What New Airline Fees Could Be On The Horizon?

Parents of young children: Have your wee ones been getting a free ride on domestic flights by sitting on your lap? Well that luxury is just one of several things the airline industry is considering slapping a fee on in the near future.

The Philadelphia Inquirer took a long look at the current state of airline fees and spoke to some experts who predict we’re likely to see fees on the following:

*Infants riding in a parent’s lap: Domestic flights could start charging the same kinds of fees (10% of an adult fare) that are charged for lap-riding infants on international flights.

*Using a credit card: Cash-paying customers would get a 3% discount, effectively charging a 3% fee to credit card customers.

*Checked baggage based on weight: Instead of paying a flat rate for your checked bags, the fees would be based on the weight of each item.

*Carry-on bags: Spirit Airlines already began charging for some carry-ons last year. Don’t be shocked if more carriers follow suit.

This is all on top of recent increases in airfares. In just the last month, the average price of a domestic flight has been raised three times.

Oil prices don’t vex airlines; but fees could rise [Philly.com]


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  1. JMB says:

    “Using a credit card: Cash-paying customers would get a 3% discount, effectively charging a 3% fee to credit card customers. “

    Isn’t there a fee for purchasing a ticket from an airline that ISN’T through the website? Does that effectively mean that you’re getting a fee either way?

    • mbgrabbe says:

      I think they mean a Debit Card purchase…. debiting a checking account is a lot cheaper than routing through the MC,Visa,Amex, etc. networks.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        ..thereby denying you any of the bonuses or protections you only get with a credit card – and “with a credit card” is the ONLY way you should buy an airline ticket. ( I learned this from a publication that I believe was called “Consumer Reports Travel Letter”)

      • yasth says:

        Not really all that true anymore (though new caps are incoming). Still I wouldn’t be shocked if they mean cash cash. You would buy online reserve with a credit card, and then pay in cash at the e check in terminal. The idea isn’t to really accept cash, but to make it really annoying so you eat the fee.

        Though all that raises other questions, when you buy from orbitz or expedia or whatever you are paying them and they are paying the airline, why would they pass on the information. So this scheme would only work in the direct purchasing new world order the Airlines are trying to impose where effectively you’d always purchase from an airline.

      • yasth says:

        Not really all that true anymore (though new caps are incoming). Still I wouldn’t be shocked if they mean cash cash. You would buy online reserve with a credit card, and then pay in cash at the e check in terminal. The idea isn’t to really accept cash, but to make it really annoying so you eat the fee.

        Though all that raises other questions, when you buy from orbitz or expedia or whatever you are paying them and they are paying the airline, why would they pass on the information. So this scheme would only work in the direct purchasing new world order the Airlines are trying to impose where effectively you’d always purchase from an airline.

    • A42NT1 says:

      Allegiant Air charges a fee for transactions by phone or web. No charge if you walk up to the ticket counter.

    • th3v6cann3val0s3 says:

      Yes but that’s besides the point. The wording is the clever part here.

      Businesses incur fees when accepting credit cards. The company is simply deferring these costs to the consumer now.

      I’m not their accountant but it would probably be safe to say CC’ companies make around that 3% on each transaction, which would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars for the airline to pay. Why not push these costs to the consumer? “It’s their fault for not using something liquid like their own cash anyway.” – the irony is HILARIOUS.

      • Southern says:

        The higher the volume of money per day, the lower the percentage. I’d be very surprised if very large accounts (like the airline companies, Walmart, Sears, etc.) pay more than a 1% fee for a CC transaction.

  2. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    This is all on top of recent increases in airfares. In just the last month, the average price of a domestic flight has been raised three times.

    Of course, there are plenty of people who miss this fact and claim these “a la carte” fees save them money on the ticket.

    This is why I only fly if I have to cross large bodies of water, and never to an American state or territory. Consumer protections have been largely left in tact when you fly international.

    • Marlin says:

      Then why is it southwent and some others don’t charge these “money saving fees” yet their rates are similar to others?

      • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

        I think you may have missed the part where I agree with you.

      • nova3930 says:

        Because SW is a better structured airline that doesn’t have to deal with a lot of legacy costs that the other airlines do. They have one type of airliner, fly in cheaper airports along limited routes, and buy fuel futures contracts years in advance to mitigate their costs.

        Those are all things that larger carriers can’t do for the most part….

      • Southern says:

        Southwest is the largest airline in the United States, based on domestic passengers carried, as of June 30, 2010. Southwest operates more than 3,100 flights a day, as of January 2011, utilizing a fleet of 547 Boeing 737 aircraft.

        Southwest is known throughout the aviation industry as a “low-cost carrier” because of its unique business model. The model includes flying one aircraft type, the Boeing 737, on high-density routes throughout the United States. Southwest’s “low-cost” business model is further defined by the airline not offering many services, which are a standard offering on most traditional American carriers, such as a First Class cabin, airport lounges, reserved seat assignments, and video/audio programing. By not offering these services, Southwest claims that it can offer lower fares and produce a higher return on invested capital than other airline companies.


    • tbax929 says:

      I only fly when my employer sends me somewhere and I have the luxury of an expense report to get reimbursed for all these silly fees.

  3. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    “Using a credit card: Cash-paying customers would get a 3% discount, effectively charging a 3% fee to credit card customers.”

    How the hell would most passengers, who book on the internet, pay cash? I can find no cash or coin slot on my computer. And some airlines charge you extra for NOT booking on the internet, too, WTF?

    • Jdavis says:

      You pay with a digital check. I thought the same thing when my college announced no more credit cards, but now they have a place where you put in your routing and account number online.

      • Southern says:

        So when the airlines computer system gets hacked, and the hackers get all these account numbers and routing codes (like they currently do with credit card numbers), they can effectively drain your bank account dry using EFT, and there’s absolutely no “protections” in place to get your money back?

        No thanks to that one.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The good old “paying cash” discount. Like people are really going to go to the airport with the full amount of money they expect to pay for a ticket, which could be a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Of course most people wouldn’t do this, and that’s the beauty of imposing what is basically a fee for credit card customers.

    • danmac says:

      I pay in gold nuggets.

    • Mom says:

      Never mind that paying cash for a ticket raises security flags.

    • Muddie says:

      Also, paying in cash sounds like a great way to get unwanted attention from security when you show up to fly. Especially if it’s one way, and because you don’t like baggage fees, you only bring a carry-on. Yeah, nothing suspicious about that.

    • nealbscott says:

      Yet some do pay cash, and now have a criterion met for possibly being a terrorist.

  5. ianmac47 says:

    Eh, I guess it makes sense when people are booking NYC to Europe flights for $300 that airlines might need to find new revenue sources. On the other hand, getting overly aggressive with fees will ultimately lead to more regulations; major carriers were already sternly warned about carryon bag fees.

  6. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    How about a fee to join the “Mile High Club”?

  7. Blueskylaw says:

    Emergency oxygen + safe landing fees?

    Of course, if you pay in advance or are a frequent business class flier, then you will be “entitled” to a courtesy discount.

  8. Mike says:

    How about a $5 tray table use fee?

    Or maybe a $10 oxygen in an emergency fee?

    Perhaps a $5 lean my seat back fee?

    I would gladly pay the $15 no crying baby in your vicinity fee.

    Or how about a $10 no crazy dude sitting next to you trying to convert you to their ideology/religion/world view fee? That would be nice.

    Long road trips FTW.

    • Red Cat Linux says:


      I would indeed pay for integrated manacles for the child behind me so I wouldn’t spend three hours getting the back of my seat kicked.

      I would also pay $50 for legroom. WTF, the last flight I was on I felt like the seat was an upholstered rock, with the reclining rock in front designed with new shin-banging technology.

      I don’t mind babies screaming, oddly. They are miserable with the pressure and sometimes I would like to join them. As for the noise…That’s what iPods are for.

      I did have one SW flight trapped next to a sobbing teenager. Her first flight, this 15 year old cried the whole way as if she were in a cart heading up to the guillotine. She didn’t stop until I pointed out the city lights below as New York as we flew over. This was fascinating for 15 minutes, then back to guillotine-girl bawling.

      • Mike says:

        At 6’5″, I too would pay more for legroom, but the First Class prices are outrageous, so I have to fight for exit rows, and do whatever I can. I pity you for having the sobbing teen, that is major suckage.

  9. fsnuffer says:

    How about charging a fee to transport me from point A to point B. Since I have not flown United in ten years, how about charging me an inactivity fee.

  10. thaJack says:

    “Using a credit card: Cash-paying customers would get a 3% discount, effectively charging a 3% fee to credit card customers”

    Also known as a 3% surcharge for booking online.

  11. iloveinternet says:

    Regarding infants in the lap of parents – I don’t even really think that parents should even be allowed to have an infant in their laps. Its very dangerous if there is turbulence. The baby would be much, much safer in a car seat.

    • SteveZim1017 says:

      but if the parent is flying and the baby is in the carseat, won’t they eventually starve out in the parking lot?

  12. blinky says:

    How can you pay cash for a ticket you have to buy online?

  13. sir_eccles says:

    Remember the airline doesn’t pay taxes on fees only in the base ticket price. That is the whole reason for these fees.

    As for the child fare. If I have to pay a fare for my cat to sit under the seat in front of me, I don’t see why a child shouldn’t also have a fare attached.

    • Mom says:

      Well, the tax on the base ticket price isn’t the “whole” reason for the fees….a contributor, maybe.

  14. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    The carry-on fee is the most ridiculous fee to me. Are we supposed to wear all our clothes on? I got to Texas for a week about every 18 months. I have to pay to carry my own bag? Fucking ridiculous.

    I hate flying. This sucks.

  15. trish says:

    They want me to go to the airport a few months in advance, stand in line, choose my flight (taking up time of the agent), choose my seat, paying a few $$ more for my preferred seat, pay with cash then come back again for my flight? Will they refund my double parking fees (one for booking and one for flying)? How is this beneficial to the airline? Well, at least I won’t be dealing with a res agent in a foreign company. And, their website won’t need as much upkeep.

  16. absherlock says:

    Next thing you know, they’re going to charge us when the plane arrives at a destination later than scheduled.

    “Well, it means more time in the air and less time for another flight…”

  17. Urgleglurk says:

    Or like RyanAir…Charging to use the lavatory…Coin op toilets on aircraft anyone? (They’ve threatened to do it, but haven’t as far as I know…yet.)

  18. LTS! says:

    I’m waiting for the “club” move. You need to join the USAir or Delta club in order to purchase tickets. It’s $79 for the year, flat fee. If you aren’t a member you cannot purchase tickets.

    It’s a joke.. just stop flying or reserve your patronage for an airline that doesn’t screw you over (if one exists).

  19. Mpowered says:

    Ryanair puts a limit on the weight of your carry on luggage.

    The credited response is to wear all your clothes past the checkin counter, then pack it all back up.

    • Southern says:

      And Amtrak would be wonderful if it didn’t take a full 24 hours to get from Houston to Chicago (Departs 1:05pm one day, arrives 1:52pm the next day), 52 hours to get from Houston to New York, or 52 hours to get from Houston to San Francisco.

      Going from New York to San Francisco? Plan for a 4 day trip – leave Monday morning, get there Thursday afternoon. (76 hour trip).

      And the prices aren’t THAT much better than flying in the first place.

      *Shrug*.. If you’ve got the time to kill, sure.. But most business travellers don’t.

      • Southern says:

        Apologies, this should have been in reply to the message below this one, from borkborkbork.

      • Corndolf says:

        For longer trips, yes, Amtrak is out for business travelers (although, there are a few long distance hauls that can be done overnight). In the Northeast Corridor, however — where Amtrak is fast, reliable, and hassle free — the airlines are eventually going to price and hassle themselves out of business. At the same time, it’s one of the few areas of the country where Amtrak operates at a (quite decent) profit. I quit taking the delta/usair shuttles a couple of years ago in favor of Amtrak and have never regretted it.

        I don’t think either the technology or the political will exists to build Amtrak infrastructure to compete with the airlines on longer routes, but it would be nice to see NEC-style service compete in the under 500 mile trip sector in a few other areas of the country where travel and population might support even a scaled down version of the service, like SD to SF, Milwaukee to Pittsburgh, or RDU to Atlanta.

  20. BorkBorkBork says:

    And the balance tips more in favor of alternate forms of transportation (Amtrak).

    And at what point is it cheaper to just charter your own private jet? :D

  21. RevancheRM says:

    I want to take the opportunity here to apologize to my fellow Consumerists (and all consumers, in general) for the resultant hikes in fees that the airline industry will leverage on them as I (and others not interested in playing anymore) remove ourselves from the trials and tribulations of role-playing the part of living cargo in need of transportation from Point A to Point B.

    I have successfully avoided airline travel for myself (other than being launched off a CVN in my final departure from that ship) by driving every where I need to go for personal trips. Those vacations to DC, Cape Kennedy and Louisville over the last 2 years were particularly pleasant, as my time schedule was set by myself and the leg room….oh, may gawd….was the leg room in my car so appreciated(!) and the stops for affordable and nutrious meals hit the spot. The open conversations and entertainment my family enjoyed were highlights ins themselves.

    As an employee of your Department of Defense, I have successfully leveraged my lack of willingness to fly (not fear, but emphasis on ‘willingness’) by influencing what trips “really needed” my personal presence. Afterall, I do trust that you don’t expect your uniformed servicemembers to also give up their constitutional rights to privacy just to do the nation’s business. Afterall, if you can’t trust me on a plane, do you really need me in Albuquerque? The bonus to making those judgement calls were that I was much more comfortable at my desk, pushing papers, than I would be in my ‘cell’ aboard the commercial aircraft, trying not to disturb my neighbor by breathing too deeply.

    Now, unfortunately, by my removing myself from the profit-generating rolls of the airlines, they will either have to take the corresponding dip in those thousands of dollars I did not spend on them by either raising fares, fees or reducing all those creature comforts you remaining travellers enjoy.

    And for that, I apologize.

  22. nova3930 says:

    People are going to bitch to the point airlines start charging a base ticket price per seat + an additional amount per pound of person + luggage to account for the increased fuel burn from weight…..

  23. nwgray says:

    The more fees, the better driving looks to me (or rail). I’m waiting for the day that you have to swipe a credit card to get a preset amount of toilet paper.

  24. aloria says:

    So their ideal customer is someone traveling alone, who buys their ticket in cash, with no luggage.

    Ironically, this is the TSA’s least favorite kind of flyer.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      .. only having someone else buy your ticket would make it even sweeter.

      … like when your kid always gets a shakedown when they have to go back and forth between Mom and Dad, EVERY TIME, because Mom or Dad HAS to buy their ticket?
      > really, how much of a threat is a 13 year old kid? Annoying, yes, terrorist, not.

  25. Xenotype51 says:

    Regarding the fee for infants riding on the laps of their parents, this reminds me of the “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy tries to smuggle back a large block of cheese disguised as an infant, only to discover mid-air that she needs to pay a fee for her “baby”?

  26. FireJayPa says:

    Can’t we just charge people a base fare plus a rate based upon how much they weigh and then do the same for luggage.

    I fail to see why I (6’2 170 – carry on bag) should be paying the same as some guy that’s 5’7 300 lbs spilling into my seat and has a ton of luggage with him. It takes a lot less fuel to get my skinny butt off the ground as that guy.

    Also, maybe they can find a way to charge more money for bringing small children on flights because let’s face it – the only thing worse than being at a restaurant with a screaming child is being in a metal tube 30k feet in the air with said screaming child.

    • fluffernutter09 says:

      C’mon now, this would result in you being deeply offended more often. More money from that horrendous heavier passenger? Sell a plane full, and recruit the real big ‘uns! The “cheap ticket skinnies” would then be strategically placed middle seat buffers to maximize space. Voila, enjoy!

  27. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Gawd. Why couldn’t I have had a long-distance relationship back when flying was actually cool? It might have been more expensive but at least it didn’t suck.

  28. OtakuboyT says:

    *closes eyes*

    I see Amtrak ridership increasing.

    • Southern says:

      I don’t.

      I just did a quick comparison between Amtrak & Southwest airlines, from Houston TX to Chicago IL, departing Feb 2, 2010 & Feb 16, 2010.

      Amtrak: $224 round trip ($112 each way). Time to travel (each way): 24 hours & 43 minutes.
      SouthWest: $241 round trip ($97 each way + $47 in “Fees and Taxes”). Time to travel (each way): 2 hours & 30 minutes.

      From Houston TX to San Francisco CA:
      Amtrak: $310 ($155 each way). Time to Travel (each way): 46 hours (almost 2 full days each way).
      SouthWest: $373 ($154 each way, plus $64 in “Fees and Taxes”). Time to Travel (each way): 5 hours & 15 minutes.

      I imagine most people would spend the extra $17 to save 43 hours in travel time.

      If I had the TIME to spend on the train though, I would take the time, simply to avoid the body scans & TSA.. But business travelers just don’t have that luxury (of extra time).

  29. Not Again says:

    What about a gate entrance fee? Or better yet, a cover charge like clubs have.

  30. livingthedreamrtw says:

    Actually.. [showing my nerdiness here], a 3% discount for cash-paying customers would actually be a 3.1% increase for credit card customers compared to their rate. Sure the extra 0.1% is minuscule, but I like every penny I can keep thank you very much.

  31. gman863 says:

    Quit letting babies and obese people freeload.

    A baby not in an approved car seat gets mommy or daddy a $300 one-way ticket into traffic court. In the event of turbulence babies should not be flying around the cabin. Anything out of the womb should pay kids fare and be assigned a seat so it can’t crawl over to or spit up on others in the same row.

    Fatsos: If any part of your excess flows over into the adjacent seat you pay if it’s open or get bumped if the flight is full. Never again will I pay full price for only two-thirds of a seat.

  32. Posthaus says:

    How about a “don’t send me up over the Pacific in a plane you failed to fix after a delay” fee? Yeah, I’m looking at you Delta.

    Fee structure is crazy in light of what we pay in airfares. I’d love to know why air travel costs seem to increase well beyond things like inflation and the price of fuel.

  33. anduin says:

    charging for the babies makes sense, don’t people have to pay for animals to come into the cabin? Fat people, you too should have to pay for your life choices, I know not everyone is fat by choice but prob 99% of them are. Time to pay for that extra weight and maybe it’ll make them drop some lbs.

  34. rhmc says:

    Friend with Cancer delayed one day at MD Anderson to change treatment. Goes every 6-8 weeks. American Airlines charge $311.00 to change return flight including $150 penalty and $161 plane fare from Houston to Montgomery AL.
    Hospital staff called on his behalf to no avail. . Flight Houston -Dallas-Mtg on Wed 1-19-11 at255pm on Flt3390 was his original one if airline cares to get involved.

    Then changed one day to: Flt 1121 at430pm from Houston to Dallas
    then Flt2788 from Dallas at 720pm to Mtg at 905pm
    Nice way to treat a dying man. He is too ill and nice a guy to complain so I will. American Airlines should be shamed and ashamed. Please allow me to do this