Frequent flyer cards and airfare discount sites have long existed to offset the cost of travel, but according to a recent study, airlines have found a new way of burdening customers with cost. What was once a series of small fines have jumped to doubling the price of a ticket for some airlines.
According to a new USA Today survey of service charges for 13 U.S. carriers, United Airlines and most Continental Airlines flights require a $400 fee for checking bags exceeding 71 pounds for international travel, while American Airlines tacks on an additional $450 for overweight bags headed to Asia.
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As if overweight fees weren’t bad enough, most airlines have adapted charging customers for simply checking a bag, costing up to $38 for a domestic flight and $43 for an international flight on Spirit Airlines. Second and third bags can average anywhere between $35 and $200, according to the study.
Last month the Transportation Department mandated U.S. airlines to outline all fees for optional services and display the information prominently on their web sites. Airlines are also required to disclose any bag-fee increases on the home page. But the fee transparency has yet to prevent airlines from shamelessly charging customers for services that were once complimentary.
To change an international ticket, Delta Air Lines and United charge $250 while Frontier Airlines imposes a $50 fee. Booking fees are also common, including US Airways’ “free” booking fee of $55 to $90 to reserve by phone and $25 to $50 if booked online. Fliers beware of Spirit Airlines’ charge for carry-on bags, asking customers to pay $30 if notifying the airline online, $35 by phone or $40 at the airport.
Last year some airlines even offered online discounts to check bags, but many of those savings options have also disappeared.
According to USA Today, the Air Transport Association claims “…airfares alone are inadequate to cover costs of transporting customers,” but NewsFeed wonders how long customers will put up with the inundation of fees before turning to other options.
Looks like it’s time for that high-speed rail.