Now Boarding: Airline fees are up nearly 50 percent

A recent analysis by USA Today recently showed that airline fees have jumped almost 50 percent since a year ago. !! Yes, for reals. Not only do you have to pay for checked baggage, change fees, priority boarding, priority seating (like United‘s “Economy Plus” section), companies like Spirit Air charge for carry-on baggage, US Airways and Allegiant Air charge for booking a ticket by phone, and even Continental, Hawaiian, American and US Airways charge for issuing a receipt seven days after a flight is taken.

Add in charging for meals, drinks, headphones, movies, and whatever else, and soon you’ll be buying your own jet and flying it yourself places. In total, the U.S. airline industry has made about $2.1 billion in revenue from fees alone, which could – I suppose – help its survival.

The bigger issue that arises from this analysis is that the added fees makes it more difficult to comparison shop flights. This is less difficult if you’re like, say, me, who only carries-on and does not need to board before everyone because priority boarding doesn’t get you to your destination any faster – and since I’m not THAT tall, I don’t need extra legroom – so I haven’t contributed to the $2.1 billion revenue. But it is tempting – after all, what’s $10 here, $25 here? You’ll grumble, but you’ll then just let it go. Build it all together into one price, however, and you’ll see your $259 supersaver deal to Miami suddenly escalate to nearly $360. Make it a family of four, or a company department of 15, and you’ll have just added almost $100 extra per traveler.

Anyway, there’s no real lesson to be learned here other than to be aware of what the total price of your ticket will be after you add all those additional bells and whistles. The search engines (like Kayak) haven’t quite caught on to adding buttons so you can search with the extra fees calculated into the total, partly because the fees keep changing.


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