Thu, Sep 22, 2011
USA Today Survey Finds Airline Fees Keep Escalating
When they first started popping up a few years ago, the new list
of a la carte fees charged by airlines were a nuisance. Now,
they're rising to the point at which fees could cost you more than
your seat under some circumstances. USA Today notes that some fees
for overweight checked bags have now passed the $400 milestone.
Among the more significant increases, fees for the first checked
bag now start as high as $43. Most airlines now charge a fee when
booking so-called "free" flights earned with your frequent-flier
miles. Changing a reservation can cost between $50 and $250
depending on the airline.
Spirit Airlines has distinguished itself as the only US airline
charging for carry-on bags so far. If you don't fly Spirit
regularly, not knowing about the fee even carries its own extra
charge. That carry-on will cost you $30 if you notify the airline
in advance when booking, $35 if you tell them by phone, and $40 if
you wait to notify them at the airport.
But the big one is the fee for an overweight checked bag on an
international flight. Continental wants $400 for overweight bags on
most international routes, and American Airlines charges $450 on
flights to Asia.
The airlines say the fees separate out optional costs to keep
base fares low for customers who travel light and know what they're
doing. Industry critics point out the revenue from a la carte fees
conveniently escapes federal taxes that support airport and ATC
improvements. Consumers are frustrated because, despite efforts by
the US Department of Transportation to force disclosure of the fees
on the airline websites, it's tedious to compare them among
airlines when shopping.
There may be little incentive for the escalating fees to stop.
In the 2010 JD Power & Associates survey of customer
satisfaction with airlines in North America, the declining
satisfaction scores bottomed out in 2009, and rebounded in
There is one US airline which still has zeroes in almost every a
la carte fee column, even for ticket changes, with only a $10 fee
for priority boarding. It's Southwest Airlines, famous for its
"Bags Fly Free" promotion.
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