Airline Fees: Secrets of How to Save Big, or Not

Extra legroom? Pets? Miles? How to run up a bill very quickly.

March 24, 2011— -- I was given a strange mission: part "Brewster's Millions" and part "Amazing Race": fly from Miami to New York City -- and spend as much as possible on airline fees.

Step one: Buy a ticket for $360. If you do it over the phone and want to talk to a human, it'll cost you an extra $25.

Step two: Walk into the airport, where money seems to be spent for you without you even trying. I walked to a kiosk, where, after waiting a few minutes I was introduced to Candy, the kiosk manager. I quickly indulged in extra leg room, even though there was only one seat left and I was paying $50 extra for a middle seat.

Over the past few months, airlines have tried desperately to raise prices to keep up with soaring fuel costs. They've had only moderate success. But they have made strides with airline fees: about 7 percent of their total revenues and most of their profits now come from them.

Back at the kiosk, I decided to splurge $33 buy extra miles. I then saw a frequent flier's dream and before I knew it, I had bought triple miles.

It was then time to check my bags. Needless to say, Candy was not pleased that one of my bags weighed in at 55 pounds. I paid the $160 for two bags. As if it couldn't get any worse, my carry-on bag was oversized and I was forced to shell out another hundred bucks.

And then there was the pet. Candy asked me if I had a puppy, and though I treat Nemo lovingly, he's clearly a stuffed animal. Nevertheless, I paid $125 to have him on a leash.

By the time I got on the plane, I already swiped my credit card more times than I could count, for tickets, miles, leg room, bags, and of course Nemo.

Even after boarding, it was impossible to put the credit card away. I couldn't help but pay $6 for TV (but it had hundreds of channels!) and grimaced as I paid $24 for a "savory snack box" from the in-flight menu. If they had blankets, I would have bought one of those too.

While the ticket only ran around $400, I racked up over $540 in extra fees.

But it could have been worse. Had I flown Frontier Airlines after a moose hunt, I could've checked the moose, but would have been charged a $100 fee to bring the antlers on board!

Airline Fees: Running Up the Biggest Bill Possible

I finally made it to New York, where I met our fare genie, Genevieve Shaw Brown, a travel blogger and expert. She proposed a way to save: package deals.

She said, "Just bundling those things together saves you money, and here's why: hotels and airlines are more comfortable lowering prices as part of a package as opposed to standalone prices."

Before you go on your next trip, plan ahead and look for a package deal. Hopefully, you'll be able to avoid my mistakes and keep your credit card swiping at bay.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events