Just when you thought the flying experience couldn’t get any worse. Overcrowded planes, impenetrable TSA security lines and $20 mixed drinks; the hassles of flying make one want to store themselves in the overhead bin. While some may view this as a necessary step to keep airlines operating in the black, most would classify airline tactics in two words: junk fees.
While airlines obviously need to make up for lost revenue and the effects of Covid, there are far better solutions than charging passengers for taking their belongings with them. Jeff Michaels is the author of Please Hug Me–I’ve Been Delayed, recommends several fees that seem much more agreeable (and we would be much happier to pay):
Creative Ways to Avoid Airline Junk Fees and Save on Airfare
- $5 fee to sit in a Crying-Baby free row during red eye flights.
- $7 fee for a #2-free bathroom. (May have to be enforced via the honor system.)
- $25 fee to fly the plane for a while. Want to attempt a landing? $50.
- $10 fee to deliver the safety announcement.
- $15 fee for the solution to the Sudoku puzzle in the in-flight magazine.
- $20 fee to swap seats with the person next to Pamela Anderson
Michaels has a few more tips for industry-saving solutions:
- Organize rows by drink preference for a cost-savings of one flight attendant per flight.
- Hold a raffle for “Guess who’s the Air Marshal?”
- Install a karaoke machine onboard. (They always save a failing business.)
- Buy Sierra Mist in bulk. (I’m pretty sure those tiny cans are more expensive than airlines think–at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe since every time I ask for a full can I receive a disapproving look from the flight attendants.)
Of course, there are more practical solutions such as renegotiating better fuel contracts, opening up routes controlled by the legacy carriers to smaller airlines, and simply adjusting ticket prices to account for higher flight costs.
Most people don’t mind paying a fair ticket price if they are guaranteed there will be no hidden fees when they arrive at the airport. It seemed to be working fairly well from 1903 until just a couple of years ago. Regardless of the industry, angering your customers has never been a way to save a business. We want to fly on your big shiny planes. Please help us.
Understanding Airline Fees
Before we dive into cost-saving strategies, let’s take a closer look at some of the common fees that airlines charge:
Carry-On Baggage Fees: Many airlines now charge fees for carry-on baggage, especially if you want to bring more than a personal item (like a small backpack or purse) into the cabin.
Checked Luggage Fees: Airlines often charge substantial fees for checked luggage. The cost can vary based on factors like the airline, destination, and the number of bags you check.
Seat Assignment Fees: Choosing your seat can come with an added cost, with some airlines charging extra for window or aisle seats, as well as seats with extra legroom.
Overweight and Oversized Baggage Fees: If your baggage exceeds weight or size restrictions, you may face hefty surcharges.
Junk Fees: Airlines have become increasingly creative in finding additional ways to charge passengers. These junk fees can include charges for printing your boarding pass at the airport, making changes to your booking, or even choosing a meal option.
Now, let’s explore some creative ways to avoid these fees and save money on your airfare.
Tips to Avoid Baggage Fees and Save on Airfare
Travel Light with a Personal Item: To avoid carry-on baggage fees, pack efficiently and travel with a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. This might be a small backpack or a tote bag, depending on the airline’s guidelines. By sticking to a personal item, you can bypass carry-on fees altogether.
Use Airlines with Generous Carry-On Policies: Some airlines still allow one free carry-on bag in addition to a personal item. Research and choose airlines that have more lenient carry-on policies if you prefer not to check luggage.
Pack Smart and Travel with a Carry-On: If you must check luggage, make the most of your carry-on allowance. Choose a carry-on bag that maximizes space and adheres to the airline’s size restrictions. Rolling your clothes and using packing cubes can help you fit more into your carry-on.
Fly with Airlines that Offer Free Checked Bags: Several airlines, especially international carriers and certain credit card-linked benefits, offer free checked bags as part of their services. Take advantage of these airlines to save on baggage fees.
Join a Frequent Flyer Program: Enroll in frequent flyer programs or airline loyalty programs. Many airlines offer elite status members free checked bags, priority boarding, and seat selection benefits.
Travel During the Off-Peak Season: To save on airfare and avoid seat assignment fees, consider traveling during the off-peak season when flights are less crowded. Airlines may be more likely to offer complimentary seat assignments during these times.
Check for Seat Assignments During Online Check-In: Some airlines provide free seat assignments during online check-in within 24 hours of your flight. If you can be flexible with your seat selection, this can save you the seat assignment fee.
Utilize Travel Credit Cards: Travel credit cards often offer perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, and airline credits. These benefits can help offset the cost of fees and enhance your overall travel experience.
Book Airline Packages: Many airlines offer vacation packages that include flights, accommodations, and other amenities. Sometimes these packages can work out to be more cost-effective than booking each component separately.
Negotiate at the Airport: If you’re faced with unexpected fees at the airport, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Airlines sometimes have room for flexibility and may waive or reduce certain fees if you discuss your situation with a customer service agent.
Airline baggage fees, seat assignment charges, and other ancillary fees have become a standard part of the air travel experience. However, with some strategic planning and creativity, you can minimize these costs and save on your airfare. By traveling light, utilizing loyalty programs, booking packages, and staying informed about airline policies, you can enjoy your journey without breaking the bank. So, the next time you plan a trip, remember these creative ways to avoid airline baggage fees and make your travel experience more budget-friendly.