Consumer Reports

How to Avoid Extra Airline Fees

Consumer Reports looked at how extra fees are driving airline prices higher

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It has happened to many of us. Just when you think you’ve found a great deal on airfare, you realize the price doesn’t include those annoying fees for everything from checking a bag to selecting a seat. 

That can sometimes add big bucks to the ticket price. But as Consumer Reports explains, there are some simple ways to avoid them.

Start by checking out the airline’s website to find out exactly what’s included in the price for the type of ticket you are considering. Then decide what extras you’re willing to pay for. Baggage is the most obvious—even carry-on baggage. Others can include a seat assignment and early boarding.

Many airlines have loosened or even eliminated change or cancellation fees, and Southwest, for example, allows two free checked bags. A rarity. Bill McGee, a Consumer Reports Aviation Advisor, says that decision is very consumer minded.

“They’re doing something really proactive and really pro-consumer by not charging this fee and we have repeatedly given them credit for that,” said McGee. “But what’s disturbing is that analysts on Wall St. have punished Southwest for this. Analysts on Wall St. have actually degraded Southwest stock because they don’t charge onerous fees in many cases. And they have actually stated, ‘well, you’re leaving money on the table.’"

If you’re a frequent flyer on one airline, consider using that airline’s credit card, which could offer valuable perks such as free checked bags, priority seat selection and boarding, and other travel treats.

A final piece of advice to snag a decent fare: If you see a fare right now and you think you’re going to be traveling this summer, book it!

If you’re trying to avoid a checked-bag fee by packing only a carry-on, CR says to remember that there are very strict rules on the sizes of any carry-ons you may have.

Other ways to save include having flexible travel dates, shopping around while locking in a fare, trying to bundle airfare and a hotel stay, and using price alerts.

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