Newly merged Delta and Northwest drop some fees

— -- Delta and Northwest airlines Wednesday eliminated fuel surcharges on free frequent-flier tickets.

The two carriers, which merged Oct. 29, stopped charging a $25-$100 surcharge. The fee was put on frequent-flier tickets earlier this year when fuel costs were higher.

Fuel surcharges and other fees for booking or changing frequent-flier tickets have diminished their value.

Airlines last month began reducing fuel surcharges on paid tickets, but many paid tickets still have big surcharges.

The elimination of frequent-flier-ticket surcharges was one of several fee changes announced by Delta. Most changes benefit fliers, but some do not.

"We've made a commitment to our customers to quickly align policies and fees," says Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton.

Delta dropped its charge for booking a paid or a frequent-flier ticket on the telephone from $25 to $20. There is no charge for an on-line booking.

Most major airlines charge $15-$25 to book a paid ticket on the phone, and $20 or $25 to book a frequent-flier ticket. Most have no charge for an on-line booking.

US Airways charges $55 for booking, by phone, a frequent-flier ticket to most destinations, and $25 for booking any flight on-line.

Delta's new fees will increase from $50 to $100 what Northwest was charging its passengers for changing the departure day on frequent-flier tickets.

In comparison, US Airways charges $150 to change domestic frequent-flier tickets and $250 to change overseas tickets.

Delta also announced that, beginning Dec. 5, Delta and Northwest passengers will no longer have to pay an "administrative fee" for checking bags with skycaps at curbside. Delta now has a $3 fee.

At curbside or inside the terminal, though, passengers will have to pay $15 for their first checked bag and $25 for a second bag. Those are the current fees for Northwest flights, but Delta is now charging nothing for a first checked bag and $50 for a second bag.

Southwest is the only major airline that doesn't charge for the first two checked bags.