I'm not sure Jeff Hart will ever trust a travel agent again.
The Dallas-based businessman put himself in the hands of a professional for a big family trip to Australia -- and when I say big, this was for four weeks, and each person had two bags.
Upon arrival in the Land Down Under, the group began traveling on discount airline JetStar. And that's when the horror began.
"You only get one bag per person," the JetStar agent told the horrified Hart as he and his brood presented themselves at the counter, But there was a silver lining.
"She felt sorry for us," he said, "so she only charged us a fraction of the total excess baggage charge -- a mere $600."
However, the travel agent had scheduled the family for three more JetStar flights, and if no one else took pity on them, Hart would be out more unanticipated fees to the tune of $2,700.
Hart forked over the first $600, but later ground-shipped most of his bags to his final Australian destination. He figures he got off relatively easy since the Aussie post office only charged him about $300.
That's not the only horror story I've heard.
a href="http://www.farecompare.com/articles/author/rick/" target="external">For more travel news and insights view Rick's blog at farecompare.com
A commenter on my website told me of being charged 2 percent of the cost of her flight for simply using a credit card to book it. I was a little skeptical, but when I checked with her carrier -- Europe's discount airline EasyJet, based at London's Luton Airport -- I discovered she was indeed wrong; she was actually charged 2.5 percent!
See for yourself on EasyJet's website: "Bookings made by [Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.] will incur an additional fee of 2.5 percent of the total transaction value, with a minimum charge of £4.95."
Good thing this doesn't happen on this side of the Pond?oh, wait. I guess that's what Allegiant Airlines' "convenience fee" of $14.99 is all about: A charge for using your card to book a flight on its website. Guess who that's convenient for?
That's nothing, however, compared to showing up at the gate with a carry-on bag for your Spirit Airlines flight, only to be told, "That'll be $45." Plus, if any of you women out there board Europe's Ryanair toting both a purse and a carryon, one of those items must be checked -- for a fee of $56.
One bright spot amid the madness: a judge in Spain recently ruled that Ryanair could not charge a fee (a hefty $53) to customers who arrived at the airport without a boarding pass; according to the ruling, this is something airlines are responsible for. Naturally, Ryanair plans to appeal.
Anyway, my fellow passengers, this is why it's so important to know-before-you-go -- you don't want to be gobsmacked by all these fees. Actually, legislators have been making noises for months about forcing more fee transparency on the airlines, to make it easier to find them on carrier websites.
That works for me, but what about fees that aren't exactly fees? Example: the "peak travel day" surcharge.
We saw these being added in a wholesale manner back in the autumn of 2009, to to popular Thanksgiving and Christmas travel dates; more recently, United and Continental added these surcharges to all future travel dates. Note: these surcharges are baked into the price of your ticket; unlike bag fees, you can't avoid them no matter what you do.