Plane tickets are cheaper now than they were in the past when you had to pay one time and everything was all-inclusive. The emergence of discount airlines has changed the industry. You can fly for a very low price if you don’t need anything but a seat and have no luggage.
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. Companies made more than $6 billion in profits from baggage, cancellation and change fees in 2014 alone, according to a Department of Transportation report.
Discount airlines tend to have more and higher extra charges, forcing people to pack very light and book flights way in advance without the possibility of changing the dates. In the end, a low-cost ticket with many additional fees and flying with a standard airline can cost about the same.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Spend the money you could save on travel to treat yourself to a nice dinner or a relaxing massage at your destination. After all, you’re on vacation.
Time is money. So when you call the airline to book a flight, the travel agent will charge you a fee. It usually is between $15 and $35. Calling your credit card provider to book a flight – with your reward points or not – will also cost you extra. New air bookings made by phone are additional $39 per ticket, according to AmEx Travel.
Most airlines offer a WiFi service but it’s not free. Depending on why you need Internet, you can avoid the fee. A good trick is to open all sites, apps and programs you may need before you leave for the airport. Open as many tabs as you think you need – new stories, games or documents – because you won’t be able to refresh the page.
You will have to pay if you want a specific seat on the plane. The extra charge for this perk may vary between $3 and 20 (or more). AirTran charges $5 if you’re on a discounted coach ticket; Allegiant charges $11; AirTran charges $15 if you want to grab an exit row seat; and Northwest recently upped the charge from $15 to $20, according to Airfare Watchdog.
Many times you buy a ticket through a third-party website such as CheapTickets the sale is final. You may or may not see a message in very small print that says they won’t even a partial refund if you if you have to reschedule. You’d be charged a fee, which may end up costing as much as the ticket itself. Some airlines, such as AlaskaAir, have a flexible booking period of 24 hours after a purchased ticket. You may have to make a reservation via their site. If you’re traveling in Europe, EasyJet, another discount airline, has FLEXI fares available on all routes and provide unlimited flexibility to change the date of your flights up to two hours prior to the scheduled departure time.
Using your miles to buy a ticket may seem like you’re flying for free. But some airlines have constraints. According to Airfare Watchdog, using your miles may cost you $75 for “Last minute” which can vary between 20 days to three days before the flight date. Plus, you’ll also have to pay the airport and fuel fees. In the end, depending on where you’re going, you may have to pay the same amount as if you were not using your miles. You might as well save them then.
If you take them with you, you have to check a bag. Most airlines will charge you at least $25 – it can sometimes even reach $75, especially if you’re using a discount airline – for the first checked bag. Most hotels have shampoos, soaps and conditioners in the rooms, free for you to use as you please. Even buying a small-size shampoo or body wash at a local store will be less than $25.
First it was paying to check a bag, now you have to come out of your pocket to simply carry a bag on board. If you can, fly with an airline that doesn’t have such a fee yet. Or pack very light. They won’t charge you for carrying a purse. According to Airfare Watchdog, Allegiant will charge $10 to $75 depending on when and where purchased and route flown; Frontier will charge $25 for “economy fares” if paid at time of initial fare purchase; Spirit will charge $25-$50 ($100 if you pay at the gate).
Who doesn’t mind paying $5 for a small bottle of water? You can’t bring your own through airport security but you can bring an empty water bottle. Fill it up at one of the many water fountains at the airport before you board. You will probably get a complimentary beverage on the plane but a small cup of water is simply not enough.
More and more airlines are charging higher bag fees if you pay them at the airport, as opposed to paying them in advance on the airline’s website, according to Cheap Air. It is always recommended to check your flight in advance and see if you can pre-pay your bag fees. Bonus: This will save you time at the airport as well.
Ideally, you won’t check any luggage, because who wants to wait for it later? But if you must, make sure it’s not above the allowed weight because the extra fees is anything between $25 and $100, depending on how many bags are too heavy. Use a regular scare you have at home; they are pretty accurate.
The smaller the airport the better. Alternative airports are also a good idea if you want to avoid big crowds. If you want to fly to London, for example, consider actually flying to Dublin (Ireland), where airfare taxes are much lower. From there you can fly to London with a budget airline and save a ton.
Each international flight incurs a series of taxes for everything from sales tax to customs. Book direct flights whenever you can to avoid this extra charge.
Use your phone as a boarding pass. Spirit, for example, will charge you $10 to print each boarding pass with a gate agent, according to the company’s site. If you’re traveling in Europe and using RyanAir, a low-cost airline, you have to check-in online. If you want to do it at the airport, prepare to pay about $50 more and an additional $17 for a printed boarding pass. Bonus: You help save the environment.