‘Ridiculous’ add-on fees could cost you when shopping for low-priced airfare

With the busy summer travel season just about upon us, we wanted to look at how the major airlines are charging customers well beyond just the price of the plane ticket.

In this “It’s Your Money” report, we speak to a travel agent who offers tips on how to save more of your hard-earned cash.

You’ve heard the phrase location, location, location. Unfortunately for us, our location in the middle of the Pacific doesn’t help.

If you’re planning that family summer vacation, bringing the kids home from college, or even thinking ahead to fall, you’re already behind the curve if you haven’t pulled the trigger.

“Most of the fare specials come out about three months before, so about three months before departure for major trip, you’re more than likely get the best deal,” said Mike Brown of Panda Travel.

While paying for baggage has become widely accepted, as has paying for meals, most airlines continue to collect more and more so-called add-on fees.

“Some airlines out of control,” Brown said. “All these additions are beyond the price of the ticket. You have seat selection of $80 per person, credit card transaction up to eight dollars extra, and everybody uses a credit card so there’s one that everybody has to pay.”

We did some digging ourselves into what kinds of extra fees the airlines are throwing out.

Allegiant Air, while its known as a low-cost carrier, has many extra fees.

It charges $8 when you use a credit card to book and another $5 if you chose to print out your boarding pass at select airports, instead of printing your ticket ahead of time at home. It also offers priority access for $4 to $12 if you want to board your plane early.

United Airlines offers something similar for between $15 to $79. It also charges $6.99 if you need ear buds in flight.

Alaska Airlines charges $20 to return items left on board a plane.

Many carriers also charge you a fee if you want to change your flight once it’s booked.

For Hawaiian Airlines, that’ll cost you $30 if you’re flying interisland, and $200 if you’ve got a flight to North America, plus the difference in ticket price, if there is one.

“These are fees they didn’t used to charge, that used to be included. So it’s all pure profit,” Brown said.

Profit that’s paying off big time for airlines. In a government report released just last week, between baggage fees and reservation change fees, U.S. airlines made more than $68 billion last year.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Brown said.

Brown says if he has one piece of advice, it is to use a travel agent because they they often have access to wholesale fares that are not available to the general public.

Many airlines also have credit cards or frequent flyer clubs that offer to waive some of these extra fees if you join. Just make sure it’s worth it. Annual fees and high interest rates may have you paying more in the long run.

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