Recently, someone told me airlines are charging parents and kids to sit together. Really? How on earth could I have missed that? I didn't. You see, airlines are not charging parents and kids to sit together, despite what some headlines would have you believe.
It got me thinking about the other fees some travelers believe they could be charged on their next flight. Have you heard the one about airlines charging people to use the bathroom?
That's not to say that the airlines haven't gotten a little fee-crazy as of late – they have. Spirit Airlines charging up to $100 for a carry-on bag? Sorry, that one is true (and it goes into effect on Nov. 6, 2012, just in time for the Thanksgiving travel season).
Click through the next few pages for a few fees you may have thought you had to pay but don't.
Sitting With Your Kids
This one's all the rage recently. Let's get this straight: Airlines are not charging for parents to sit with their kids in flight. So what's everyone talking about? What the airlines are doing is designating more seats on aircraft as premium seats, meaning people need to pay extra to reserve them. These could be seats at the front of the plane, seats in the exit row, aisle or window seats or seats with more legroom.
When an airline increases the number of seats that command an extra price, it of course means there will be fewer seats for everyone who doesn't want to pay up to choose from. So, theoretically, a family could find they only have a bunch of spread out middle seats to choose from when they book a flight, which isn't going to work if they've got a young child.
So what to do? First, booking as far in advance as possible helps. Booking on the airline's own site may also help, as they are more likely to have an up-to-date seat map. If all else fails, the flight attendant or gate agent at the airport will more than likely be able to accommodate you. To date, I've yet to hear about a minor being seated alone on a flight.
Paying For the Bathroom
Ryanair is an ultra low-cost carrier whose CEO is known for making outrageous statements. Some travel industry skeptics think he says these things with no intention of ever doing them in order to draw attention to the fact that his airline offers very low fares.
One of the most notable "announcements" was that the airline was considering charging customers to use the bathroom in-flight. £1 or €1 for passengers to use the toilet, in fact. An airline spokesperson went so far as to say the airline hoped to change passenger behavior so they would use the bathroom before they got on the flight. As of last year, plans to charge for the loo have been dropped. For now.
Standing Room Only
See above on Ryanair's penchant for off-the-wall fee ideas that don't actually come to fruition. In this case, back in 2010 the airline said it would remove 10 rows of seats to make room for 15 rows of people who would stand during the flight. They even had a name for it: vertical seating. Passengers who opted for these cheapest of cheap seats – reportedly going to cost about $6 per person – would have something to lean against in-flight.
Vertical seating didn't happen, but Ryanair getting out the message that it's the ultimate in no-frills, cheap flying sure did.
Two or three times per year, an air traveler, sometimes a celebrity, will lash out at an airline for being told they do not fit comfortably into one seat and will have to purchase another. While some airlines, like Southwest, do have a policy that requires "passengers of size" who "encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat" to purchase extra seats as needed, they do not have what's come to be known as a "fat tax."
Earlier this year, former chief economist at Qantas Group floated the idea that heavy people should pay more to fly, much the same way passengers are charged more for overweight baggage. The theory is that the heavier you are, the more jet fuel the plane needs to burn to carry you from point A to point B.
But for now, your bags will remain the only thing that gets weighed at the airport.