A handy guide to exorbitant airline fees

Airlines loath raising prices, and rising fuel costs are driving them to employ some creative ways to pry money out of your pocket without actually raise the fares. The cornerstone of their new strategy is fees and, quite frankly, things are getting out of hand.

Want to check two bags? That’ll cost you up to $50 extra. It’s a great incentive to pack light, but it could get worse: U.S. budget airline, Spirit, is charging $25 for the first bag. And what happens if you want a meal on that seven hour flight? United will charge you $7 for the privilege of eating.

The cynical might wonder when the oxygen fees will arrive — $100 if you want to breath all the way to your destination.

For the vagabond on an extended trip, airfare will likely be the single largest expense you encounter. Despite how it might appear, it is still possible to find good deals on plane tickets, but you need to pay attention to more than just the fare.

SideStep, an airfare search engine, recently compiled a list of common fees on major airlines, which is worth checking out if you’re in the process of planning a trip. Most the listings are limited to U.S. and European carriers, but even budget, vagabond-favorites like EasyJet and RyanAir are included.

SideStep cautions that you should refer to the specific air carrier websites for the latest on fees since, “airline fees are changing rapidly and they can vary by specific flight, seat assignment, and frequent flier status.” Still, for a rough overview of all the ways airlines will try to squeeze the money out of you, SideStep’s list makes a good starting point.

If the whole experience of buying a plane ticket leaves you feeling frazzled and ripped off, consider Steven Colbert’s suggestion, “Airfare by the pound, just like ground round,” and try to find some humor and solace in the notion that yes, things could be worse.

[Photo by Mike Licht, Flickr.com]

Posted by | Comments (2)  | August 27, 2008
Category: General

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