We love air travel. The planes. The airports. Heck even the airport food. However, these days one thing drives us nuts about air travel. This “thing” is that over the past 5 years, it seems as if we have come to pay more in airline ancillary fees than for the ticket itself. It has gotten so bad that we can’t remember the last time we booked a ticket without paying a “fee” of some sort. While we understand the need for fees (after all, that is the only way the airlines actually make a profit), the rate at which airlines have expanded the fees is simply alarming -- ancillary fees grew from $13.5 billion to $22.1 billion over the past 3 years alone!
With that said, we simply couldn’t go any longer without expressing our frustration with some of the more annoying fees the airlines hit us with nowadays.
Check out GateGuru's list of the most annoying fees that airlines charge to travelers -- starting off with everyone’s favorite, baggage fees.
Your first bag is free, but only for domestic flights. Your third bag is half off, but only online. How much can my bag weigh before I have to start paying extra? Will my checked bag be $10, $15, $20? With no industry standard, travelers are often rolling the dice with the hated “baggage fee.” While most airline executives are currently asking, “how much more can we charge for baggage fees,” we also want to take this opportunity to call out those airlines that don’t charge: with JetBlue and WestJet, your first bag is free. On Southwest, you get 2 bags free!
It used to be that you could just show up at the airport and fly standby -- if there was an open seat, you could just jump on that flight. Well, those days are long gone. Today, airlines have extremely complex models for pricing tickets, sometimes defying common sense (a 1-way ticket from JFK to Heathrow is $800, while the roundtrip is only $900). The change fee is supposed to cover revenue that could have been generated from some other customer. The frustrating part about the “change fee” is when there are empty seats on a flight, and you want to switch at the airport (say for an earlier flight) but you still are forced to pay a fee.
Economy class, Economy Plus, Economy Comfort. Did we just say Economy Comfort? What marketing exec came up with that concept (what then are the rest of the seats in economy)? Though these classes of economy differ across airlines and planes, they usually include a few extra inches of reclining space and legroom. Are the various “premium economy” seats worth the extra charge? Depending on price, possibly, but we suggest checking out SeatGuru for insight on that question.
Do you want to sit in a window seat? How about an aisle seat? Well, be prepared to pay a fee. For the longest time, seat selection was just part of flying -- after all, I buy a ticket on the flight, so I need a seat, right? Well, Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines charge extra for choosing ANY advanced seat assignment. Another trick up the airline’s sleeve is withholding non-preferred seats, forcing you to pay extra when you select your seat.
A seat selection fee is bad enough, but separating a child from his/her mother? Certainly even airlines aren’t that evil (ignoring the United executives who LOST a 10-year old). It’s not that airlines are targeting families and making them pay more to sit together, it’s just that they are just making it impossible to buy 3 seats next to each other without having to pay extra. American, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines have increased the percentage of coach seats requiring an extra fee, often forcing friends and family who don’t want to pay the supplement to sit separately. Sounds like we are being penalized for flying in groups.
6. Boarding Pass Print Fee
If you’re flying Ryanair or Spirit Airlines, be sure to print your boarding pass at home. Why, you may ask? Well, these airlines charge you a fee to print your boarding pass at the airport. Spirit Airlines’ $5 charge almost seems reasonable compared to the whopping $74 charge from Ryanair. Also, don’t assume that having the tickets on your phone is enough, or you might get stuck with a $370 bill!
It used to be that redeeming frequent flyer miles was simple -- 25,000 miles got you a free seat. Who can remember those days? Now, a 25,000-mile redemption flight is non-existent (think 35,000 to 50,000 miles instead) and even if you get one, the airlines start piling on the fees on top of the ticket. So much for the “free” flight using miles.
We remember the days when you’d get a full meal on a cross-country flight. Those times are long gone -- heck, even the days of free pretzels, animal crackers or gold fish are a distant memory. If you want a snack, be prepared to pay a pretty penny. Some airlines are even starting to think about charging for premium meals on international flights in coach.