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Sunday, April 27, 2014

7 Ridiculous Flying Fees And How To Avoid Them

by AARP, Mar 18, 2013
Rushing businesswoman pulling suitcase in airport

Avoid shocking airline fees to fully enjoy your flight.Getty Images

Remember when you bought a plane ticket and that was it — no additional airport or flight charges? Now airlines have “unbundled” services that were once included in the ticket price, and the resulting fees have made comparison shopping much trickier.
But like them or not, these fees for flying are here to stay. So instead of being broadsided by unexpected charges, do a little research beforehand and follow our tips on how to avoid the most ridiculous charges.

1. Surcharges for Human Contact

Don’t laugh, but some airlines charge a fee (anywhere from $15 to $35) if you buy your ticket over the phone and speak to a human being. The charge can go up if you buy your ticket at the counter in an airport.
How to avoid: Buy your ticket online. If your itinerary is complicated and you do prefer to speak to an airline representative, ask up front if there’s a fee. Then try to negotiate — sometimes the price of the ticket is not fixed. Also, ask about discounts for children, seniors or students when appropriate. And ask for an e-ticket to avoid surcharges sometimes associated with paper tickets. Make sure you’ll be able to check in online to save yourself time.

2. Carry-on Charges

Spirit Airlines led the pack when it started charging for carry-on bags: $26 to $35 at the time of online booking, $36 to $45 at online check-in, or $50 to $100 per bag at counter or gate check-in.

How to avoid: For now, under-the-seat carry-ons are still free on many airlines. So use one that fits below the seat in front of you. (Dimensions vary, but for most planes, a bag that is 19 inches wide by 17 inches deep by 9.5 or 10 inches tall will work.) 

3. Priority-Boarding Fees

Several airlines offer priority or early boarding for a fee ($9 and more). In some cases, this is how the airline avoids annoying customers by charging for carry-on luggage. The logic: If you pay to board earlier, you’re more likely to find overhead storage for any bag that doesn’t fit under a seat. But this prompts the question: What happens when everyone chooses priority boarding?
How to avoid: Choose an airline that allows boarding based on when you check in.

4. Checked-Baggage Fees

Most airlines charge $25 for the first checked bag and $35 to $40 for the second — and extra for bags that exceed a size or weight limit.
How to avoid: If you’re traveling in the United States, you can send your bags ahead via the U.S. Postal Service. This takes time and planning but can save you money and frustration. Shipping also allows you to insure your luggage and track its progress.

5. Fees for the Best Economy Seats

Some airlines charge up to an additional $59 per flight for bulkhead seats, which are highly sought after because there are no reclining seats in front of them and they often allow extra legroom.
How to avoid: For a chance at these seats without having to pay a fee, choose an airline that doesn’t charge extra and choose an off-time when a flight may not be so full. Some airlines make free seat assignments 24 hours before departure. So if you go online at exactly the right time, you may have a shot. Also, you can find out exactly which seats on any plane are slightly wider, allow more leg room and don’t recline by checking seatguru.com.

6. Fees to Cash in Loyalty Reward Miles

We all thought that if we were “loyal” and flew exclusively on one airline, then our accumulated miles would give us a “free” trip. Wrong. Now on some airlines, you have to pay up to $550 to “cash in” your miles.
How to avoid: Become loyal to airlines that don’t do this, such as JetBlue and Southwest.

7. Charges for Earlier Same-Day Flights

In the old days, if you got to the airport early and the airline had an available seat on an earlier flight to your destination, the airline would put you on that flight for free. Today you pay $50 (or more) to make this happen.
How to avoid: You can’t. Stick to your confirmed flight.


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