Buying airline tickets & figuring out extra charges

By the way, there’s an extra charge for reading this.

Most of us are confused of course, by airline fares and pricing structure — it has been complicated for so long that it just wouldn’t be the same if it were any other way. But recently, the airlines seem to have introduced a lot of extra charges and fees — designed, of course to make some much needed extra money — but with the inevitable result of confusing the rest of us.

Extra fees and taxes are not uncommon. The price of your plane ticket contains all sorts of taxes — security, customs, agricultural, etc. Most of us don’t notice or care — after all, we all have to pay taxes. But some airlines have started to quietly add on extra charges for checking more than one bag, for buying alcoholic drinks in the main cabin, for having a ticket mailed rather than sent by e-mail. What next, I wonder – extra charges for pillows, a glass of water or a magazine?

One of the biggest changes in the last decade or so has been the increase in customers booking and paying for plane tickets on line. The airlines want us to book our tickets on line, rather than with a real live person over the phone — obviously costs are a lot less that way. The service fee or phone booking fee can add up quite a bit — typically, its $10 a person, so for a family of four, that’s $40 on top of your ticket price.

There are several problems with this system. While most of us are used to the internet, there are those of us who still don’t feel comfortable giving our credit card or other personal information on line. And — perhaps hard to believe — but not everybody has a computer, especially the elderly.

Booking on line is all very well if you are doing something simple — traveling from point A to point B and back again. But many business trips are more complicated than that, of course. You can book a so-called “open jaw” (flying into and out of two different airports) on most airline web sites, but not a trip that involves several stopovers.

And mileage tickets involving partner airlines cannot be booked on airlines’ web sites — which means a call to the airline and a booking fee. Speaking of mileage tickets — book yours with at least several weeks notice, otherwise you will be faced with yet more charges for booking late.

American for example charges $100 for the first ticket and $25 for each additional ticket if mileage tickets are booked within a week of travel. That’s assuming the tickets all come from one mileage account — it’s even more if they come from different accounts.

Several of the airlines also now impose a charge to make changes to an existing ticket if that ticket was issued by an outside source or a travel agency. So if you book and pay for your ticket on Expedia, Travelocity or Priceline — to get it for a cheaper price — you may pay $15 per person if you then call the airline to change it.

And recently, at least one major airline has imposed the $15 fee to make a change to the seat assignment. That’s causing quite a few problems as often, travel agents don’t have access to exit row seats or other “blocked seats”. It seems the trend towards extra or service fees is only going to continue.

Thanks for reading; please let us know if you come across any other annoying little extra charges.

Guest blog entry written by Mancunian

Filed Under: Airlines + flying

About the Author

Comments (6)

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  1. Joop says:

    Try booking a ticket through Ryanair.com:

    – They offer a ticket for EURO 0,01

    – Then all sorts of taxes are included, making it about EURO 50,00. Still ok.

    – Then they ask for the number of bags. EURO 6 per bag will be included !!!!

    – By the way, no bags will cost you EURO 6 as well. So 1 bag is EURO 12.

    – Then you pay by credit card, and a credit-card-fee will be added of EURO 10. Any alternatives to this way of paying: No!!!

    Talking about annoyances!

  2. Don says:

    How do I travel First Class or Business Class air at a deep discount? The web pages advertising themselves as “discount” seem to be no better than the the airlines?

  3. Deanna B. says:

    Thanks for all the great info! Is there one particualr online booking site that has a LESSER amount of fees or are they all relatively similar?

  4. James Trotta says:

    I usually shop around (Kayak.com is good for this but does not show all hidden fees) to see what I can find but almost always end up using a travel agent.

    If you use Kayak, you can take the cheaper prices and then check for additional fees on each website.

  5. James Trotta says:

    I usually shop around (Kayak.com is good for this but does not show all hidden fees) to see what I can find but almost always end up using a travel agent.

    If you use Kayak, you can take the cheaper prices and then check for additional fees on each website.

  6. kzainul says:

    it is not just for airline.. it is everywhere now, hotel i.e. tune hotel – need towel +RM, need aircond +RM, need toiletries +RM, from only RM10 +++ to RM100 talking about cheap budget hotel

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