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I like to turn my near-constant hunt for the best airline rates into something of a one-woman sport, but no matter how great a deal I manage to scrounge up, I’m constantly getting blind-sided by new and increased airline fees.
That’s no surprise, given that major U.S. Airlines jacked up fees by 87 per cent on things like checked bags, seating assignments and on-board services in the last year.
I dug through more than a dozen major U.S. airline’s websites to figure out which ones were really screwing us over at the check-in counter and which had the lowest fees.
Here’s how they stacked up:
Good news: most major airlines like Delta, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue still allow a free carry-on bag and personal item. Just be sure to check the site’s baggage guidelines to be sure your bags are within size limits—airlines are becoming sticklers for that and will make you check bags if they’re too big.
Budget airline Spirit Air really sticks it to consumers. The company charges a whopping $35 for each bag you want to lug on the plane, which means you’ll pay $70 more on a round-trip flight. And if you’ve got a layover and have to change flights, it’s possible Spirit will charge you the same fee—again.
First Checked Bag
A few carriers still allow this, including Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic.
But don’t get used to it: On average, you’re looking to spend $20-30 for the first checked bag. On the higher end, Spirit Air demands up to $33 and Allegiant Air asks for up to $35 for the first bag.
Some carriers do, however, offer reduced rates if you check-in online or frequent flier and club deals, but that may only save you a few bucks down the line.
Second Checked Bag
If you’re prone to over-packing, fly with carriers like JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, one of very few that don’t charge a fee for a second bag.
Virgin Atlantic might treat your first checked bag as a freebie, but you’ll have to pony up to $60 for the second. Spirit also charges up to $40 for a second bag, while Allegiant charges $50.
Third Bag and Beyond
Before you start bouncing up and down on the lid of that third massive suitcase and fighting with the zipper, here’s some sage advice: Don’t do it!
None of the airlines I researched let a third bag fly for free and charges ranged from $50 all the way to $150.
Thinking about adding a fourth and fifth bag? You’ll be looking at up to a whopping $200 if you’re flying Delta and $150 on American Air. Maybe it’d be a good idea to ship those extra gifts home for the holidays this year.
From the looks of it, most airlines don’t charge you additional fees for picking where you park yourself in-flight, but it’s always best to check first.
Allegiant charges up to $29.99 for seat selection and Spirit asks for as much as $50, depending on which section of the plane you’re vying for.
If it’s extra leg room you’re after, be prepared to cough up as much as $30 (Virgin Atlantic) for the luxury.