Soaring Fuel Costs Spark New Airline Fees

What types of fees can you expect from airlines now?

March 07, 2011, 2:33 PM

March 7, 2011 — -- Feel as if you've been nickled and dimed to death by the airlines? If so, brace yourself for even more new fees.

"I don't think that there's anything that's off the table in the airline industry," said Rick Seaney of the travel website and an contributor.

Looking for ways to increase revenues, the airlines enacted a variety of new fees last year, including on-board sales of food, drinks, pillows, blankets and entertainment that were previously free. The result is a price tag for flying that's often much higher than the ticket cost alone.

Annoying, huh? Well it's not likely to end anytime soon.

"The major new one that's out there is actually charging for your seat assignment," said Seaney. "I think families of four will start paying anywhere from $10 to $16 to start picking their seats."

Only elite or business and first class passengers would be exempt from the airlines' proposed seat assignment fee.

"What they'll do probably is allow you to have it for free only if you want to book it in the last 24 hours. But if you want to have it preconfirmed you'll have to pay a fee," Seaney said.

Sky-high fuel costs are behind the latest round of added fees. The soaring price of oil is burning through the industry's profit margins. American Airlines, United Continental, Delta are among the carriers considering various new fees.

They include charging for allowing customers to customize their travel. In the future, you may be able to get fancy food and Champagne in economy class -- if you pay extra. Charging for security lines and travel concierge services are also being considered.

Airlines Enact Fees Over Higher Ticket Prices

Airlines prefer complex fees to additional fare hikes, though the industry has already announced six domestic fare increases this year.

"When airlines start to raise ticket prices too high people just quit buying," Seaney told ABC News.

"They want to differentiate their product to make it harder for consumers to compare apples to apples on total trip costs."

Jet Blue and Southwest don't charge an extra fee for checked bags. But other airlines do. If more fees are added by some airlines, but not others, it makes it harder for consumers to make comparisons.

Seaney said when you book a trip, make sure you understand the total trip cost, which includes all fees and taxes. And be flexible.

"Airlines love people who have to go on a certain day at a certain time," he said, and those passengers will always pay more than bargain hunters.

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