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Your guide to navigating confusing airline fees

Published May 21, 2014 5:53 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

New York • The Department of Transportation on Wednesday proposed a new set of rules aimed at protecting airline passengers by requiring more disclosure of airline fees. Here are some common questions regarding the plethora of fees that fliers face today:

Q: When was the first checked bag fee?

American Airlines in May 2008 became the first major U.S. carrier to charge a fee for checking a suitcase. (Discount airlines like Allegiant and Spirit already had such a fee.) The other large airlines quickly followed.



Q: Why did they do it?

In 2004, U.S. airlines were paying an average of $1.15 a gallon for jet fuel. By May of 2008, the cost had nearly tripled to $3.23 a gallon. Airlines that year burned through nearly 18 billion gallons of fuel. Passengers make decisions whether to fly based on price, and the bag fees were a way for airlines to collect more money without jacking up ticket prices and scaring away customers.

Q: How much money does that bring in for the airlines?

The typical bag fee is $25 for the first checked suitcase, $35 for the second. That added up to $3.4 billion last year. Airlines collected another $2.8 billion from flight change fees, typically $200.

Q: Are there other fees?

Yes, too many to easily count. Most airlines offer early boarding, priority security screening and extra legroom for a fee. Some airlines charge for any advance seat assignment. Others charge to place a bag in the overhead bin. Some charge extra for water or soda.

Q: Don't consumers know about these fees prior to booking?

Most fliers now know that airlines charge some type of fee for checking luggage. The other fees are often a surprise. Airlines are required to post charts with all their fees on their websites, but they can often be hard to find, and confusing. For instance, United Airlines charges $9 to $299 for extra legroom, the price fluctuating depending on length of the trip and demand for that flight.

 

 

 

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