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It seems like every time I travel, I seem to be paying more fees for things that were previously free or less expensive. This is especially true when flying. I know that the airlines have been struggling for years, so they are looking for ways to capture more revenue. Though as a traveler and customer, it doesn’t feel like I’m getting more value for my money. In this video, we’re reviewing how to avoid airline fees, especially those that seem to annoy me the most.
Annoying Airline Fees
1. Baggage fees:
One of the most annoying fees is paying for checked-in luggage. The airlines generally charge you a fee for domestic flights, but you’re usually allowed a free check-in bag for international flights. I generally recommend avoiding the entire process by packing only carry-on luggage. Though sometimes it’s unavoidable. During our recent holiday trip to the UK, we carried a lot of presents, so we checked-in our bags. Though since it was an international flight, we were able to avoid the baggage fees.
Also, beware of luggage weight and size restrictions. Most airlines have a soft limit of 50 pounds or 23 kilograms before charging you a fee. I recommend always leaving a little bit of spare room in your carry-on bag in case you’re a bit over the limit. That way you can transfer some of the clothes to your bag at the check-in counter. Another trick is to pack a collapsible duffel bag in case you need it.
If you have a bag that is barely carry-on compliant, like a medium-sized roller bag, you can usually gate check the bag for free before boarding your flight. This is a great way to check-in your bag without having to pay any fees. I’ve used this trick a few times, especially when I am on a full flight and I’m a late boarding group. Since space is limited on the plane, I usually gate check my bag for free. This saves me the hassle of searching for overhead bin space. Though it does mean that I usually have to go to the baggage claim when I land.
If you prefer to check-in a bag when flying, you may also want to consider a co-branded airline credit card. These cards often have perks like free checked in bags, so it can save you money, especially if you fly often.
Lastly, be aware that some budget airlines will even charge you for carry-on bags too. I noticed this when I have flown on Ryanair while traveling in Europe.
2. Fuel surcharges:
This one is really tricky. Many airlines include a fuel surcharge with the cost of the ticket, and it’s sometimes the greater or equal to the ticket fare.
To be honest, I usually will search multiple airlines until I find one that doesn’t charge me a fuel surcharge, or one that is reasonable. Reward Expert breaks down the different fuel charge fees per airline and destination. Keep in mind too that if you have points for a specific airline, you can often book award flights on partner airlines if they are part of the same alliance.
3. Internet charges:
I understand the need to charge for internet service while flying. Though I’m including it on the list since the prices are generally high and the service is extremely slow. I honestly don’t think that it’s become any faster since the technology was first introduced. In fact, I try not to get wifi on a plane unless I absolutely need it since the speed tends to frustrate me and drain my laptop battery.
If you do need wifi on a flight, check to see if you can purchase it in advance for a cheaper rate. For example, if your flight is equipped with Gogo Internet, you can purchase passes before your trip directly from Gogo. This is usually a much cheaper option than purchasing a pass during the flight.
4. Advanced boarding/check-in:
Some airlines are now charging extra to give you priority boarding. In the case of Southwest, they can check you in automatically for a fee so you’re in an early boarding group. To be honest, this is one fee that I usually will pay when flying Southwest since I don’t want to deal with the hassle of searching for overhead bin space. Plus, I don’t want to have to struggle with checking in when I might not have a good connectivity. This can often be a problem when exploring the outdoors.
5. Airline seat assignment:
This is probably the most offensive fee to me. In fact, I feel like it’s almost a scam. Sometimes when you attempt to select your seat, you’ll notice that the seat map is full, but the option to purchase a premium seat is available. However, the occupied regular seats are not actually filled. The seats are held for award and priority travelers.
While I understand why the airlines do it, I did have a recent experience with American Airlines that seemed a bit sketchy. Fiona and I were traveling to the UK during the holidays. When checking into our flight, we noticed that there were no seats next to one other. I decided to purchase premium seats so we could sit together, and opted for the lower priced ones. We were surprised that as soon as we made the purchase, all the locked seats became available. Even the ones that were more expensive than what we paid! I was glad that I didn’t purchase the more expensive premium seats. Though the whole experience did leave me feeling a bit cheated. While I hate to assume the worst, it felt like the airline was forcing me to purchase premium seats by creating artificial scarcity. While it’s not illegal, it definitely felt wrong to me.
Have you had to deal with airlines fees on your trips? Do you have any tricks to avoid them?
- “Making Sense of Airline Fuel Surcharges” (Reward Expert)
- “Don’t Pay Fuel Surcharges, Save Money When You Book Award Tickets” (Million Mile Secrets)
- “Airline Fees, U.S. Carriers, updated” (Airfare Watchdog)
- “Tip: Save Big by Buying Gogo Passes Before Your Flight” (The Points Guy)
- “As Airline Revenue From Extra Fees Increases, So Does Consumer Ire” (Washington Post)