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Airline Fees Seem Non-Stop

Airline fees can add several hundreds of dollars to your trip.

| BY Donald Liebenson

Flying somewhere? Better pack some extra money. Airline fees are soaring according to a new USA Today survey of 13 carriers.

American Airlines has broken the $400 barrier, charging $450 for overweight checked bags weighing between 71 and 100 pounds on its Asian flight. Continental Airlines and United Airlines are somewhat more reasonable. Each charges only $400 for the same bag on most international flights.

Other fees are smaller, but they add up. Fees for first bag checked range from $20 to $25, and $20 to $35 for a second bag checked. Most airlines do not charge for a carry on bag, according to the survey, but Spirit Airlines is the $40 exception. That’s how much it will cost if your bad does not fit under the seat and must be stowed in the overhead.

Southwest Airlines is making marketing hay out of allowing for two free bags. Jet Blue, too, does not charge for the first checked bag.

Want to change your international ticket? Frontier charges $50 for the service, but Delta Air Lines and United charge five times that. US Airways charges between $55 and $90 for a phone reservation and $25 and $50 if the reservation is booked online.

At least curbside checking is still free for most airlines. Of the airlines surveyed, only United, JetBlue, US Airways and Alaska Airlines charge for this service ($2).

This is the fourth year that USA Today has surveyed airline fees. Airlines are now required by the Transportation Department to disclose all fees for optional services prominently on their website. They must also disclose bag-fee increases on the home page or through a link on the page, the paper reported.

But there are also hidden travel fees, as Fiscal Times discovered. For example, American Airlines last August listed one of its New York-to-London flights for October at just $139 round trip. Several airport fees, destination taxes, entry and exit fees, security fees and fuel surcharges later that fare increased to $644.20.

Airlines justify these fees by saying they help to keep airfares low and let fliers choose which services they want. What can travelers to lighten the airport fee load? Appearing on CBS News, USA Today travel reporter Ben Mutzabaugh suggested applying for an airline credit card that offers such perks as free checked bags, as well as flying for the year on a single airline.

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.