Most Ridiculous Fees Airlines Are Scamming You With

Flying gets expensive. So whenever you’re booking a flight, you’re probably looking for the cheapest airfare you can find. But even when you score a cheap flight, the airline will surprise you with all kinds of ridiculous fees. That’s the “modus operandi” for many budget airlines. (That means they don’t get anywhere close to being crowned the best airline in the United States.) But it’s becoming more common among more premium airlines, too.

Would you rather turn a blind eye to the added costs your airline will charge you? That’s not a good strategy. Knowing what to expect will help you better compare the real cost of two different plane tickets. And it’ll help you more effectively budget for the full cost of your trip. Convinced? Check out some of the most cringe-worthy airline fees you might have to pay next time you jet off on a vacation.

1. Blanket fees

No, we’re not talking about a charge that covers everything your airline wants to make you pay extra for. (You’d probably come out ahead if we were.) As The New York Times reports, a Hawaiian Airlines passenger made headlines for pitching a fit over the airline’s $12 blanket fee so disruptive that the crew responded by diverting the flight to deplane him. Unruly conduct aside, we agree. It’s pretty ridiculous for an airline to charge $12 for the use of a blanket — especially when those blankets rarely get cleaned anyway. Either pack your own throw, or wrap up in a warm scarf or coat if you anticipate getting cold on your next flight.

2. Change fees

Fortunately, not all airlines charge for the use of their (unsanitary) blankets and pillows. And The New York Times reports most passengers aren’t upset about those fees. Instead, “the fee that makes most passengers angry is the one for changing flights, which costs an average of $200 on domestic flights.” It’s definitely one of the biggest fees that you’ll encounter and typically ranges from $125 to $250. So many passengers avoid changing flights for fear of the change fee — even when evolving travel plans would make it more convenient to pick a different flight. And the only major domestic airline that doesn’t charge change fees is Southwest.

3. Fuel surcharges

You’re paying for much more than your seat when you buy an airline ticket. Most airlines pass on their own costs to their customers, including a fuel surcharge. Fuel surcharges first began appearing on international airfares, where they could almost double the price of a ticket. The charge supposedly helped offset high oil prices. But as oil prices have fallen, the charges have remained. Some carriers now call it an “airline surcharge” or “carrier-imposed fee.” But that doesn’t make things any better.

4. Charges for seat assignments

Many of the fees airlines charge passengers have come about as a result of “unbundling.” What does that mean? They lower base prices for flights to get passengers to book a ticket. Then, they charge extra for just about everything. One of the most aggravating developments? Many airlines are starting to charge for seat assignments. Whether you want to sit next to your partner, really prefer a window seat, or just want the peace of mind that comes with knowing where you’re sitting, you’ll often have to pay extra.

5. Fees for a printed boarding pass

Because most of us have smartphones, we usually just pull up our boarding pass on the airline’s app. Now you have an extra reason to opt for an electronic boarding pass instead of a printed one. In a blatant move to get more money out of travelers, airlines have begun to charge customers for a printed boarding pass. Sure, you don’t need a paper boarding pass. It’s probably better for the environment if you don’t print one and then leave it wadded up in your coat pocket. But as far as ridiculous airline fees, this one sounds like a winner.

6. Charges to move to an earlier flight

Let’s imagine this scenario. You’re out of town for business, and you finish up with your meetings or your conference early. So, because you have nothing to do but hang out at a boring hotel, you head to the airport early — maybe four or five hours early. Once you’re there, you realize your airline has an earlier flight than the one you’re booked on. A flight to your same destination. A flight that isn’t even full. Shouldn’t the airline let you switch to that flight, no questions asked? That’s just not how it works, according to Forbes. Most airlines will charge you $75 or more to move to an earlier flight, even though there’s no cost associated with moving you to that earlier flight.

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