No one should have to pay these ridiculous airline fees

ridiculous airline fees

If it seems like your ticket comes with more ridiculous airline fees than ever, it’s not your imagination. The ability to reserve a seat, change your flight and even to carry a bag onto the plane have been quietly stripped away — and then added back as “gotcha” fees.

Yes, you can still get those “perks.” But you either have to pay extra for them or participate in the airline’s habit-forming frequent flier program. The most recent indignity, a dustup over minimum seat size, has many travelers asking: Should there be other minimum standards, when it comes to flying?

“It doesn’t seem right,” says Kathleen Crowley, a frequent flyer and fashion designer who lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She recently booked a “basic” economy class seat on American Airlines, and it came without the ability to reserve a seat. That didn’t sit well with her.

“When I buy a plane ticket, am I not buying a seat on that plane?” she asks.

How these ridiculous airline fees came to be

Before I detail the ridiculous airline fees, let’s spend a moment talking about how you lost these perks. Airlines didn’t “unbundle” these amenities from your airfares, which would have suddenly lowered your cost of flying. Instead, they kept the ticket prices the same and just started charging more for these essentials. In other words, they raised prices.

So to those of you who claim the stripped-down “basic” fares give budget-conscious air travelers more choices, I have just one thing to say: Please stop parroting airline propaganda. Removing these perks and hiding them was just a money grab that made the airline industry wildly profitable – and you a little poorer.

Check out half the cases on my consumer advocacy site if you don’t believe me.

Here’s a brief list of the amenities you’ve lost:

Basic amenities

Want a blanket or pillow to help you sleep on your overnight transatlantic flight? If you’re in coach, you’ll probably have to pay for it.

Maybe it seems frivolous, but items like pillows, blankets, drinks and food are important to passengers, especially on longer flights. Airlines used to include them as part of your fare because it was the right thing to do. They still do in business and first-class. But now they make passengers in the main cabin pay extra.

What’s more, the items for sale are disposable. “Many budget airlines will sell you blankets and pillows, allowing you to keep them after the flight is over,” Matt Woodley, a frequent hotel guest who writes a blog about international moving. “This is terribly impractical because the blankets are generally of lower quality and nobody wants to lug around a large blanket emblazoned with JetBlue on it.”

A carry-on bag

Some airlines now charge you each way for a carry-on bag.

“This is another attempt to upsell on what used to be considered normal,” says Jeffrey Tucker, a frequent air traveler who works for a nonprofit organization in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Who travels without luggage? Actually, some travelers have started doing just that in response to the fees. They shouldn’t have to. The ability to check a bag – or to carry it on a plane, for that matter – should be included in the price of your ticket. Period.

A seat reservation

This is one of the stranger things the airlines have taken away. Until recently, you used to be able to make a seat reservation when you booked a flight. Now you have to pay for the privilege.

This one has hit families and people with special needs the hardest. If they don’t pay even more for a seat reservation, they might be separated on a flight. Congress tried – but failed – to right this wrong.

“A lot of travelers still think the ability to reserve a seat should be standard,” says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir. “No matter the fare.”

A printout of your boarding pass

Flying Spirit and want a printout of your boarding pass? That’ll be $10, please.

I’m not joking. Some low-fare airlines, such as Spirit, charge up to $10 to print your boarding pass. Ryanair asks passengers to fork over an eye-popping $25 for a hard copy of their boarding passes. That’s absurd. Can we at least agree that boarding passes should be included in the price of your ticket?

Ticket changes

In the old days, you used to make a change to your ticket for a nominal fee (or even free). Today, ticket change fees can exceed the value of your ticket. Some “basic” fares can’t even be changed.

How to fix the problem of ridiculous airline fees

How about instead of misrepresenting their fares, we get all of the airlines on the same page. Ask them, or require them, to quote ticket prices that include all of these essential items: a boarding pass printout, a seat reservation, a checked bag, basic amenities and the ability to change a ticket for a reasonable price. If you want to uncheck a box that removes these extras, fine. The cost of your flight will fall. But don’t quote a “bare” fare and leave passengers with the impression they’re getting a deal.

Fact is, on some low fare carriers, passengers are spending almost as much on fees as they are on their ticket. That’s deceptive – and wrong. Every airline ticket should come with a basic level of service and amenities. Airlines know what those “perks” are because they’re already giving them to their top customers. So do you.

How much money are airlines making by selling ‘perks’?

Airlines have made a fortune by removing amenities and then selling them back to you. In fact, some airlines wouldn’t be profitable without revenue from so-called “ancillary” revenue.

Luggage fees: According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, domestic airlines collected a record $4.9 billion in 2018, up from $4.6 billion the previous year. A decade earlier, they only collected $464 million.

Ticket change fees: Airlines collected $1.4 billion in ticket change fees in 2018, about the same as the previous year. A decade before, airlines charged just $915 million.

Other fees: Airlines don’t have to report income from other fees. But in 2018, the airline industry collected more than $90 billion – yes, that’s with a “b” – from all ancillary revenues, which includes the sale of its frequent flyer miles.

Posted in On Travel Tagged , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.