With the holiday season fast approaching, air travel is ramping up. If you’re planning to fly, you’ll need to watch out for extra charges, from carry-on baggage fees to high food and drink costs.
A 2016 report from research firm IdeaWorksCompany found that extra charges, known as ancillary revenue, increased among the 10 largest airline carriers — from $8.4 billion in 2008 to almost $26 billion in 2015. To save money on holiday travel this year, watch out for these notorious airline fees.
Many airlines don’t charge passengers for carry-on bags, but some budget airlines will. According to FareCompare, Spirit Airlines charges for carry-on bags placed in overhead bins. At $37 to $65 per bag, the fee can add considerably to the cost of your airfare.
Paying With a Credit Card
Some airlines charge a fee when you pay with a credit card. European carrier Ryanair, for instance, charges an extra 2 percent of your total transaction when you use a credit card, PayPal account, American Express or prepaid MasterCard. This fee does not apply when you use a debit card.
Boarding Pass Reissue
While mobile apps have done away with the need for printed boarding passes, some airlines still require one. And some airlines — mainly the low-budget ones — will impose an additional charge if you left home without remembering to print your boarding pass.
Many airlines offer in-flight WiFi access at a cost. American Airlines charges $16 plus tax for an all-day WiFi pass for most domestic flights. Frequent travelers can take advantage of a monthly subscription plan for less than $50 per month.
If you buy a low-cost ticket and are traveling with other family members or friends, you may have to sit apart or pay extra for assigned seating. Delta offers Basic Economy tickets, which cost less but don’t allow you to pick your own seat.
Some airlines impose a charge on coach passengers for priority boarding. United Airlines offers economy passengers a Premier Access pass starting at $15 for priority boarding at select airports.
Make sure your name is spelled correctly on your ticket, or you might need to fork over some cash. Although many airlines don’t allow name changes or corrections, those that do can impose a hefty fee.
Ryanair charges $145 if you make the changes online and $211 if you make the changes when you’re at the airport, and Frontier charges a $75 fee plus the difference in fare from when you booked your ticket to the current fare when you make the change.
Baggage fees are a huge source of ancillary revenue. Airline policies regarding baggage fees can change at any time, so it’s always wise to check with your carrier before booking your flight.
With most domestic flights, you’ll pay for checked baggage, with fees costing around $20 or more for the first checked bag. However, airlines like Southwest won’t charge for your first two checked bags.
Another huge source of ancillary revenue for airlines are the charges they impose on customers for excess baggage. On international flights, the first checked bag will usually be included in the flight cost, as long as it’s below certain dimensions and weight specified by the carrier. Additional checked bags or bags that are heavier or larger than those allowed by the carrier will be subject to fees.
Save Money: 6 Clever Ways to Save on Airline Baggage Fees
Date Change Fees
Date changes are among the costliest fees airlines charge. Delta charges $200 for changes made on your flight within the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands plus any difference in fares. So, when you’re planning your vacation, book at the right time.
Airline-Branded Credit Cards
Although an airline-branded credit card lets you earn miles toward future travel, you might not want to limit your options.
The AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard, for example, awards 30,000 bonus miles if you make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening your account. Every $1 spent on American Airlines purchases earns you 2 miles, and you earn 1 mile on other purchases.
It might sound like a good offer, but compare it to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, which offers 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in your first three months. Every other purchase you make earns you 2 miles, and you can apply your miles toward any travel purchase.
Travel insurance can safeguard you against unexpected delays and cancellations, rental car damage and more. But you don’t necessarily have to pay for travel insurance through the airline you’re flying with. Use resources such as Squaremouth.com to compare travel insurance costs from different companies so you don’t overpay for the expense. To learn more about travel insurance, check out these insider secrets.
Food and Drink
If you want more than peanuts, you’ll need to pay up. Although JetBlue offers some free snacks, you’ll need to fork over up to $12 for a sandwich and fresh fruit. Alcoholic beverages will cost you between $7 and $9.
You might have the chance to buy duty-free merchandise when traveling internationally. But beware, because duty free might not necessarily mean you’re saving money compared to pricing at retail stores back home. Before you travel, look up pricing for goods you’re interested in buying duty free. That way, you’ll know if you’re getting a good deal during your trip.
For the budget traveler, airport lounges are likely not worth the extra costs. Independent lounges offer one-off passes from about $15 to $50 daily, or $10 per hour, according to Flightfox.com, a marketplace for travel experts.
Is extra legroom worth the cost? That’s for you to decide, but the luxury will weigh down your travel budget. American offers Main Cabin Extra seating, which offers up to 6 inches of additional legroom plus preferred boarding, starting at $20.
Some airlines’ headphone jacks are smaller than the standard size. If you want to watch onboard TV, you might need to pay extra for a pair of headphones.
If you were planning to fly with air miles during the holidays, watch out for blackout dates. Unless you plan ahead, you might end up needing to travel during blackout dates — and paying full price for your plane ticket.
Delayed or Canceled Flights
There are no federal regulations requiring airlines to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights. Most airlines will help book you another flight to your destination if your flight winds up delayed or cancelled — but that’s more of a courtesy.
Some airlines will charge you to book your ticket at the counter or over the phone. For example, American will charge you at least $35 to have your ticket issued at an American Airlines travel center.
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Michael Galvis contributed to the reporting for this article.