As the year closes with record-breaking airline fees of $118 Billion, that includes hefty sums collected from Hawaii flights, there are even more egregious fees and other tricks either on the horizon or already coming into practice. When even that much income derived from seat selection fees, baggage fees, and in-flight offerings isn’t enough, airlines have further plans for us, as you’ll see below. We’ll tell you what’s ahead and how to fight back.
With the airlines grappling with both greater competition on ticket prices and the desire to show the lowest prices possible to attract buyers in a bait-and-switch type tactic, ancillary sales have become the industry go-to for driving profits.
Blame our tax code for some of this. Did you know that airline add-on fees are not subject to the 7.5 percent federal ticket excise tax.
Ancillary airline fees were once largely associated with carriers like Allegiant, Breeze, Frontier, Spirit, and Sun Country. They are among the companies that helped bring us the now ubiquitous seat assignment and bag fees.
As an example of where things are heading, some airlines, like British Airways, now even charge their business class customers for seat assignments (unless they’re also premium members)? That’s nuts, and it probably won’t stop with them. BA has also just started charging a credit card surcharge.
The way that fees are presented makes it easy for airlines, as on Hawaii flights, to display the teaser price. That happens before getting us hooked on the idea of going on a Hawaii vacation and all of the extra costs that follow. This is done to entice passengers, extract greater spend and drive profits.
Airlines create a questionable sense of urgency to purchase.
Have you ever noticed, for example, that airlines (Southwest is one example) let you know that there are only X number of seats available at a specific price? That may or may well not be true.
And remember that you always have 24 hours to cancel and get your money back when anything goes awry.
We mentioned recently that we were only able to buy one Hawaiian Airlines ticket at a time to get the best deal since they had marked up the price when buying two tickets together. We were able, however, to buy them separately and still travel together at the best fare. Had anything gone wrong, we’d have just used the 24-hour mandatory refund escape rule.
It’s hard to compare airline offers when the final price isn’t immediately obvious.
Airlines intentionally make it hard for us to compare prices. Whether on the airline’s website or via Google Flights. That is because additional charges such as seat selection and bag fees aren’t revealed until later in the buying process.
Avoid the airlines’ trip insurance, car rentals, and hotel offers.
It almost never works out in the traveler’s favor to buy any of these from an airline. But airlines have our attention and keep pushing them both in the initial purchase as well as in emails and app interactions that follow. Don’t buy these tactics. We suggest doing your own shopping and buying these separately.
Some of the new fees that airlines are concocting.
A number of low-cost airlines have already created fees that truly surprised us. And somehow, we think it isn’t stopping here or that Hawaii flights will be immune. Does the industry let the ultra low cost carriers try imposing these first, just to see how much it is possible to get away with?
Sun Country, which previously flew to Hawaii, now has a fee called a “passenger interface fee,” and it covers all reservations made via phone or on the airline or OTA’s website. Yikes! Apparently, the only workaround is to buy a ticket at an airport ticket counter. And the charge associated with that fee starts at $22 per flight. It is wrapped in its taxes and fees section of the cost and not specifically broken out. But Sun Country isn’t alone.
Others, with Hawaii flight aspirations, like Breeze (started by Jet Blue’s founder), have similar reservation fees, in their case called a technology development charge, starting at $27 each way.
Spirit also has a passenger usage fee starting at about $20 per flight.
And Allegiant, which went running from Hawaii, imposes an electronic usage charge, which will cost you from $22 per flight. Those are just the starting prices for these fees, by the way. Allegiant is also the only US airline that currently imposes a credit card surcharge which it calls a “convenience fee.”
Driving to the airport, parking, and waiting in line to buy tickets in order to avoid these fees is a headache for most of us. And airlines know that. It might, however, be worth it when large families or groups are traveling together.
What are you doing to help reduce the impact of airlines’ costly fee games?