4 New Airline Fees And How To Get Around Them

Travel expert to the stars Christopher Elliott has a new column that explains 4 new or grotesquely inflated airline fees and some ways to get around them…

The fees are:

1) Beverages– Bring an empty water bottle and hit the drinking fountain.

2) Checked luggage– Avoid certain stupid airlines or become a carry-on ninja.

3) Award tickets– Fuel surcharges are making award tickets suck. Cash in your miles, or use your awards for something else.

4) Unaccompanied minors– Avoid airlines with insane fees or fly with your kid. At these rates, it might be worth it.

In depth explanations and more specific advice on how to get around these fees is given here, but we liked this way the best:

Of course, the best way around all of these fees is to fly on an airline that doesn’t have them. Southwest Airlines still allows you to check two bags at no extra charge. JetBlue still serves free drinks and snacks and charges $25 less than the big airlines for unaccompanied minors. Supporting these less fee-prone companies will hasten the inevitable demise of the airlines that erroneously believe they can surcharge their way back to a profit.

Four new airline fees — and how to avoid them
[CNN] (Thanks, j!)
(Photo: hellochris )


Edit Your Comment

  1. describe_one says:

    AMEN! Don’t patronize the airlines that have ridiculous fees. These are the major airlines that quote the lowest prices on the websites, but end up charging you more on the back end with fees.

    Let’s only hope our government doesn’t bail them out when the consumers make their choice.

  2. snoop-blog says:

    5) drive, or take a bus- the most gauranteed way of getting around the fees

  3. ophmarketing says:

    Re Tip #1: Unless that empty water bottle can hold only three ounces or less, good luck getting it past security.

  4. Myotheralt says:

    I am in the Army, and recently I flew with bags exceeding their 2 pound checked limit, but they put a TSA No Check (and heavy) tag on my bags because I was flying on orders. I didnt get bumped to first class though. ;)

  5. One of the best pictures I’ve seen on Consumerist, haha!

  6. Tmoney02 says:

    @ophmarketing: Well the idea is to take the empty bottle past security then fill it up on the other side.

  7. newdeepdan says:

    Someone needs to come up with a super high speed train system… like say something from New York to LA.

  8. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    Yeah, but it might get you knifed, or the driver might fall asleep.

  9. Myotheralt says:

    @snoop-blog: Yeah, I usually drive places. only if fuel costs more than the ticket will I fly.

    @ophmarketing: I Just went through with a 3 Liter Camel Bak.

  10. PJCS says:

    @ophmarketing: I fly a lot and never have a problem bringing a regular-size empty water bottle through security at SFO, JFK, OAK or SEA.

  11. holocron says:


  12. VA_White says:

    You just buy your drinks after the security checkpoint and carry them on the plane. Southwest also doesn’t charge for unaccompanied minors but the kids have to fly direct. They can stop but they can’t change planes.

  13. I’m all about supporting the Southwest’s of the world. You don’t hear about Southwest whining to Uncle Sam to come save them, which is why I don’t want to hear it from the other guys. If Southwest can manage, so can the others and if some of the others can’t, then tough cookies.

  14. exconsumer9 says:

    @ophmarketing: They’ll let empty bottles of any size past the checkpoint. I’ve done it a few times with no issues whatsoever.

  15. TVarmy says:

    @snoop-blog: With today’s gas and food prices, eating, sleeping, and driving on the road can run you dry just as well as airline fees. Trains are also way too expensive. The moral of the story is that you need to consider all your options and go with the least of the evils.

    I personally think flying is worth it because of the time it saves and the fact that it still remains reasonable compared to other travel options. Sometimes, it’s a bit more expensive, but my family only travels cross country to visit relatives. Driving that long would cost a lot in terms of days of work we’d need to take off.

  16. ibored says:


    They are supposed to let them by…as we all know that means about 10% won’t

  17. esqdork says:

    Carry-On Ninja? For the love of God, that increases the likelihood that some schmuck will try to bring overstuffed luggage that is too big for the overhead compartment resulting in the back-and-forth of said schmuck going up and down the aisle looking for storage, which slows down boarding and may result in later departure and which we will hear about on Consumerist. The good of the many in this instance outweighs the good of the one. Please, don’t be a Carry-On Ninja.

  18. dante1337 says:

    @VA_White: maybe if you’re a millionaire. Have you seen the prices they charge you after the security checkpoint?

  19. Burgandy says:

    With all the fees how long is it going to be before a “family holiday” means everyone has their webcams pointed at their tables durring their holidays and everyone eats “together”, but no “pass the potatoes” unless fedex is involved.

  20. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    @esqdork: How about just not being that schmuck?

  21. dante1337 says:

    @esqdork: I have no compunction about packing as much crap as I can into my carry-on. Its a tragedy of the commons, true, but I’m not gonna sacrifice my time and money so that others have more space in the overhead compartment.

  22. @snoop-blog: Well, since that decapitation incident on Greyhound, I don’t think too many people will be taking the bus! And since I don’t drive – my options would be train (if/where available) and plane.

  23. @exconsumer9: I haven’t had problems either. Usually I just put it through with the cap off (especially on the Sigg bottles, which obviously aren’t transparent).

  24. RabbitDinner says:

    Regarding #2 Pack less shit. Seriously. Unless I’m traveling up to school, I rarely check bags for short trips, if I do it’s one, and there’s tons of empty space in it. Why are people cramming a bunch of shit into a carry on? Get a nice 25″ bag. You need clothes. Toiletries. Your Ipod. A couple of books. Toss in a laptop maybe. That’s it. What else do you need?

  25. The_Gas_Man says:

    1) Beverages- Bring an empty water bottle and hit the drinking fountain.

    Excellent tip!

    But the rest suck. Your solution to getting around the other fees is “avoid the airlines that charge the fees”? Come on, lol.

  26. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I’m sure as heck not driving to Dubai next month from Houston. I carry one of those “safewater” filtering bottles and fill it at the water fountain closest to the gate. And I’m taking one carryon for a two-week trip… I’ll just have to visit the gold souk this time instead of the spice souk or the duty-free shop at Heathrow.

  27. wtrwlkr says:


    I try to pack as much as I can into my laptop backpack when I fly from Japan to the US once or twice a year, but I still keep the size of the average overhead bin and the fact that I’m not the only person on the airplane that needs to store their carryon. The way you’re phrasing your comment makes you sound inconsiderate.

  28. wtrwlkr says:

    @wtrwlkr: Whoops, I meant “I still keep the size of the average overhead bin and the fact that I’m not the only person on the airplane that needs to store their carryon in mind”. Sorry.

  29. wtrwlkr says:

    @The_Gas_Man: Does that tip suck? If Jetblue and US Airways both fly to your destination, it only makes sense to fly the airline that won’t nickel and dime you to death. If a large chunk of the flying populace do the same thing, either the other airlines would change their policies or they’ll go under. Once they go under, it’s up to us to pressure the government to stop bailing them out.

  30. What happens when Delta, American, United, USAir, NWA and Continetal all go under?

    Ya think Southwest will be especially generous and continue to fly from point A to point B for just a few bucks?

  31. beatofhawaii.com says:

    Don’t forget about the food! Here’s what we do at 30,000 feet, a post which has gotten a tremendous number of views and mentions:


    Aloha, Jeff

  32. Etoiles says:

    @snoop-blog: Except I really, really cannot drive to Puerto Rico from Washington DC. I could try, but… ;)

  33. 11hawkinst says:

    @IamNotToddDavis: Yeah there not complaining because they bought a ton of gas credit when it was $59 (or something like that). I’m sure they’ll be complaining sooner or later once it runs out.

  34. vitonfluorcarbon says:


    You can bring a container through as long as it’s empty. I recently took a liter bottle with me to Europe because I like a big glass of water by my bed at night. I filled it after hitting security and enjoyed on the plane ride even though I would normally just buy a bottle of water with company money once in the terminal.

    However, on the way back I went through security in Italy. My flight was very early so I wasn’t so awake. I had my water bottle in my backpack and they found it on the X-ray. I asked if I could dump it out and they responded NO. I could only keep the water bottle if I drank every bit of water in it, so chug away I did. I refilled it on the other side and went on my merry way.

    Lesson: always make sure your bottle is empty even if boarding a flight just from a destination in Europe to another destination in Europe.

  35. Geekybiker says:

    Yah, I already cashed in the majority of my FF miles. I figure they’ll start slashing those programs soon. Even trying to use the non-restricted FF awards (double cost) was very difficult on united.

  36. Difdi says:

    Of course, if you actually do avoid the airlines with higher fees, it’ll just prove to them that they need to raise them more. Many companies seem to have a deep-seated belief that they are entitled to be successful and make large profits, just for being in business. If they earn lower profits, it must be because their customers are screwing them somehow. The recording industry has used this sort of business model for a while now (drop in CD sales must be due to piracy, not because people can’t afford overpriced CDs). It’s a shame the airlines are now adopting such an insane outlook…

  37. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @vitonfluorcarbon: Hey, Elastomer Guy, thanks for the reminder to empty the canteen between international flights… exactly the sort of thing I’m stupid enough to forget.

  38. its_a_feature says:

    When do you suppose the geniuses at the airlines are going to realize that there is profit to be made by putting pay toilets on the planes?

  39. Average_Joe says:

    So to sum it all up, fly southwest.

  40. Puck says:

    I find the photoshopping of the white person (racism?) on his knees at the chapel with the assumption that he’s praying.

    Everyone knows that he’s really down there to shine and service the priest.

  41. hills says:

    Doesn’t really apply to the general population, but for those of with medical equipment – those bags are checked free of charge – finally a bonus for having a bipap!

  42. All the more incentive for scientists to start working on the matter-to-energy transporter systems.

    Simply put in the coordinates, and “Energize”

    Beam me up, Scottie!

  43. >> proves he’s still a geek <<

  44. littlemoose says:

    I just flew American and carried on a bag that was slightly over the carry-on size limit because I wanted to avoid the $15 fee (both ways, that’s $30 that this recent graduate would like to save). On the way there, I got the bag through security just fine but got busted at the gate — but they checked it curbside at the gate for free. On the way back, I was a stealthier carry-on ninja and managed to take the bag carry-on.
    By the way, that bag does still fit in the overhead compartment, and does not take up most of the bin. So I wasn’t being an inconsiderate carry-on ninja.

  45. RabbitDinner says:

    @EtoilePB: That’s just laziness. You could hangglide, fly like paper get high like plane, when they catch you at the border you’ll have a visa in your name. Swim? Row? Come on, show some initiative.

  46. pigbearpug says:

    @beatofhawaii.com: I admire your ingenuity, but if you open up a casserole that smells like cheese or cream of mushroom soup right next to me, my next move will be to direct my air conditioner in your face.

    I really don’t get the whole bring food from home on to the plane thing…it’s too much hassle. Any time I’ve been on a flight long enough to get hungry, they serve a meal. Mostly international flights I guess, but the longest you’ll be in the air over the US is 5 hours…so bring a freaking clif bar.

    @The_Gas_Man: Agreed.

  47. Acd says:

    I’ll spend the $1.99 for a 20 oz. drink at the airport and pass on anyrhing that the airlines want to charge me for unless it is a beer. Actually as bad as air travel is lately tying on a good buzz is a pretty good way to make the trip bearable.

    I’m waiting for them to start charging for using the lavatory, using the tray table and recling the seat. Beyond that I don’t think there is anything left for them to charge for.

  48. PCSuser says:

    @Acd: There is plenty to still charge for!

    I guess you haven’t gotten the “Canadian Airlines” e-mail yet. They charge for seat belt clips, air from the oxygen mask, and so much more! It’s quite funny!

  49. The_Gas_Man says:

    Yes, that tip sucks. It sucks because it isn’t a tip.
    They said, “If you have to choose between an airline who charges you a fee and an airline who doesn’t, you should choose the one that doesn’t.”
    It’s not helpful advice when no one is that stupid.

  50. @11hawkinst: There are several other reasons that Southwest hasn’t been whining to Congress to bail them out, most significantly the “no frills” approach they took. They also have shorter routes, fly only one type of plane, and higher retention of employees.

    If the other guys can’t get it done, then they should go. No more direct LA to NY. Now you’ll have to go Providence to Nashville to DFW to LA. And no first class.

    I’m tired of seeing such a large amount of tax dollars used to prop up failed businesses.

  51. t325 says:

    Yeah, I’m really going to be able to drive to London next year when I go on vacation, aren’t I?

    The Germans are very innovative when it comes to automobile engineering, but I think I might run into a bit of trouble when I drive my Volkswagen into the Atlantic. I don’t think they’ve gotten that kind of technology yet.

  52. @IamNotToddDavis: There are several other reasons that Southwest hasn’t been whining to Congress to bail them out, most significantly the “no frills” approach they took.

    That’s certainly part of it, but I think the most significant part is their shrewd
    fuel hedging

  53. BMRFILE says:

    About becoming a carry-on ninja…why not just travel with less crap? I see people bring too much stuff each time I fly, and yes, the schmucks are out there trying to find space to fit their bags overhead. Learn to accept that you’re not going to be at home, but rather AWAY from home, so make do with the least amount of stuff as you can. It’ll make coming home even sweeter.

  54. RudeandRude says:

    This is the worst consumerist article ever. Since when is “Avoid It” an actual piece of advice?

    Wanna know how to not die tomorrow? Avoid jumping off a bridge. Wanna avoid getting diarrhea? Avoid Taco Bell.

    There, my advice is even more valuable.

  55. ageshin says:

    The cost of fuel is really causing the airline companies problems, so they are taking a hint from the banks, and are developing a system of ‘fees’ that increase the cost of using a airline with out raising the price of their base fares to much. They should really just raise the base ticket fare and eliminate the ‘fee for all’.

  56. chiieddy says:

    @snoop-blog: Explain how I’m going to drive or take the bus between Boston and Florence, Italy. I’d like to see that :).

  57. TheLadyK says:

    I like to think I’ve found a balance between being a self contained unit while traveling and taking the crap I need for when I get there.

    Its horrible, but a third of my carryon is dedicated to “stuff to survive the airport” – a book, a pillow, a thermal blanket, a water bottle. (After being stranded overnight in Atlanta after the hotel rooms gave out, I don’t travel on a connecting flight without a pillow and a blanket. Heading to the airport is hostile territory and is treated as such.)

    I’m still a carryon ninja. 22″ and I happily check it plane side as often as I can. The few times I’ve been forced to check a bag, I have terrible luck with losing luggage.

  58. Onouris says:

    American airline companies are getting absolutely ridiculous.

  59. bigvicproton says:

    Or wear EVERYTHING, stuff the rest in a coat with huge pockets (I have a trench coat i could conceivably stuff a laptop in), wear that too, carry a garbage bag in your pocket, take it all back off once you get on the plane. They will hate you, but thats ok, the feeling is mutual. Its just simple physics, each action causes an equal and opposite REACTION…or something like that…

    PS Yes, I have seen people actually do this back when you could fly cheap as an air courier but not bring on any checked luggage.

  60. lowercase says:

    The big question is this- if Oil is actually a bubble like some speculate, and if it does eventually burst and drop back 30 or 50%, are the airlines going to drop the fees?

    I think not, but I guess we’ll see. They might cut the fees down 10% and celebrate loudly though.

  61. TheStonepedo says:

    @esqdork: The carry-on ninja could evolve to use soft bags (think duffel/backpack/rucksack) that, no matter how stuffed, could be crammed.
    The carry-on behavior that should rub people the wrong way is insistence that one’s carry-on luggage must be within a few steps of one’s seat. I place my bag in the first available compartment on the plane and pick it up on the way out; we’re all going to the same place after all. People who shuffle random things in and out of overhead bins in-flight are obnoxious.

  62. jetdillo says:

    The “fly Southworst/JetBlue” advice is useful only to people who’s sole travel consists of visiting Aunt Tilly in South BFE Kansas. Airplanes DO fly outside the US borders, Southwest and Jet Blue do not, so “the rest of us” have to find other ways around those fees. For me it consists of maintaining frequent flyer status on an int’l carrier. Membership doth have it’s little privileges.

  63. jetdillo says:

    Agreed. You really can survive for 2-5 hours without shoving something in your face. I regularly travel to parts of the world where they eat one meal a day and snacking is basically unheard of.

  64. darkryd says:

    @snoop-blog: Yes, because its feasable (and cheaper) to drive from L.A. to New York.

    That makes no sense, my friend.

  65. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    Unfortunately, driving for me is unrealistic (1000+ miles along the East Coast) to get to where I go to college. I could save money in the short run on Southwest or JetBlue in the short-run, but as I plan to travel outside the country a bit in the next few years, it’d be nice to rack up several thousand miles on American. Southwest and JetBlue are great, but I need to think of the future.

  66. Indecent says:

    I just flew Southwest this past weekend – not only can you check two bags for free, but what the article here doesn’t mention is they still serve snacks and drinks free of charge as well. I was quite content with my peanuts and coke.

  67. dizzie386 says:

    Southwest is a great airline to fly if you don’t have to drive 3 hours to get to the closest terminal :(

  68. scamps says:

    @TheStonepedo: That’s why I keep whatever I might instantly need for the flight in a large, collapsable purse. That stays under the seat in front of me, and my other carry-on can go wherever it needs to.

    I still don’t get the hype about Southwest. The only time I flew them, my mother picked the flight for me, and I was accompanying my grandmother, so of course we got preferential treatment. Every time I’ve looked up flights with them, their prices have been disgustingly high.

  69. Aisley says:


    In agreement here, Rabbit! The only thing is that those restrictions they had on the size of the carry-on lugagge, were never lifted. So go get you a 21 inches tall duffel bag. Do not get the ones like the pilots use.This ones are too rigid. If by any chance you’re a couple of inches over the established depth size for carry-on, with a duffel bag you can push it into fitting the size requirement.

    One more thing, ladies, I know, I know, you don’t like big purses or pocketbooks. But this is an occassion where that huge doohicky your aunt Dorothy gave you for Christmas could be useful. The airlines have not arrived, yet, to the point where they charge you for your purse. If you do not have a pursse that big, then use a backpack. There are some very sophisticated and classy looking ones. Those are the ones you want to use; you can tell the airline that it IS your purse.

    Well, good luck everyone. Meanwhile my family and I will stay where we are, and will keep sending digital pictures to everyone everywhere!

  70. sixseeds says:

    @littlemoose: From “slightly over the carry-on size limit” it’s a slippery slope to real jerk behavior. Those limits are in place for a reason — a few inches here and there on everybody’s carry-on baggage becomes a lot of volume very quickly. On an American flight (LGA to ORD) in February I saw a man forced to gate-check his (within limit) carry-on because the bins were full.

    @TheStonepedo: Are you referring to taking an available space after most of the plane is boarded or early in boarding? I hate it when people who 1) board first and 2) sit at the rear put their stuff up front, because they force the people who board later and sit towards the front to trek to the back of the plane to stow and retrieve their bags. Anyway, if the limits are properly enforced, wouldn’t all the baggage for a given row fit in that row’s overhead bins and under-seat space?

  71. sixseeds says:

    @Aisley: Amen on the giant purses. I call them “body bags,” because the only conceivable reason I can think for carrying a purse that large (and I am a woman who carries purses) is that you have killed somebody and are disposing of the dismembered body.

  72. @Aisley: Or, just put your purse inside one of your alloted carry-ons. Last time I flew, I carried a soft duffel with my clothes/toiletries/etc in it, and an enormous tote bag that held my normal-sized purse, magazines, snacks, iPod, laptop, and god knows what else. It was soft, so it still fit under my seat just fine, and I just took my purse out after I got off the plane. Last I heard, they still haven’t found a way to charge me for having too many carry-ons outside of the terminal.

  73. julienne says:

    @Aisley: I’m with Aisley & RabbitDinner. I have a nice leather purse with backpack straps for the meds and important stuff, and a soft carryon that can squish in anywhere. Wear the bulkiest stuff (jeans, running shoes, jacket). I fly mostly domestic so my philosophy is that there’s a Walmart or Target everywhere to replace stuff left behind.

    Besides, I like buying new underwear when I travel.

  74. Wis Tungsten says:

    I’d love to fly Southwest, but they never fly anywhere I need to go. And seemingly none of the other small airlines will do routes between cities of less than a million. Please tell us what we’re supposed to do when we’re stuck with only the old airlines. And when did Frontier become so expensive?