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Consumer Reports: Avoiding airline fees

Posted at 9:21 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 10:21:44-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — The busy summer travel season is upon us. Anyone who's ever booked a flight may know the gamble of finding a deal that seemed too good to be true... and then finding out it was. Suddenly, you can find yourself paying a lot more than you thought you would.

Why does that happen? And how do you keep it from happening to you?

When you see the price of the ticket, it usually does not include all of the extra fees for things like checking a bag or selecting your seat. Those sorts of things can add big bucks to the cost of your ticket. But, there are some simple ways to avoid them.

Consumer Reports editor Pang-Chieh Ho thought she was getting a good deal on a flight to Florida — until she looked a little closer.

“It was the carry-on bag fee that I was most surprised by,” said Ho. “The fees for my flight were more expensive than the airfare itself.”

Ho’s experience is not uncommon, according to CR’s Aviation Adviser Bill McGee.

“These days, many airlines make more money off of fees than they do off of base airfares,” McGee said.

So what can you do to save?

Start by checking out the airline’s website to find out exactly what’s included in the price for the type of ticket you are considering. Then decide what extras you’re willing to pay for.

“Ask yourself, what could they possibly be charging me? Baggage is the most obvious — even carry-on baggage — a seat assignment, early boarding,” said McGee.

And while many airlines have loosened or even eliminated change or cancellation fees, Southwest, for example, allows for two free checked bags — a rarity.

If you’re a frequent flier on the same airline, consider that airline’s credit card, which could offer valuable perks such as free checked bags, priority seat selection and boarding and other valuable travel treats.

Ho plans to do some more traveling this summer. She knows the flights will likely be very crowded and cost more than last year.

Bill McGee has a final piece of advice for snagging a decent fare.

“If you see a fare right now and you think you’re going to be traveling this summer, my advice is to book it,” McGee said.

If you’re trying to avoid a checked bag fee by only using a carry-on, remember there are very strict rules on the sizes of any carry-ons you may have.