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2008 Readers Speak Out About Airline Fees
Readers Speak Out About Airline Fees
Posted August 21, 2008 at 12:00 am ET by Eric Durell,
Frustrated at the airport (Photo: Index Open)
It has not been a happy summer for travelers, judging by the
frustration and exasperation readers have expressed about recent
Over these past few months, we at SmarterTravel.com have gotten so
many insightful, funny, and thoughtful comments that we're bringing
you a roundup of discussions inspired by the summer's most popular
Fees, Fees, and More Fees
This will be remembered as the summer of fees. Baggage fees, food and
beverage fees, seat assignment fees, frequent flyer award fees, and
others have surfaced almost daily. Some lively discussion came out of
Senior Editor Molly Feltner's survey about which are better, higher
all-inclusive base airline fares or lower base fares with fees for
value-added amenities. The overwhelming majority of commenters wanted
a higher base fare (or at the very least, one checked bag included in
the fare), though there were a few dissenting opinions:
JB - "I'd rather all the people that want the extras go ahead and pay
for them with fees instead of asking me to help pay for it by raising
airfares across the board. If you've got to have a meal on board or
you want to bring 2 changes of clothes for every day of travel, you
need to pay for that convenience."
Locommish - "Fees may seem like a pain but the money has to come from
somewhere ... Pay for what you use - seems the most fair way."
In the same vein, our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees generated a lot
of positive feedback from readers overwhelmed by the thought of
keeping tabs on so many new fees. A few readers even requested
coverage of additional airlines or fees. We're working to expand the
chart; in the meantime, plenty of additional information can be found
on the Airline Fees page of the SmarterTravel wiki, as well as on
individual Airlines' wiki pages.
A Hated New Fee
Judging by the comments, one of the most frustrating new fees of the
summer was Spirit's seat assignment fee, which includes even middle
seats. Many of you felt it unfairly targets families who need to sit
together, and will result in further delays:
KK - "This will create some plane-loading delays as I try to negotiate
to swap seats ... The irony is I'm escorting three young children on
this flight, and if Spirit wants to seat them all over the plane,
various other passengers will have the pleasure of sitting with these
loud and hyperactive children."
Fee With a Silver Lining?
One upside of the new baggage fees came up after American Airlines
announced it will begin strictly enforcing carry-on restrictions.
Dozens of readers, frustrated by years of carry-on abuse and the
resulting lack of overhead storage space, were pleased with American's
Eileen - "I am ecstatic that stricter rules will be applied to carry-
ons. I cannot understand why, in the past, airlines have allowed
people to abuse the system, to the detriment of those who obey carry-
GloomAndDoom - "I'm glad at least one airline's serious about carry-on
limits, but it's not being done to please us customers, only another
nickel-&-dime-'em-to-death grab for our wallets."
Fees for Frequent Flyers
Finally, on the frequent flyer side of things, Delta's addition of
fuel surcharges to award tickets frustrated many SkyMiles members. One
reader, GA Pilot, calculated that a $25 fuel surcharge more or less
covers the total per person fuel cost of a short-haul flight. Several
other posters pointed out that fuel is an operational cost, and that a
surcharge—if there is going to be one—should cover only the
incremental increase in fuel costs due to rising oil prices, not the
entire fuel bill:
srdshelly - "...The cost of fuel is a cost of doing business and
should be included in the fare. Are they going to come up with a "pay
crew" surcharge, a "lease jet" surcharge, a "buy advertising"
surcharge, a "CEO golden parachute" surcharge?"
We always enjoy reading your comments, compliments, and complaints, so
please, keep them coming! You can even start by weighing in on your
least favorite airline fee in the space below.
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