By now, everyone is aware of baggage fees and the windfall that airlines are making by charging them. But what about other hidden costs? In order to avoid your plane ticket being much more than you expect, be sure to read the fine print on the airline before you book.
Fuel surcharges, for example, can amount to hundreds of dollars, especially on a “free” flight booked with miles. British Airways is said to be a great airline, but is notorious for its fuel surcharges, which can be upwards towards $600 on what is supposed to be a “free” international miles ticket. However, if you can score a seat on one of British Airways’ partners like American or US Airways or Iberia, your mandatory taxes and fees could be a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, many people are now realizing this and those coveted seats go quickly, so book mileage flights as early as possible, some of them allow for certain changes without fees.
Speaking of change fees, I am not sure why these still exist, but a change fee can be $150-200 to change a ticket plus the difference in airfare. One notable exception to this policy is Southwest Airlines, which only requires that you pay the difference in fare and no additional fee. This is why whenever I am fairly confident that I am going to have to change my itinerary, I opt for Southwest. Nobody has time to tack on an additional $200 on a ticket for a minor change!
Another source of hidden fees is on certain low-cost carriers. Norwegian Air Shuttle, for example, offers many inexpensive flights to Europe, specifically Scandinavia, but according to their website, if you wish to choose your seat or your checked baggage is more than 44 pounds or 20 kg (the limit is usually 50 pounds), you will not only have to pay for checked baggage but also an excess baggage fee. This is similar to domestic carriers like Spirit Airlines, that require you to pay for everything from checking your bag to carrying on a bag to choosing a seat to water. And now the major airlines are cracking down on bags being even one pound over the limit, with fees ranging around $100 for an overweight bag. You may even incur a fee if you don’t print out your boarding pass before you get to the airport. It is best to know what you are dealing with in advance and make sure to get familiar with all of the airline rules.
On the contrary, there are ways to get around the fees. Southwest is the only major domestic carrier to still offer two free checked bags. And on long-haul flights, they give you snacks (score)! Also, be sure to leverage any airline or travel credit cards you may have, as they may offer free baggage perks, which cut down on the costs.
A low-cost ticket may still be worth it, even with fees tacked on. But be wary of hidden fees; a ticket that may seem dirt-cheap may end up costing more than a ‘normal’ priced ticket in the end if you don’t read the fine print. After all, you don’t want to any surprises.
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