It’s easy to feel cheated when you’re flying. Even if you get a sweet deal on the ticket itself, your carrier may charge you for your bag, for a meal, and in some cases, for watching a movie.
All those fees became hyper-popular in the airline industry in 2008. Airfare Watchdog President George Hobica says that between flying fears induced by 9/11 and lack of demand following the financial crisis, American carriers lost billions of dollars from 2001 to 2009.
“Airlines tried to raise fares,” Hobica says, “but when they raised fares, if even they raised them 1%, they would lose business. So now people pay for what they use.”
You already know the main culprits. The biggest one is checked bags. Some low-cost carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant will hit you for carry-on bags, too. And if you decide to change your ticket, many carriers will charge you $US200 even before any fares are included.
But with a little cunning, you can sidestep fees and save money.
• Comparison shop with fees in mind. “When you’re booking online you see a base fare,” says Smarter Travel Executive Editor Anne Banas, but that can be misleading. “If Delta is $US10 cheaper than Southwest, then Southwest will actually be cheaper after fees, since they don’t charge you for a checked bag.”
• Take advantage of nearby airports. Banas says there’s money to be saved by flying into or out of secondary airports in bigger cities: Flying into Oakland instead of San Francisco can save you some scratch — same with Baltimore instead of Washington, D.C., or Providence, Rhode Island, instead of Boston.
• Get an airline credit card to fly with a free bag. Hobica recommends the United Explorer Card.
But most of all, consider how the airline structures its fees. Start with the below infographic.