If you ask around, you’ll find that most people’s air travel experiences range anywhere from tolerable to a total nightmare. And, while there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll have a 100% pleasant experience on your next flight, there is a way to help make your air travel experience the best it can be. All it takes is the willingness to pay extra.
From early boarding to fees to flight insurance, here are the airline fees that experts deem worth paying.
Priority Boarding Fees
“It is generally cheaper to bring a carry-on than to check a bag, which is why you often see people lining up at the gate before boarding,” said Phil Dengler of The Vacationer. “That is because there is limited overhead bin space available, and travelers do not want to have to put their bags in a bin that is many rows behind their seats.
“Airlines even offer priority boarding for a fee, so those who want early access to the overhead bins can pay for it. The price for priority boarding starts at around $10 and maxes out at around $30. If you have a tight connection or do not want to risk having to gate-check your bag, I think paying for priority boarding is worth the price.”
“If you plan ahead and download audiobooks, TV shows or movies to your device to entertain yourself, that’s a good way to avoid extra fees; but, if you’re going to be on a long flight, you may want to pay for the Wi-Fi just in case,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.
Pricing for in-flight Wi-Fi will vary. For example, both American Airlines and United Airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi for as little as $10.
Faster Security If You Travel a Lot
“Standing in long security lines can be boring and stress-inducing if you’re worried about cutting it close to your flight; but, by paying for TSA Precheck, you’ll be able to rush through the fast lane,” Ramhold said.
The cost of TSA Precheck is $85 per person for first-time and in-person renewals. However, if you renew online, the fee is $70. TSA Precheck memberships last five years.
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Seat Selection Fees
“There is nothing worse than being stuck in a middle seat in the back of the plane,” Dengler said. “In addition to deboarding last, those sitting in the back of the plane generally experience more turbulence than those sitting in the front. That is why I always pay a little more to select my seat. Seat selection fees are typically an additional $15 to $30, but they can go as high as $100 or more for premium seats with more leg room and other perks.
“At the minimum,” Dengler added, “I recommend paying the cheapest seat selection fee available so there are no surprises when you get to the gate. It is especially important to pay the fee if you are traveling with young kids. While airlines may attempt to sit your family together, there are no guarantees if you have not pre-selected your seats.
“A word of caution: Just because you pay to select your seat does not guarantee you will be sitting in that seat. While not common, the airline can change your seat at their discretion.”
VIP Lounge Pass
“Many airlines provide passengers with access to a lounge for a cost of around $50 per day,”said Matthew Dailly, managing director at Tiger Financial. “It may appear to be a lot, but consider what you get: food, drink, a comfortable seat and Wi-Fi.
“If you have three hours or more between flights, paying this fee may be worthwhile,” he said. “Is there a bonus? In a lounge, the customer service lines are usually a lot shorter, which means that, if your flight is delayed and you need to change flights, you can obtain help much faster.”
“This is a must-have option these days,” said Geoffrey Lenart, owner of Seven Seas Travel. “Do not leave home without it. This will cover you in case of missed flights, delayed flights, medical expenses while away, extra lodging expenses and cancelled reservations. Travel insurance comes in two main flavors: vouchers and full cash refund in case of cancellation.”
The cost of full-blown travel insurance could be 4% to 10% of your total trip cost, according to InsureMyTrip. Or you can opt to pay only for flight insurance, which will vary in cost according to each airline carrier or other provider.
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