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I Have to Pay for What? – A Guide to Airline Fees

Air travel has sure changed. Unless you’re flying first class, not only do you not get to pick between the chicken or the beef dinner, you don’t get either anymore. Here’s some info on what else we’re paying for if we get it at all these days. Oh, and unlike the airlines, no charge this time.

Book it for Bucks
How the heck they ever figured we would pay for the privilege of paying for a ticket is beyond any reasoning. Booking Fees range from Alaska airlines charging you $15 if you—gasp—use the phone to book, to Air-Canada who has no charge. Do you want a printed ticket? That’s going to cost you. You want to print it yourself, an act that you’d think they would appreciate, that will cost you too.

Checked Bags
Some airlines like Southwest still don’t charge you for your first or even second checked bag; hooray for them. Your first one is free on Jet Blue, so they deserve props for that too. Delta, American and United all charge $25 for your first checked bag making the friendly skies not quite so friendly these days. Usually if you fly international you get at least the first bag checked free; small consolation when you’re spending that much.

Carry-on Bag Fees
This is the one fee that has been getting lots of customers riled up lately. It’s bad enough when they started charging for checked bags but charging for carry-ons is really causing customer dis-satisfaction and defections. Frontier, once known for great customer service is determined to become a budget airline in the spirit of, well, Spirit Airlines. Frontier charges $25 for a carryon if you booked through their website, $25-$50 if booked through an outside agent. Spirit Airlines charges anywhere from $26 for their club members to up to $100 for anyone else. They also are not real clear on exactly what you will pay at any given time.

Seat Selection
It used to be that you made your seat selection at the check-in counter and that was that. Nowadays with the ease and convenience of the internet and cell phone apps you can do it yourself without needing assistance. Somehow it makes sense to charge us for doing it ourselves. American, Delta, Frontier and JetBlue don’t charge at the time of this writing but Air Canada charges $18-31 and Spirit of course charges anywhere from $1 to $50. Southwest has a self-seating arrangement when boarding but does charge for early (pick of your seats) check-in.

In-Flight Food
Like I said in the beginning, you don’t get to pick between the chicken or beef, it’s more like pay to eat or starve. You can always buy food on the concourse and bring it on at least for now. Most airlines will give you a coke or bottle of water, but not all of them anymore. Spirit and Frontier—the new kings of budget travel—will charge you for either a coke or water. Most airlines do offer box lunches for purchase and if you do have the bucks to fly business or first class, then you pick from the chicken or beef.

Change Fees
American Airlines, also once known for their polite customer service, charges $75-$200 just to change a ticket, plus an additional $125 if the ticket was issued by an outside agency. Delta charges a whopping $150-$450 but will happily only charge $50 on the day of. I’m not sure what the logic is here but logic doesn’t really apply to this subject does it?

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