The Pros and Cons of Extra Travel Fees

Whether we like it or not, ancillary travel fees are here to stay. If you are carefully budgeting a trip, be very careful with extra fees because they can add up quickly. A few years ago we made a last minute decision to fly from Seattle to Denver for a ski trip because we found low fares on Frontier Airlines. While our $200 ticket price seemed like a good deal, it didn’t seem like such a good idea when we had to pay over $200 for our eight pieces of ski trip luggage. (Airlines must love flights to Denver because of all the skiers toting their skis, boots, etc.)

Wolfe Research recently announced that airline ancillary revenue grew by 7% in 2014, which is the most since 2010. And January 2015 ancillary revenues are already at a 9% increase.   You can be sure that that entire travel industry is making note of that.

Besides trying to build these extra costs into your travel budget, make sure you read the fine print. Most airline extras are not refundable. So if you change your mind about that extra legroom or early boarding priority you might be out of luck. The only time the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the airlines to refund baggage fees is when the airline loses your luggage. DOT also mandates the airlines to refund your optional services fees you can’t use when they cancel your flight or bump you from a flight.

On one hand, I’d really prefer to have the fees hidden. I’d rather not see them. Just roll them into the ticket price or room fee. I hate going to a hotel and paying $15 a day for inept Wifi service or paying $30 parking fees just for my car to sit in a lot all day. And I’m 5’2” so I don’t care if I’m in an extra legroom seat or not.

There is some good news. Some extras that we used to pay for are now becoming gratis and some new conveniences are being offered: local phone calls, Wifi (some hotels), chargers in our plane seats, etc.

Since it looks like they are here to stay, I will look on the bright side. At least I will have a choice on what I pay for and what I don’t and maybe that’s better all the way around. As long as they don’t start charging for the bathrooms ….

Oh, and a shout out to Southwest Airlines for refusing to charge bag fees!

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