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Dozens of airline fees grew or changed in 2012, study finds

February 10, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • Fees to check or, in some cases, carry on luggage can be confusing to calculate.
Fees to check or, in some cases, carry on luggage can be confusing to calculate. (Chicago Tribune )

Airline travel fees — including charges to check a bag and to board early — have become so prevalent that travelers practically need an advanced degree in mathematics to calculate overall trip costs.

Last year at least 36 airline fees increased and 16 others were redefined, bundled or unbundled with other services, according to a study by the consumer travel website TravelNerd.

One bright spot in the TravelNerd study was that the average airline fee increases were only $5 to $10 each.

And in one case an airline had a big fee reduction. The study found that United Airlines reduced its fee for checking an overweight bag to $100 from $200 for bags weighing 50 to 70 pounds and to $200 from $400 for bags weighing 71 to 100 pounds.

“Travelers really have to be extra cautious when booking a flight,” said Alicia Jao, vice president of travel media at TravelNerd, who predicts even more fees in 2013. “U.S. carriers are becoming creative at charging consumers extra fees.”

Some airline seem to charge fees arbitrarily, said Perach Mazol, a Los Angeles resident who recently flew to Florida to take a cruise.

On her flight from L.A. to Fort Lauderdale on Florida-based Spirit Airlines, she said, the airline did not charge for the carry-on bags she and her friends had, but it charged $50 each to carry the same bags on the flight back. (Spirit is one of the two airlines in the U.S. that charge passengers for carry-on luggage.)

“I don’t understand why they charged us on one flight and they don’t on the other,” Mazol said. “It’s confusing.”

Misty Pinson, a Spirit spokeswoman, said the airline tries to enforce its policies consistently. “Maybe she got lucky one way and didn’t have to pay,” Pinson said.

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