Every passionate traveler meets the same challenge. No, I’m not talking about finding a way to get money for travel or mastering the art of squeezing in a few extra vacations; it’s not the case today.
Every passionate traveler struggles with uncovered airline fees.
Personally, I’ve found that buying tickets is the most irritating part of international trips. Once I finally get a good deal, I have to wade through the maze of ads and once-in-a-lifetime’ offers. It’s really annoying to decline the 101 extras they try to throw in my cart.
Blink, and it’s on your bill. And just like that, your focus is put to the test by the airline’s services!
Luckily, you are able to control your conscious travel choices. This guide will outline the ten sneakiest hidden airline fees, offer advice on how to handle them, and explain how common they are.
The Ten Most Annoying Hidden Airline Fees
How do we measure what is most unwanted?
By the level of annoyance.
Passport-Photo.Online surveyed individuals, asking them to rank hidden fees by irritation level on a 5-point scale. I decided to use their results and, based on them, provide travel tips for avoiding ten of the most bothersome hidden fees.
1. Carry-on fee
Imagine a mosquito buzzing around your room at night. Think how much you’d like to fall asleep and how irritating this sound is. That’s the equivalent irritation of the carry-on fee in the airline world.
The majority of airlines include carry-on baggage in their ticket prices. However, some others treat it like an extra cost. The trap? When booking, many travelers, accustomed to inclusive pricing, may mistakenly choose a ticket that charges an additional fee for carry-on luggage.
This fee introduces unexpected costs and muddies the waters when comparing flight prices. Although you may assume ticket prices are similar, these additional fees can make a difference.
The icing on the cake of challenges are various baggage policies. Different airlines have varied sizes and weight restrictions for carry-on items. You might discover that your allowed carry-on size is smaller than anticipated, leading you to purchase checked baggage.
Tip: Always double-check baggage policies and fees before finalizing your ticket purchase to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
2. Checked Baggage Fee
While carry-on bags often fly free, their larger cousins, the checked bags, usually come with a price tag. Southwest Airlines is the only exception to this trend.
Wait a moment… Actually, what is the difference between carry-on and checked baggage? Let’s demystify the luggage lingo:
- Carry-On Bag: This is your cabin companion. It’s compact enough to fit overhead but comes with a list of “can’t-take-this” items – mainly liquids.
- Checked Luggage: Think of this as the safe for your valuables. Hidden in the interior of the airplane, it’s out of sight during the flight. The good news? You can store liquids, pen knives, and other special items here.
American carriers started charging for checked baggage in 2008, citing rising fuel costs. Now, it’s a standard. At the same time, people are annoyed by paying for the comfort of packing additional items. It leads them to the famous “to pack or not to pack” decision.
How can you deal with that?
You can pack light. However, there’s a nice life hack: airline credit cards. Almost every airline credit card includes a free checked bag for you and anyone else in your party. Also, elevate your travel game by exploring elite status on airline loyalty programs or getting elite status. They often roll out the red carpet for baggage benefits.
Tip: Before your next booking, skim through any credit card perks or frequent flyer benefits you might already possess.
3. Taxes Not Included in the Initial Ticket Quote
In the sage words of Benjamin Franklin, the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Well, it appears airline tickets didn’t escape the tax net, either.
Here’s a peek into some of the charges that might be nestled in your fare:
- Airport Tax: Flying from Singapore’s Changi? Part of your ticket funds the Passenger Service Charge, ensuring the airport remains top-notch.
- Security Tax: The U.S. charges a “September 11 Security Fee.” Think of this as your contribution to those TSA pat-downs and security checks.
- Air Passenger Duty (APD): For those departing the UK, brace yourselves. This fee varies by distance and seat class. An Economy flight to the USA might set you back by around £80, but if you’re feeling swanky in Business class, expect to dig deeper.
- Customs and Immigration Fees: Entering the U.S.? There’s a fee for all international flights arriving in the country.
- Fuel Surcharges: Airlines like Austrian Airlines and British Airways sometimes add a dash of this fee, especially for those long hauls across the Atlantic.
- Administrative Fees: Booking online with certain carriers? Some companies may sneakily tack on a “convenience fee” if you book directly through their website rather than through a travel agent.
Tip: Always decode the ticket jargon by checking the breakdown of costs. It’ll give you the full picture of what you’re paying for. After all, forewarned is forearmed!
4. Automatically-Added Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is the superhero of overseas adventures – always there, even if we hope we never need its powers. But just as you wouldn’t want someone picking your superhero costume, you’d likely prefer to choose your travel insurance tailored to your exploits. After all, a leisurely stay at an all-inclusive resort warrants different coverage than a daring mountain trek.
So, shouldn’t the decision to opt for insurance be yours? One would think.
Yet, in the quirky world of air travel, some airlines sneakily sprinkle in travel insurance during the booking process. According to a recent study of NetVoucherCodes, Ryanair is one of the most notable offenders, with AirBaltic and Finnair following suit.
Tip: Stay vigilant during the final stage of ticket purchases. It is the most common time for an insurance policy to come up.
5. Reservation Changes and Cancellation Fees
You probably know the awesome excitement of booking a flight. But amidst the thrill, there’s that lurking dread: “What if I need to change or cancel?”
Life’s unpredictability doesn’t bend to flight schedules. From unexpected illnesses to last-minute family events, life has its way of throwing curveballs. Yet, airline tickets? The stubborn ones often demand steep fees for changes or cancellations.
Of course, that makes sense for airlines. These fees discourage frequent changes to reservations, resulting in smoother operations. When you are on the receiving end, it feels more like “sneaky, unexpected cost” than “operational efficiency.”
Tip: Always scan the change and cancellation policies before hitting “purchase.” It might save you from future heart (and wallet) ache!
6. Overweight Baggage Fee
Have you ever had checked baggage rejected for being too heavy? I have.
Do you know how it feels to put on a show in the middle of an airport? I wanted to vanish when repacking my backpack at the airport. It’s nerve-wracking and something I hope never to repeat.
It’s easy to see why overweight baggage fees are unpopular among travelers. Not everyone has the opportunity to weigh their luggage in advance, which can lead to unpleasant surprises, especially if the airport staff members are picky about this feature.
Tip: Before heading to the airport, always double-check your baggage weight. Consider getting a portable luggage scale to make this easier.
7. Seats Next to Each Other With Multi-Person Bookings
When traveling with friends, most would prefer to sit together. Flights are more enjoyable when you can chat, joke, or share a movie with your travel buddy.
Many assume that booking tickets together guarantee adjacent seats. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some airlines scatter groups throughout the cabin, nudging them to pay more to select specific seats.
Tip: Always review seating options before finalizing your booking. Sitting together may be worth the extra cost upfront if it is important. It can be more expensive later.
8. Name Change Fee
Sometimes, it’s just a small typo. Sometimes you change a travel companion. In both cases, one thing is clear: you must be sure that the name on your ticket matches your documents.
Getting this wrong can sometimes cost as much as a new ticket.
Airlines have varied policies regarding name changes:
- Some allow free name corrections within 24 or 48 hours of purchase.
- Others permit minor changes (like “Nick” to “Nicholas”) at no charge.
- A few won’t allow ticket transfers but offer full refunds within 24 hours of purchase.
- Some might charge the difference in fare since the original booking, on top of the name change fee.
In essence, swapping out your travel partner can be an expensive endeavor.
Tip: Always read names out loud when booking and ask someone to double-check. Also, familiarize yourself with the airline’s name change policy.
9. Seat Selection
Fun and useless fact: I do not need extra legroom due to my shorter nature. However, I recognize its importance for many, especially on long flights. And it’s no secret that airplane cabins can be cramped.
Moreover, some travelers have strong preferences regarding windows. Some prefer window seats for the views, while others prefer aisle seats to avoid the height of the window.
Airlines capitalize on these desires by charging a fee for specific seat selections. While the fee itself isn’t the main issue, it’s how airlines market these choices as almost essential that irks many.
Tip: Decide on your priorities. If seat selection is essential for your comfort, factor it into your travel budget.
10. Airport Check-in
Are you a digital native?
Some people prefer traditional check-ins over digital ones.
However, many airlines encourage travelers to check in online by imposing an additional fee for airport check-ins. The idea is to streamline airport operations and reduce congestion at check-in counters. While all essential services are available at the airport, they often come with a premium.
Tip: Always check the airline’s policy before you head to the airport. Consider online check-in not just to avoid extra fees but to make your overall airport experience more efficient.
The Real Cost of Hidden Fees
You might brush off hidden airline fees, thinking savvy travelers know how to sidestep them. But do they really?
Consider these statistics:
- 86% of Americans have been blindsided by unexpected airline costs at least once.
- 39% regularly encounter hidden fees.
- 60% feel these covert charges have increased since 2019 (pre-COVID-19 era).
- 42% had to pay under $100 for their priciest hidden fee, leaving a staggering 58% who’ve faced fees exceeding $100.
These numbers reveal a clear strategy: airlines bank on distractions and confusion to levy extra charges. As travelers, we frequently overpay for transportation, diverting funds away from other vacation pleasures such as dining or activities.
Surprises are fun until they are ruining your travel budget. By staying informed and vigilant, you can ensure your travel budget goes towards what truly enhances your journey. Safe and conscious travels to you!
This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex. Featured Photo Credit: [@chones/DepositPhotos]
Karolina Turowska, a writer and travel enthusiast at PhotoAiD. When it comes to writing, she loves bringing dry facts to life. When it comes to traveling, she just loves bikes.