rules, *BUT* it is a suspicious trait according to the gestapo, er, TSA.

  51. psychos says:

    @FLConsumer: I don’t think you can quite say that Southwest “smartly locked in fuel prices,” other than in retrospect. They hedged their fuel in what turned out to be a very cost-effective manner, but there was always the possibility that it would go the other way. It was a gamble, and Southwest won big.

    I’m with you on bringing out the scales for us skinny folks though. :) (Well, not really, but it does annoy me sitting next to a, to be politically correct, person of size, who somehow carried on a bag that won’t go in wheels-first and takes up half the overhead, and then happens to have a second bag underseat that encroaches on my own foot space… and then proceeds to elbow past the side of the armrest into my actual seat space.)

  52. DeltaPurser says:

    @Buran: Great idea… Except the only reason Southwest is making money right now is that they have hedged their fuel at something like 1/3 of what everybody else is paying. Not sure how that’s going to happen.

  53. beavis88 says:

    @Buran: Dear God, please no! I have never seen a more pathetic sight than dozens of adults lining up on the floor, scrambling to get to the gate, running down the jetway, and just generally making asses of themselves. I’ll be a happy customer of SW if and only if they stop their cattle call bullshit and assign seats. If they do that, I’ll even overlook the fact that they don’t maintain their planes properly!

  54. bonzombiekitty says:

    Frankly, provided I know what the possible fees could be, I would much rather have the fees rather than a higher priced ticket. I can avoid the fees. If I know what the fees could potentially run me, I can budget it in. If I don’t hit many fees, then bonus for me.

  55. ThinkerTDM says:

    @satoru: As an American, I apologize for being so greedy by wanting to keep my money.
    The truth is, innovation is driven by making things cheaper- If I can figure out how to make and sell my lemonade for $.10, while yours is $.20, I will make more money. So really, it is the corporations themselves who are outsourcing product, to reduce their prices, and sell more widgets.
    Also, Americans don’t have to do what the rest of the world does- that’s why we are Americans. Everybody else are just sheep.

  56. Amac says:

    The only reason Southwest isn’t in the same boat as all the other airlines is that when oil was $65 a barrel, the management there anticipated its rise and engaged in hedging by playing the oil market. When those hedges run out, it’s game over for Southwest as well.

    Nothing about jet airplanes was designed for them to be used as economical mass transportation at modern day fuel prices. At these levels, jet air travel will be restricted to routes that cannot be easily traveled by land due to the lack of roads or railways and the wealthy on private aircraft.

    This has been the situation in other countries around the world for some time now, and as the American standard of living continues to decline will soon be the situation here as well.

  57. rhodesman says:

    What I can’t get is how our airlines suck ass and other countries say, China, have really nice airlines with brand new 777′s with all the trimmings including touch screen entertainment in coach. Ooh wait, Commercialized Government is soo much better than any other form of Government, how could I be so blind!!!

  58. wgrune says:

    What pisses me off is that they charge to check a bag on the grounds that the added weight takes more fuel to move from Point A to Point B. Does that mean when the gigantic person sitting next to (or literally partially on) me should have to pay a “Body Mass Surcharge”? It’s only fair…

  59. basket548 says:

    @Buran:
    You can’t just say, oh, we want to buy fuel at the same price as Southwest. You have to have made that decision several months ago. And no one is getting screwed over – it costs what it costs to run an airline, and if you want to fly, that’s what you have to pay.

    Not at you specifically, but there is a whole lot of entitlement going on in these articles lately. Airlines are a business, just like any other, and there is no reason that they cannot charge whatever the hell they feel like for whatever services they want to include, as long as it is transparent up front. Lists like these prove the point – consumers have access to the list; if they want to fly these airlines do a little research and figure out what is best for you. Does it suck that you have to work harder to find out your true final price? Yeah. Is that in any way illegal, underhanded, or unfair? Nope.

  60. Skiffer says:

    Honestly, you can blame the internet for the rise in nickel-and-dime fees – instead of an inclusive fare hike.

    By including fees outside of the normally reported fares, their prices show up lower on search sites.

    But yes, the fees are all getting pretty annoying – especially when it’s $50+ if your checked bag is 2 lbs over their limit, but $0 if you move those 2 lbs to your carry on bag…

    Another one I noticed – just flew business class to South Africa for work – the business class lounges in the US were the only ones that still made you pay for your drinks, which were free in all the overseas lounges (full bar, too!) – you’re telling me you still need to charge me $8 for a beer after I spent $8K on a ticket?

  61. spinachdip says:

    @ThinkerTDM: This American exceptionalism is distressing and misguided. The only things that make US consumers any different from the rest of the world are the sheer size of the market and the (still, though not as before) cheap gas. Otherwise, Americans aren’t all that different in terms of motivation or behavior.

    Which is to say, “We don’t have to do what the rest of the world does” thing is stupid, and Americans aren’t cheaper or greedier than anyone else.

    The problem with your lemonade example is that in the real world, companies don’t make things more efficient – they cut corners. To sell lemonades at 10 cents, you start using lower quality lemons, skimp on quality control, or just cut the margin and try to make up for it with volume. With the low, low margins, you’re not spending money on research that could improve your product or replacing old equipment. And when it rains for a few days straight, no one stops by your lemonade stand, leaving you with gallons upon gallons of unsold lemonade because your business model is based on volume, and with no money to buy more lemons.

    It’s not so much a problem with consumers, really. They should be looking for lower prices. It’s the businesses that enter price wars and take on unsustainable growth.

  62. lastingsmilledge says:

    what about southwest’s snowboard/surfboard policy…. snowboards are free, surfboards are $50 each way.

  63. DoktorGoku says:

    @spinachdip: Heh, that definitely sounds better to me. I guess I’ll have to keep a lookout for that. :P

  64. wgrune says:

    @lastingsmilledge:

    Surfboards are a hell of a lot larger then snowboards…

  65. ilovemom says:

    Not all surfboards are 10′ long. Many are shorter than the average snowboard, and weigh a lot less. The surfboard charge confounds me. Golf clubs = free, snowboard/skis = free, surfboard = $50-$80 plus you waive any rights to claim damage, so what is the charge for?

  66. lasereric41 says:

    Really, even with these fees, at least in my observation flying is still cheaper than driving in a lot of cases. And if we all recall, 20 years ago I know a lot of people were talking about how flying was only for the rich. Then the economy got really nice, and people were able to afford such things, and now it’s going back to what it was 20ish years ago. I don’t care I still love flying whenever I can afford it.

  67. picardia says:

    I am doing a lot of traveling in the next few years, because in 10-15 years I’m not sure it’s going to be as viable for a middle-class person to do that. South America, here I come –

  68. gglave says:

    @lasereric41 – You’re correct.

    I don’t want to overly defend the airlines, but it’s important to remember air travel is orders of magnitude cheaper than it was even ten years ago. In 1998 I remember a ticket from Seattle to Denver on United Airlines, purchased two weeks out, (without a Saturday stay) might have cost $1900 (non-adjusted for inflation).

    Today, you can have that same ticket on United for $350. Even if you’re paying another $50 in ‘fees’ you’re still fifteen hundred dollars ahead of the game.

  69. Omar_G says:

    I agree with everyone here – I don’t think it is fair for a company to charge for its services.

  70. colinnwn says:

    “Talking to real people…charges $15-the same as discount airlines… Southwest.”
    This is inaccurate, Southwest has none of these fees in fact, except for #9. That is a correctly called the PFC and is required by the local airport authorities as approved by the federal government. It isn’t optional unlike the other fees, it should be called a tax.

    @psychos
    Southwest hedges weren’t a gamble, they were more like insurance that turned out to be smartly purchased. Very few of the hedges require the purchase of fuel (really an analog, home heating oil) at the strike price. If oil had gone down, they could have been covered at the cheaper spot price. Then all Southwest would have been out is the hedge fee. While hedges aren’t cheap, they aren’t financially crippling, unlike buying hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel at twice what you expected to pay.

  71. mythago says:

    The especially stupid thing about the bag fee is that it just encourages people to overpack their carry-on bags. It doesn’t mean less fuel cost; it just means more grief for the passengers and flight attendants.

    Southwest has the right idea–offer services that don’t much impact the airline but that people will want because it’s “extra” and “special”, like their Business Select. All it gets you is a slightly earlier choice of seat and a free drink–not something other passengers are going to miss, doesn’t affect the functioning of the airline, but some people will buy it because it makes them feel, you know, select.

  72. Grive says:

    I’m all for fees, as long as they’re for reasonable things, at reasonable rates, and perfectly well disclosed while searching for quotes in air travel.

    Printed ticket? Unreasonable.

    Checking bags? a-Ok.

    It seems I’m in the minority here (as in, maybe it’s just me), but I find it perfectly well. I travel a lot because of my work, and usually I travel on the same day or just towards the next day. On more than half of my trips, I don’t check any bags and aside from security and boarding checkpoints, don’t even deal with people.

    It’s quite unfair for me to pay the same as the guy who spent half an hour wasting the counter attendant’s time on nonsense and checked as many bags as his ticket allow.

    Fuel costs are on the rise, and tickets will have to reflect this. Instead of a blanket increase in price for absolutely everyone, I find the idea of a more modular pricing structure to be a much better idea.

    Still, I do feel some (well, most all) of these fees are quite overpriced – and that’s quite an issue.

  73. mythago says:

    @Grive, I’d say it’s “quite unfair” for me to have to pay $15 to check my bag at the ticket kiosk (total employee time used: less than 5 minutes) rather than lugging it onto the airplane and forcing both the passengers and flight attendants to have to deal with a) making sure there’s enough room in the overhead and b) waiting for me to get my bag in the right bin. Certainly *where* my bag is checked has about zero to do with the fuel cost; my suitcase weighs the same in the overhead as in the luggage compartment.

    As long as people are going on the “fees for anyone I don’t like” model, I’d charge $5 an arm to those guys who hog both armrests.

  74. @Grive:

    “Printed ticket? Unreasonable.”

    Worry not. The fee for a paper ticket will be irrelevant after Sunday when nobody will issue paper tickets anymore anyway.

  75. Grive says:

    @mythago: That’s an unreasonable part. If they wish to charge $15, charge $15 for checking the baggage, not for doing so at the counter.

    As for the overhead luggage, it’s supposedly limited in size and weight, though most airlines tend not to check this.

    My argument stands, as your examples are based on logistical screwups on the part of the airline, not on the basic premise behind fees.

    @Employees Must Wash Hands: I actually meant it’s unreasonable to charge (especially $50) for the printing of a ticket, which takes a couple seconds and requires basically zero in materials. Not to mention, I’m actually quite fond of them longish pieces of paper.

  76. Foneguy says:

    “I’m actually pretty new to flying, myself, so all of this still seems like a shock. I’m also considering a trip to Europe (Germany, specifically), in the next year or so- how are European airlines better? How can they pull it off?

    They’re not sarcastic questions, I’m genuinely curious. I’d love to know :/ “

    If you want a good flight to Germany, fly Lufthansa. Make sure you do not get put on a United code share flight. Lufthansa planes are newer and much more comfortable, plus you will get courteous service from the Lufthansa flight crews. Lufthansa is subsidized by the German government. Good Luck.

  77. DJFelix says:

    American only charges bag-fees to flyers without elite status. If you have gold, platinum, executive platinum or are flying on an aairpass, you don’t pay bag fees. Also, if you are flying on the same itinerary as an elite member, you don’t pay bag fees.

    Loyalty has it’s rewards.

  78. FLConsumer says:

    @psychos: I’d definitely say it was a smart decision, not only because it paid off, but it flat-out makes sense. Who WOULDN’T say gas prices are probably going to go up? I wouldn’t have expected it to be THIS large of an increase ($4/gallon), but it certainly has worked in SW’s favor.

    @ThinkerTDM: Said like a true American. Who cares if your lemonade is made from Chinese cat piss or pesticide-laced lemons — it’s cheaper! You are correct ‘though. Americans could care less whether they’re screwing over their fellow Americans and also could care less about quality.

    Unfortunately, I also happen to live in the USA and put quality and service over price and it does feel like I’m a foreigner here. There are fewer and fewer companies which still take pride in their product and provide proper service, which means fewer and fewer companies I’m willing to give my business (and $$$)

  79. Leohat says:

    [disclaimer] I work for a travel agency [/disclaimer]

    Why yes, the airlines (and hotels) ARE delibertly hiding the true costs with add on fees. It makes it almost impossible to accurately compare prices between agencies and/or airlines.

    They don’t want people to be able to figure out what the bulk rate that company A paid vs. the bulk rate that company B paid vs their own web published rates.

    I blame the whole ‘walmart’ mentallity, lowest cost at any price. Every day, I talk to people that don’t care if a much better intinerary is $150-200 more they want the cheapest cost. They don’t care that they are gonna cool their heels for hours on a layover, it’s cheaper darn it. I’ve seen people take some gawd-awfull conection flights because it was $10 less.

    So of course the airlines are hiding the true cost behind fees and such. If they can make it APPEAR that it is cheaper than the other guy, they are gonna do it.

    Especially if they can nail the pasenger at the airport where they have little to no choice but to pay it.

    I think that the $100-$150 change fee is the worst. It’s an entry in a computer system! Bits in a Database. It’s not like they have to re-mail a paper ticket or update a paper calender or somecrap. It takes a few seconds to make a make a change. $150 is highway robbery on a grand scale.

  80. Techno Viking says:

    @sir_pantsalot:

    New fee will be an on board fee if you want to take a piss first. Just give 5 bucks to the anxiously awaiting stewardess. Another fee, if you want to use a pillow or just crash with some beautiful lady on the plane and try to join the mile high club. This is all humor until becomes a reality. Would you pay the fee then?

  81. kabuk1 says:

    Shit like this is why I drive everywhere unless I need to go to another continent. I don’t care if I have to drive 2,000 miles & it takes a week to get there.

    I’m waiting to see a story on here about the newest airline fee- $15 per flight for on-board oxygen. After all, they supply the air up there, so if you wanna breathe, you gotta pay.

  82. SushilaCabbichoke says:

    $100 or $150 for a change of fee brings you certain putative rights. If you
    can’t get out of the original booking for less, you can sure have the right
    - or the nerve – to check in an old cardboard box (and yourself) and then
    walk away expecting the checked luggage to be delivered at destination.
    (Yeah, as it happened, I fell sick and had to spend half an hour on the
    U-NO-WOT in the little boys/girls’ room…). It does not quite work that
    way, but will cost the airline nary a buck in offloading – or in looking
    for you. Unwanted becomes wanted….! And might even get `em to change
    their practice by allowing name changes at cost plus 20% or some other
    reasonable figure.

    Good luck – the more of you that do this, the sooner the malpractice will
    stop!

    Doug

  83. MikeL says:

    Some of those fees have been around a long time.