9 Most Obnoxious Hidden Airline Fees

As their corpulent systems collide with increasingly harsh economic realities, airlines are making up more creative fees and charging for things that used to be free. Here’s 9 of the worst offenders of the hidden airline fees, via Aviation.com.

9. Making a reservation on the phone or in person. Fee: $5-$20
8. Cashing in frequent flyer miles without “sufficient” advance notice. Fee: $0-100.
7. Bringing a pet onboard in the cabin/ Fee: $50-85 (each way)
6. Re-banking frequent flyer miles. Fee: $50-100
5. Checking luggage. Fee: $3-10 (each way)
4. Getting a refund when a fare goes down. Fee: $25 to $200 or more.
3. Flying standby on the same day of travel. Fee: $0-50
2. Paying for lap children. Fee: $10 to 10 percent of the adult fare
1. Getting a seat assignment. Fee: $5-$11 (each way)

What’s your least favorite hidden airline fee?

Most Obnoxious Hidden Airline Fees [Aviation] (Thanks to Brandon!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Roy Hobbs says:

    Getting a seat assignment? Who the hell is charging for that now?

  2. What airlines have a lap child fee? I thought that was the whole point of holding them, that you didn’t have to pay.

  3. beavis88 says:

    Getting a seat assignment? Are you serious? Please tell me who the asshats are doing this, so I can ensure that they never receive any money from me.

  4. TedSez says:

    $15-$40 for a slightly less uncomfortable “premium coach” seat. Including those in the exit row, in which case you’re also paying for the privilege of being responsible for the exit door in an emergency.

  5. goodywitch says:

    They promised to get you there, but you want to sit down? Bad consumer! Pay up.

  6. sir_eccles says:

    That fee that you have to pay to change your class of ticket to so that you can redeem your airmiles for an upgrade.

    I recently had the following with continental:

    Ticket price: $500 (plus about $150 taxes etc)
    To upgrade: 25,000 airmiles PLUS $400 to change the ticket class.
    Multiplied by two because I was with my wife.

    We decided to slum it up in coach class. Still not sure what to do with those 50,000 miles.

  7. Anks329 says:

    @Roy Hobbs, and beavis88: AirTran charges you to pick a seat early, if you buy the cheapest coach ticket. The charge is about $20 per seat.

    Not complaining about it, because they have really cheap flights… $98 each way from NY to Atlanta.

  8. ffmariners says:

    @Spaceman Bill Leah: does holding them miraculously make them weightless?

    +increased annoyance to all others onboard
    +giving the lap child food/drink
    +having to clean up any mess/spills said lap child has

  9. Orv says:

    Lap children should be illegal. They should be required to be strapped into their own seat and in a child safety seat, just like they are in a car. If you fly with your kid in your lap, you’re saying that you’re willing to risk that kid’s life just to save a couple hundred bucks.

  10. kbarrett says:

    If the charge for the child is +10% … could you get a break by putting the sprog in a pet carrier?

  11. MissPinkKate says:

    The pet fee is totally bullshit.

  12. flyingphotog says:


    US Airways (in their infinite wisdom) has begin charging a premium fee for those who want reserved window or aisle seats.

  13. drrictus says:

    @kbarrett: Only if the pet/child carrier was “approved” (a.k.a. “bought in the concourse at prices inflated by supply constrained by TSA ‘confiscating’ all cheaper alternatives brought from home, and receiving kickbacks from the concourse merchants to do so”).

  14. getjustin says:

    @Orv: What kind of plane are you flying on? It’s not a car. The only time you have a sudden stop is when the plane smashes into the ground or the side of a mountain, at which point you and the little tyke are going to be done for.

    While it can be annoying (especially if the person with lap child next to you needs to use the restroom and wants you to look after the little turd machine), it should be allowed.

  15. windycity says:

    USA 3000 charges $10 to select your seat online at the same time as your purchase your ticket.

    I initially thought pet fees were bs too – they fit under the seat in front of you for crying out loud! Then I realized that you get to take your pet, your “personal item” (purse, briefcase, etc.) and your one carry on with you onto the flight, so now I look at it as paying $100 or so for the privilege of taking an extra carry on with you onto the flight. Still think it’s too much money, though.

  16. Falconfire says:

    @Orv: Um hi we are not talking about a car here. If there is a situation where the kid has a chance of being torn from the mother or fathers arms… odds are your not surviving it to care to much in the end…

  17. Whitey Fisk says:

    It would be fair to add all of the BS taxes and fees added by governments to airline tickets as well.

  18. Nancy Sin says:

    I guess it isn’t hidden but I always balk at the ridiculous $100 “if you would like a paper ticket” fee.

  19. darkrose says:


    When did US Airways start that? I travel with them about every other month (most times they are the cheapest from here to my destination, and it’s a direct flight. Never had a problem with them in any aspect of the game.

  20. catskyfire says:

    United charges for seat assignment. If you do it in advance, you get a good seat. Otherwise, you don’t pay, and get whatever’s available when you print your boarding pass.

  21. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    @Orv: There was a big push to require safety seats in airplanes a year or two ago.

    They decided against it, because the odds of a serious injury or death are much higher in a car (in a safety seat) than in a plane (in a parents lap).

    Plane crashes are very rare. In the event of one, the safety seat is far less likely to save the child than a safety seat in a car.

  22. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Sorry, I also meant to point out that families will be more likely to choose the car over the plane when the price of flying is dramatically increased.

  23. joshthephenom says:

    @getjustin: @Falconfire:

    Great points, tell me again why passengers need to be belted in?

    And before you say the parent would be holding the child; personally, I don’t think this would be the case over the entire duration of the flight. There will be times when they let go, or do something else.

  24. Dave J. says:

    @Falconfire: Seems like sudden and severe turbulence would be the big danger. Yeah, in a crash everyone will die so it doesn’t matter, but if the kid is sitting in mom’s lap reading a book and the plane drops 500 ft in a second, that kid is going to smash up on the ceiling with a quickness.

  25. uricmu says:

    Southwest charges for advanced seat assignment.

  26. aphexbr says:

    I’m not sure how these comparisons would apply as I’m firmly in Europe, but a lot of these are standard now over here, or at least make some sense to me:

    “9. Making a reservation on the phone or in person. Fee: $5-$20”

    Sure, why not? Most reservations are done online now anyway. The people in the call centre/desk need to be paid either way. It’s better to add a charge to the people using that service than force the fee on people who don’t.

    “5. Checking luggage. Fee: $3-10 (each way)”

    Annoying but standard. Depends on who you are – less hassle and cheaper for short-trip customers, annoying and pricey for those who need to take more than a carry-on bag.

    “7. Bringing a pet onboard in the cabin/ Fee: $50-85 (each way)
    2. Paying for lap children. Fee: $10 to 10 percent of the adult fare”

    Even if they’re not using a seat, the kids are adding weight and requiring food and objects from their parents’ luggage/hold bag (more extra weight and therefore fuel consumption). If excess baggage is chargable, why not the kid? As for pets, more weight, possibility of needing to use animal handlers at either end and resulting airport charges. Again, annoying and maybe overpriced by reasonable.

    “1. Getting a seat assignment. Fee: $5-$11 (each way)”

    Standard with Easyjet. Most budget EU airlines will assign you a seat at boarding but charge you if you want to select the seat beforehand.

    This is what you get, folks. Airline compete as much on price as everything else. They’re getting squeezed by oil prices and other rising costs, they either a) raise fares or b) make some extras chargeable. The market decided it didn’t want higher fares, so this is the result.

  27. fuzzycuffs says:

    yeah all of those suck… except the pets in the cabin and lap children fee.

    Anything to discourage people from bringing their pursedogs or keeping their crotchfruit in their laps is fine with me.

    Worst experience ever was flying on a packed flight from Dallas where this woman was sitting next to me with her daughter in her lap. The daughter would not stop crying (which I excuse as that’s what babies do), but the mother had the nerve to _CHANGE_ the child in her lap. What the hell, lady? There are restrooms for this sorta thing. Don’t get your spawn’s crap filled diaper all over me!

  28. Orv says:

    @getjustin: It’s not just crashes — it’s also severe turbulence. (This is also why they ask you to fasten your seatbelt when you’re sitting down, even though there’s nothing to hit at 30,000 feet.)

    @Dave J.: While the popular image of an airline crash is a big fireball where everyone dies, quite a few accidents are survivable for passengers wearing safety belts — e.g., the plane runs off the end of the runway and collides with a ditch or fence.

  29. rdm says:

    #9 really chapped my ass when I had to buy a bereavement fare in January. Can’t get a bereavement fare online, have to use the phone, $15 for a 5 minute phone call.

  30. spinachdip says:

    People, please have a little respect for a dying industry.

  31. kittenfoo says:

    next thing they’ll be charging everyone a $15 “to make sure the wings stay bolted on” fee.

  32. char says:

    Spirit Airlines and their $3 for a bottle of water, and not having any tapwater on the flight. That shit is plain despicable.

    What’s next “Excuse me sir, if you wish to continue breathing, you’ll need to pay $5 for a mask.”

  33. lisa1120 says:

    What about Allegiant Air who charges a “convenience fee” of $11.50 per customer when booking online?

  34. LUV2CattleCall says:

    Looks like Mad TV saw this coming!:

    + Watch video

    And Carol Burnett

    + Watch video

  35. lihtox says:

    @joshthephenom (et al): My wife and I have flown with our now 7-month old several times, and she was indeed in our lap, being held onto (because she squirms) the whole time. Lap children must be 2 years old or less (some airlines require you to checkin in person with a lap child to check their age), so we’re not talking about the sort of kids you’re going to let wander the aisles. If my daughter were required to stay in the carseat the whole time it would be worse for all of you, because holding her is the only way to console her most of the time. (Many babies need to nurse during takeoff and landing to relieve the pressure change in the ears.)

    I would love it if I never had to fly again, but we currently live in Texas, our family is all in the Northeast and Canada, and we actually work for a living and so can’t take off an extra week just to do the driving. So we bring the baby on the plane, and s/he who has never been a baby may cast the first stone.

  36. I feel a little bit vindicated knowing that the person across the aisle with that yapping dog paid $50-$85 to do so.

  37. LeFlaneur says:

    Have you ever traveled coast to coast with a little yappy dog in your row? The only thing worse than that are the entitled, selfish pet owners who won’t handle their pets.

    I say charge pets a full seat fare or stick ’em in the cargo belly with all the other luggage.

  38. MagicJewball says:

    #1 just happened to me, I couldn’t believe it. I got the Free Flight dealio for re-upping with T-Mobile and after the $70 in government fees & taxes I had to pay, I was stunned to have to pay to pick a seat! Any seat. At first I thought they were just charging for the good seats, like JetBlue, which I get, but to charge me to pick a basic coach seat? I have rarely felt so nickel and dimed.

    It was AirTran, btw.

  39. Buran says:

    @TedSez: I refuse to sit in exit rows even when they are available (Southwest doesn’t charge in any way — any unoccupied seat is fair game) because I’m hard of hearing.

    I’ve seen old people sitting in those rows who aren’t capable of operating the door in an emergency. That’s something to bring to the attention of a flight attendant as it puts everyone’s life in danger.

  40. crbullseye says:

    @lisa1120: Allegiant is a joke, yes 11.50 for using online reservations, but go use a real person and thats free! Go figure. Then 13 dollars a seat. Their low fares, getting expensive real quick.

  41. joshthephenom says:

    @lihtox: I’m not necessarily saying that it shouldn’t be allowed, but if it is allowed, then we shouldn’t have to wear seat belts. The force from turbulence, etc. that would supposedly knock us from our seats would more than likely be enough to knock a child from its parents arms. How can they say one is safe enough, but the other isn’t?

  42. crbullseye says:

    Allegiant is a real joke, like Lisa1120 said! They charge 11.50 “conveniece” for online bookings. Can’t figure who its convenient for. Use a real person and its free. Another puzzler indeed. They also charge 13.00 dollars for seat selection, not that unusual these days. Their cheap fares get rather expensive fast!!

  43. mzs says:

    @joshthephenom: Most of the time we have flown with lap child, the airline provides a seatbelt double-upper. It is like a double latch that your seatbelt goes into and then there is a seatbelt that goes around your kid attached to that.

    The most annoying fee was the bassinet fee from LOT airlines. With an infant, they required you fly in certain seats and then there was a basinet that would attach to the wall in front of you where your infant was to be strapped in.

    The problem was that even though we were charged for it, in both our flights the bassinet was broken and so we had to fly with the baby on our lap anyway. Oh and we had seats with zero leg room because of that wall. We also had two other kids with us, very fun flight. They never did return our cash for the bassinet either.

    Too bad they are the only direct flight from Chicago to Warsaw, we won’t fly them ever again.

  44. sir_eccles says:

    @mzs: There is a reason that lap children (and I suppose this applies equally to basinets) are only allowed in certain seats. It has to do with the oxygen masks. Some planes only have extra oxygen masks in certain areas say on one side of the plane.

    Found this out when a flight I was on waited until rollout to inform the couple with a finally sleeping child that they had to move and then blackmailed them over the loudspeaker by telling everyone else why they were about to push us back to the gate.

  45. sventurata says:

    The Air Canada cargo fee for transporting a mid-sized cat (back when they were only allowed in cargo) set me back $175, inclusive.

    To put this in perspective, my ticket for an in-province flight was $268.

    (btw, totally disinterested in any “well, that’s what you get for owning a pet” snark. No, I don’t have a car. Yes, she had to move with me. That’s why I paid the fee willingly, twice, without complaint.

    My only beefs were the security guard who made me remove her from her kennel to “clear security” in the middle of the airport, for chrissakes (could they not have found a room??), and the two-hour flight that somehow took seven and actually eleven hours to find the scared, dehydrated cat in whatever dark corner she was stored in.)

    You know, maybe I’ll rent a car next time. :P

  46. Angryrider says:

    A fee for getting a refund? That’s bull.

  47. Buran says:

    @joshthephenom: Extreme turbulence can and has thrown people against the ceiling of aircraft.

  48. DeltaPurser says:

    @fuzzycuffs: crotchfruit?!?! :-) :-) :-)

  49. DeltaPurser says:

    @Angryrider: Yeah, it’s called a cancellation fee. Nothing new. Been around since the birth of aviation.

    I think the whole industry is going the way of the low cost carriers of Europe… Charge a base fee. It entitles you to a seat from A to B. If you want ANYTHING on top of that – a drink, a pillow, a specific seat, checked luggage, spend 30 minutes haggling with a live operator (who makes $10/hr) to check 100 different dates to make sure you get the absolute LOWEST fare availabe EVER, etc. – then you’ve got to pay.

    Pet? Extra fee.
    Fat ass? Extra fee.
    A drink? Fork it over, big boy!

  50. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Go figure, this is coming from Hellta and Northworst. I knew it was only a matter of time before they began to cry about costs, now that they are merging and the competition is thinning…

    How about a pricing model that makes sense, rather than the constant rollercoaster ride it is to book a freaking flight? I never understood why it only cost me $200-300 to fly to NY from ATL, but it would cost $700+ to fly to cities like Charlotte, Birmingham, or Memphis. I’m sure there’s an argument about supply and demand here, but their whole game is absolutely ridiculous.

    Regardless of how high gas prices go, I’ll still drive to my destinations just to avoid supporting these idiots.

  51. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Whoops, wrong article – should’ve posted this on the one that talks about increasing rates 15-20%.

  52. pastabatman says:


    “As for pets, more weight, possibility of needing to use animal handlers at either end and resulting airport charges. Again, annoying and maybe overpriced by reasonable.”

    You have it a bit wrong. we’re charged $75 per way (jetblue on a short flight. the charge is actually MORE than OUR ticket) for our 18 pound dog that MUST be in carrier closed at all times and under the seat in front of us for the duration of the flight.

    My point – fairly hassle free for other passengers. Very fair and reasonable rules.

    So it’s 18 lbs of weight, and he tends to pack light..

    He’s cool under the seat and doesn’t fuss or anything and actually likes it.

    the fee is not computed using your variables. No handlers needed and he takes up 0 space whatsoever as he is occupying a space that would remain an empty space.

    We can get nitpicky and say that he’s taking up the space of say a purse as maybe the person with the dog has to store the purse or whatever overhead.

    The fee is computed very simply:

    “wanna bring your dog? $75 dollars please. Too much? OK, whatever…”

    To me, it’s more of a “luxury” tax than anything else. I really wish it were more “fair” as in – if he’s under the seat say $25 and if it gets more involved with a bigger dog scale up as needed.

  53. mzs says:

    @sir_eccles: Yeah there was the oxygen mask thing. There was one extra oxygen mask in one aisle down the the plane. One way they split us up because of it. On the other way no one would agree to sit by the screaming baby in the no leg room place so they broke the rules and sat us there even though there was a perfectly fine empty seat with the extra oxygen mask. This seat was used by the stewardess occasionally, but she would not use the one by the baby, again because of the screaming baby and lack of leg room.

    BTW my aunt just LOT from Chicago to Warsaw a few days ago with a SEVEN hour delay out of Chicago because their crew is so incompetent. No other flights were delayed much more than the usual, they just had trouble rounding-up enough crew for the flight.

  54. shockr says:

    Air Canada charges you if you want better customer service…


  55. femmesavante says:

    @MissPinkKate: I’m all for the pet fee. I’ve had to sit next to people with their lap /purse pets. It’s annoying as hell. Even the ones in the carriers make noise. You want to fly with your pet, pay the fee.

  56. ilovemom says:

    How about $50-100 each way for a surfboard? I can’t understand how this makes sense when most airlines let you bring a pair of skis, snowboard, or golf clubs for free. I could understand if it was limited to 9-10’longobards, but a 6′ surfboard that weighs 5 lbs can’t possibly cost more than a set of golf clubs. Plus they have you sign a waiver that says they’re not responsible for any damage; so it’s not like the money is going toward some sort of insurance.