Airline Fees Soar, Tap Travelers For Billions

Airline fees are hard to escape, but its not like we don’t try. Many travelers today have adapted to a world of baggage fees, service fees and in-flight fees, accepting them as part of the deal. Others avoid fees when they can by carrying on luggage rather than checking it or avoiding in person/over-the-phone fees by making changes on line. But even those savvy travelers can’t seem to stay ahead of the game, and for good reason. A recent study found over 50 domestic airline changes in 2012.

These fees are a considerable source of revenue for airlines, bringing in an estimated $36.1 billion in 2012, an 11% increase over 2011. To keep that revenue action happening, airlines have increased or changed the definition of fees. Bundling or un-bundling fees has had a negative impact as well.

“These changes have had a tremendous impact on U.S. travelers, especially on families. Travelers really have to be extra cautious when booking a flight. U.S. carriers are becoming creative at charging consumers extra fees,” says Alicia Jao, VP Travel Media at TravelNerd on their web site, that features the only airline fees comparison and search tool.TravelNerd compared the fees of major U.S. airlines in January 2013 to those reported by the airlines throughout 2012. What they found were over 50 changes in fees since last year.

Direct fee increases made up 36 of the 52 changes noted. Bundling or unbundling of fees, along with increasing fee price ranges and redefining fee policies added up to more fees for travelers.

“A new trend that we’re currently seeing is carriers bundling and tiering services,” says Jao. “This practice is not only more confusing for travelers, but it also complicates price comparison. Even airlines that have touted fewer fees are joining the game, indicating only more fees in 2013.”

Singled out as notorious for charging fees in the study? Ultra-low cost airlines Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air. Given kudos? United Airlines, which actually lowered their overweight bag fees from $200 to $100 for bags 51-70 pounds and from $400 to $200 for bags 71-100 pounds.

Looking for ways to save on airline fees? Check this quick video for some budget travel tips:

[Photo Credit: United Airlines]