ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Airline Travel: Airfare Fees and Charges

Updated on June 5, 2012

There’s a fee for that!

What was once the domain of only “budget” airlines has now become the standard airline industry model. An ever increasing array of airline fees introduced over the past few years means that when you purchase an airline ticket is rarely the last time you will be charged.

More and more your base airfare covers less and less of the air travel experience. So you buy your ticket

When I first started travelling regularly finding a good deal on an air fare was easy. You went to punched in your route and compared the prices. You then went to the website of your airline of choice after deciding whether loyalty to your preferred airline was worth the frequent flyer miles for any surcharge over the cheapest option.

Job done.

That is no longer the case today. More and more, your base airfare covers less and less of the air travel experience. So you buy your ticket and depending on your airline of choice you will find yourself confronted by (m)any for the following fees:

Fees Before You Arrive at the Airport

There are now a handful of fees that will you will face during the booking process. These fees are of course in addition to the airfare and the airport charges and fule surchrges we've already become accostomed to.

Has the ever increasing list of airline fees and charges put you off air travel?

See results

Booking Offline

Do you have a complex itinerary, or want to confirm details with an associate of the airline? Be prepared to pay a surcharge for that if you book your airfare over the phone– up to $50 a ticket.

The Continental Airlines of old charged $20 a ticket for phone reservations, a fee they would waive if you made the case that your itinerary couldn’t be booked online – after some haggling.

Generally, the only way to avoid this fee, book your airfares online. You better hope you aren’t travelling with infants or children. This is one area where online booking systems really fall down on a number of airlines, especially if you want to purchase a seat for your child under 2 years old.

Airfare Hold Fee:

Want to hold your airfare for 24 hours – that will be $25 dollars thank you. Upfront. By the time you check out your online airfares, you’d better be ready to book, or take the risk that you will lose the fare.

When I started travelling regularly for business in the US, Continental Airlines provided that service for free. Then the option disappeared, but frequent flyers could cancel within 24 hours fee free. Now as United Airlines there is a fee.

Pay by Credit Card:

Airlines wear a fee from the credit card processing company for each transaction processed. It can vary from 1% to 3% of the transaction value. For many years Airlines wore this, but as the industry has had to cope with additional cost pressures – pensions and rising fuel costs just to name two – this fee has been passed on to passengers.

Overseas it is common for this fee to be upfront. Budget and so –called full service airlines in Europe and Australia quite frankly call the fee a credit card processing fee. Which airlines? Lufthansa, Swiss, British Airways and Qantas have all engaged in the practice.

Seat Reservation Fee

Do you want to pick your own seat? There’s a fee for that on Australia’s flagship carrier, Qantas. Fees start at $25 but quickly rocket up to $160 for an exit row seat on a long-haul flight between Los Angeles and Sydney. If you leave it up to the airlines computer to assign you a seat? You and your travel companions had better be booked under the same booking reference. And even then be prepared to play musical chairs with passengers once on board.

United Airlines will also charge a seat premium fee. On my last short haul (under 1 hour) flight there was a $10 surcharge for a bulkhead row seat. On US Airways there is a reported $5 fee surcharge for a window seat.

Who else does it? American Airlines, Air Tran and even budget carrier Southwest who has a policy of no pre-assigned seating now offers a seat reservation for fee system.

Fees at the Airport:

You will likely meet the following fees once you are at the airport. Some of them, like the checked bag fee may be reduced if paid prior to arriving at the airport.

Checked Bag Fees:

There was much outrage when the first airlines began charging for checked bags. Initially there was a charge just for the first checked bag, but as passengers got wise and just carried bigger and bigger bags onto the aircraft, airlines began charging for all checked bags and policing carry-on bags. All of which added time to the check-in process.

It is fairly common practice for airlines to charge for checked bags on a sliding scale these days. Indicative pricing - $25 for each leg for the first bag, $35 for the second and $100 plus for the third bag.

You will notice the word “leg” in the previous paragraph. Take care to check whether the airline you book with charges baggage fees for each flight leg or by the trip legs. For example: is the $25 first bag fee going to apply if you fly from Dallas to Phoenix then change planes to Los Angeles? Or will that cost you $50?

One way to reduce the cost of your checked bag fee is to pay upfront online before you arrive at the airport. You will see reductions of $10 to $15 per bag depending on the airline. Checked bag fees are also often waived if you are connecting to an international flight. Depending on the airline and who checks you in on the day, this may only apply if you have the domestic leg ticketed on the same ticket as the international flights.

Gate Checked Bags Fee

Think you can avoid paying for checked bags by trying to sneak oversized luggage into the cabin? Think again. Not only will you irritate your fellow passengers but you will be charged a gate check bag fee. And yes, there is a premium for being trying to be sneaky.

Alaska Airlines is the first US airline to mimic the model already implemented by European airlines and charge for gate checked bags that exceed regulation size.

Carry-on Bags Fee

Two years ago when Spirit airlines introduced fees for carry-on bags, starting at $45 a bag there was a huge passenger outcry. The fee however was so successful in reducing carry-on bags that it is being upped to $100 per bag this fall.

In flight Fees

Think the fees stop once you've run the gauntlet of check in, security and boarding? Think again!

Pillow and Blanket Fees

Since you no longer have room in your carry-on bag to bring your own pillow and blankets, the airlines will kindly supply you with one. For a fee.

JetBlue charged $7 for a pillow and blanket when the fee was introduced in 2008 and American Airlines in 2012 introduced an $8 charge for the same items.

inflight Entertainment Charges

Unless you are flying internationally, where airlines are likely to have a personal video on demand system (Qantas, Virgin, British Airways to name a few), be prepared to pay for your in flight entertainment. These charges take many forms:

  • A few dollars for a headset, or
  • $6-$8 for United’s offer of DIRECTV on select flights (Free in Business First) or
  • $10-$15 for an iPad rental on Jetstar

Inflight Food

Charging for food is nothing new. We’ve all become accustomed to bringing our own snacks on domestic flights within the US because let’s face it, pretzels and water just aren’t going to get you through a 3 hour flight. But this just adds another cost to the airline travel experience, especially if you travel with a family.

Airline Fees – What are the consequences?

For budget conscious travelers the biggest problem all these variable fees charged by different airlines is in fare comparison. An airfare comparison across airlines is no longer a simple matter of going to to find the cheapest fare. It is now involves a spreadsheet and hours of reviewing the different supplementary fees that each airline will impose.

And if your trip is short, and you are travelling with a family? Add to the complexity of finding a good airfare deal, the hassle of checking in, clearing security and going through the boarding gate shuffle and the best answer may just be – ROAD TRIP!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)