Airline Fees Irk Flyers

March 18, 2009
Special Feature

As airlines try to get their revenues off the ground, they’ve started to charge for many services that used to be free. As a result, many travelers now are paying to check luggage, change reservations, and even for the food and beverages they have while in the air.

As airlines try to get their revenues off the ground, they’ve started to charge for many services that used to be free. As a result, many travelers now are paying to check luggage, change reservations, and even for the food and beverages they have while in the air. Many airline customers are balking at the tacked-on fees, which can boost the cost of a trip way above the actual price of the airline ticket.

The newest entrant in the fee parade is a proposal by Spirit Airlines to charge a “usage” fee of from $5 to $10 if a traveler buys a ticket anywhere but at the airline’s airport ticket counters. Details still have to be worked out with the US Department of Transportation, but Spirit hopes to introduce the fee in the near future. Spirit has aggressively pursued non-ticket revenue, charging a fee to reserve a seat assignment in advance of a flight and adding travel insurance to the cost of the ticket unless the passenger opts out. Only about two-thirds of Spirit’s income will come from base ticket sales this year; the rest will come from fees and other charges and from other sources, such as selling advertising space inside planes.

Airlines that charge fees like these often aren’t required to add them to the advertised price of the flight, making comparison shopping a lot trickier. Shoppers looking for low fares on Web sites like Travelocity.com and Expedia.com can be lured by lowball prices, only to find that the actual cost of the flight is much higher.