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How to Get Around Most Airlines' Hidden Fees

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Linsay ThomasGuest Blogger
July 29, 2016 · 2.2k Views

how to get around most airlines' hidden fees

Plane tickets are cheaper now than they were in the past. But at least everything was all-inclusive. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for airlines to tack on a few hundred extra dollars for luggage, carry-ons and more. Then there are the hidden fees.

You might get charged for booking over the phone, changing a flight or requesting a paper ticket. Don’t suffer from sticker shock when you receive the bill for your next vacation. Here’s how to get around those outrageous charges and pay less for your plane ticket.

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1. Baggage fees

Very rarely do you go on a flight without bringing luggage, so why should you have to pay for it? It seems unfair, but airlines can charge you for whatever they want, so they do. Southwest Airlines is the only airline that offers a free checked bag – actually it offers two free bags, but the third one is $75. Discount airlines typically charge $30 a bag or more. All in all, fees for checked bags range from $25 to $75. So if you’re bringing a few bags, expect to add as much as a couple hundred bucks to your ticket price. Surprisingly, having the right credit card can help. If you have Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage card or the United Explorer card, your first checked bag is free. You can also attempt to pack all your luggage into one carry-on and avoid the fees. This may seem impossible, but it’s actually pretty easy if you can master the art of rolling your clothes.

2. Direct Ticketing fees

Believe it or not, you can get gouged with fees based on how you purchase your ticket. Most airlines will charge you for booking your flight over the phone or at a ticket counter. Depending on the airline, you may pay an extra $15 to $40. You can avoid this fee by booking online. Southwest doesn’t charge for booking over the phone, so this is an option as well.

3. Paper Ticket fees

Companies no longer want to send you tickets for free. If you want the airline to give you a physical ticket, you’ll have to pay up – to the tune of $50. Avoid this charge by using an e-ticket on your mobile device or by printing your own ticket at home.

4. Seat fees

Yes, it’s pathetic, but some airlines make you pay for the opportunity to select your own seat. If you’re picky about where you sit, expect yet another fee. We’re not talking about a nominal charge here – expect to pay up to $80! And that’s not even for a first-class seat. So when flying, it helps to be a laid-back, low-maintenance person who doesn’t care where they sit.

5. Change fees

You may be all set to enjoy you long-awaited vacation to that all-inclusive resort until life throws you a curveball. Maybe your boss needs you to prepare an important presentation that week, or perhaps a family emergency has come up. You can change your plans, but don’t expect the airline to leave you off fee-free – unless you used Southwest, which doesn’t charge any fees to change your flight. For other airlines expect to be charged anywhere from $50 to $250.

6. Award point fees

There’s apparently no such thing as free rewards. Sadly, you’ll have to pay just to use your miles and award points. Expect to pay $25 - $150, depending on the airline.

7. Holiday fees

When it comes to air travel, the holidays are the busiest times of the year. So naturally, airlines take advantage of this by charging you extra to fly during specific times of the year. Expect to pay up to $30 in extra fees. You can avoid this fee if you can be flexible with your travel arrangements, but it can be difficult to convince your family to have Christmas in February so you won’t have to pay more to travel on December 24th.

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to get charged hundreds of dollars for various fees. Unfortunately, hidden airline fees won’t be going away anytime soon, so your only options are to deal with them or refuse to fly altogether. In fact, they’ll likely get worse. You best bet is to be aware of them and know what you can be charged for.  Know that your ticket price is not the final price when it comes down to it. Do your best to avoid these fees so you can fly to your destination for the lowest price possible.


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Linsay Thomas is a seasoned writer and editor who has written thousands of articles about topics such as saving money, healthcare, law, pets and education. She hails from California, where she lives with her husband, two children and a menagerie of pets. When she's not writing, she enjoys sports, breeding chocolate Labs and visiting the beach.

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