Categorized | International, News, Regional

How to beat pesky airline fees

By Liz Weston, MSN Money

Once upon a time, airlines advertised their full prices, making it easy to choose among different carriers.
Today, airlines advertise low prices upfront and then stick you with fees or back-end charges you might not have expected. Predicting the cost of an airline ticket requires a calculator and a magnifying glass to read all the fine print. Even then, you may be in for some unpleasant surprises.

Airlines raked in $3.4 billion in baggage fees alone last year, a revenue source that’s largely responsible for turning the industry’s red ink to black. More fees are coming — Spirit Airlines just announced a $5 fee to print a boarding pass, for example — as carriers continue to “unbundle” the flying experience and figure out more ways to profit from services that used to be free.
“Airlines are squeezing every last dollar from every last customer on every last flight,” said Tim Winship, the publisher of FrequentFlier.com.
Here are some pesky airline fees to watch out for, and how you can get around them:

Video: Lost luggage? What airlines owe you

Baggage fees

Travelers know by now that most major airlines charge to check luggage, and the typical fee is around $25 each way for the first bag and $35 for the second. (The exceptions are Southwest, which allows two free checked bags, and JetBlue, which allows one.)
What travel customers may not know is that a bag that is a single pound over the 50-pound weight limit can trigger up to $100 in additional fees — one way. An oversize item can cost a breathtaking $300 to check one way.

The airlines have “all pretty much gotten in line on the $25 fee” for the first checked bag, Winship said. “The other fees don’t get as much attention, so the airlines feel comfortable going to town on them, knowing they’re not getting called on it.”

And then there’s Spirit Airlines, the only carrier (so far) that charges for carry-ons as well as checked bags. Spirit’s fees for carry-ons range from $20 for members of its fare club to $45 at the gate, versus $18 to $38 for the first piece of checked luggage.

How to cope: Current reservation systems don’t allow you to add in the varying costs of checking baggage so you can get an apples-to-apples comparison on how much flights actually cost. Instead, you can download an updated guide to airline fees at SmarterTravel. Refer to it before booking your travel.

Award ticket fees
You joined your airline frequent-flier program to earn free flights, right? Good luck with that.

Airlines are starting to lard fees onto award tickets. You’ll often face a $25 to $35 “booking fee” if you need to talk to a representative on the phone. And that’s something you often must do because navigating the airlines’ award redemption system can be so complicated and because calling a rep is sometimes the only way to get the flight you want, Winship said.

Changing or canceling an award ticket can trigger fees up to $150, while some airlines impose a $50 to $100 fee for a “last-minute” award booking — generally any reservation made within three weeks of the flight.

Many airlines now also charge a cash “co-pay” if you want to use award miles to upgrade a coach ticket to first class. American Airlines, for example, charges $50 plus miles each way for a domestic upgrade and up to $350 each way for an international upgrade.

“That can cost you $700 for a round trip,” Winship said. “You’re talking about significant money.”

The fees vary based on the cost of the ticket, with cheaper tickets triggering higher fees.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Liz Weston, MSN Money

Once upon a time, airlines advertised their full prices, making it easy to choose among different carriers.
Today, airlines advertise low prices upfront and then stick you with fees or back-end charges you might not have expected. Predicting the cost of an airline ticket requires a calculator and a magnifying glass to read all the fine print. Even then, you may be in for some unpleasant surprises.

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Airlines raked in $3.4 billion in baggage fees alone last year, a revenue source that’s largely responsible for turning the industry’s red ink to black. More fees are coming — Spirit Airlines just announced a $5 fee to print a boarding pass, for example — as carriers continue to “unbundle” the flying experience and figure out more ways to profit from services that used to be free.
“Airlines are squeezing every last dollar from every last customer on every last flight,” said Tim Winship, the publisher of FrequentFlier.com.
Here are some pesky airline fees to watch out for, and how you can get around them:

Video: Lost luggage? What airlines owe you

Baggage fees

Travelers know by now that most major airlines charge to check luggage, and the typical fee is around $25 each way for the first bag and $35 for the second. (The exceptions are Southwest, which allows two free checked bags, and JetBlue, which allows one.)
What travel customers may not know is that a bag that is a single pound over the 50-pound weight limit can trigger up to $100 in additional fees — one way. An oversize item can cost a breathtaking $300 to check one way.

The airlines have “all pretty much gotten in line on the $25 fee” for the first checked bag, Winship said. “The other fees don’t get as much attention, so the airlines feel comfortable going to town on them, knowing they’re not getting called on it.”

And then there’s Spirit Airlines, the only carrier (so far) that charges for carry-ons as well as checked bags. Spirit’s fees for carry-ons range from $20 for members of its fare club to $45 at the gate, versus $18 to $38 for the first piece of checked luggage.

How to cope: Current reservation systems don’t allow you to add in the varying costs of checking baggage so you can get an apples-to-apples comparison on how much flights actually cost. Instead, you can download an updated guide to airline fees at SmarterTravel. Refer to it before booking your travel.

Award ticket fees
You joined your airline frequent-flier program to earn free flights, right? Good luck with that.

Airlines are starting to lard fees onto award tickets. You’ll often face a $25 to $35 “booking fee” if you need to talk to a representative on the phone. And that’s something you often must do because navigating the airlines’ award redemption system can be so complicated and because calling a rep is sometimes the only way to get the flight you want, Winship said.

Changing or canceling an award ticket can trigger fees up to $150, while some airlines impose a $50 to $100 fee for a “last-minute” award booking — generally any reservation made within three weeks of the flight.

Many airlines now also charge a cash “co-pay” if you want to use award miles to upgrade a coach ticket to first class. American Airlines, for example, charges $50 plus miles each way for a domestic upgrade and up to $350 each way for an international upgrade.

“That can cost you $700 for a round trip,” Winship said. “You’re talking about significant money.”

The fees vary based on the cost of the ticket, with cheaper tickets triggering higher fees.