Airlines and travel companies in general are notorious for charging hidden fees. They are the kings of the small print. If they were car salesmen the wheels and seats would not be included in the ticket price and you’d pay extra every time you opened the door.
Some are worse than others. Typically, the cheaper they are the more hidden fees they charge, but that isn’t all the case. In this guide we’ll look at hidden airline fees like baggage costs and more, highlighting some of the best and the worse and telling you exactly how much you will pay.
Most airlines, if not all of them, will let you take a free carry-on bag with you. This varies in size and, to a lesser extent, weight, and it lets you carry some basics with you on the plane. If you want to take luggage and check that bag in, then you may need to pay extra.
These days it pays to fly light, as these baggage fees show.
American Airlines Baggage Fees
AA let you take 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item for free. This means you can stuff a change of clothes and other essentials in a carry-on, as well as a handbag, laptop bag, or even a backpack (providing it isn’t bulging out the sides and looking like you’re about to go on a hike).
Size restrictions for the carry-on are:
- 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters)
American Airlines baggage fees are $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second. This applies throughout North America.
United Airlines Baggage Fees
United Airlines baggage fees are $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second and these apply to all economy flights in the United States and Canada. Checked baggage needs to have a maximum lineal dimension (length + width + height) of 62 inches (157 cm).
The maximum weight of the bag will depend on the service you choose, with a maximum of 50 lbs (23 kg) for United Economy and 70 lbs (32 kg) for Business, First and Polaris First/Business services.
Spirit Baggage Fees
Spirit is classed as an “ultra low-cost” airline which typically means only one thing: high baggage fees.
In fact, Spirit baggage fees are some of the highest we have come across at a total of $52 per bag.
If you opt for a budget Bare Fare ticket then you can take a personal item such as a handbag or laptop bag, but only if it meets the following dimensions:
- 18 x 14 x 8 inches.
They also charge overweight/oversize baggage fees ranging from $30 to $150 per bag.
Frontier Airlines Baggage Fees
Frontier airlines baggage fees can be some of the most expensive if you leave it late, with a charge of $60 applying at the gate. If you book early then it will cost you $30 to $45 for carry-on, with higher fees for checked bags and penalty fees for oversize/overweight ones.
The dimensions are as follows:
- Checked Baggage = 62 linear inches (length+ height + depth) & 50 pounds.
- Carry-On = 26 x 16 x 10 inches & 35 pounds.
JetBlue Airlines Baggage Fees
You can take one carry-on bag and one personal item for free on a JetBlue flight. It needs to be no more than 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters). If you want to take a checked bag with you then you will need to pay $25 for the first, $35 for the second and $100 for any additional bags after that.
These checked bags need to be no more than 62 linear inches (length + height + depth) and weigh no more than 50 pounds. If you opt for the Blue Plus service then you can check one bag for free; if you opt for Blue Flex you can check two.
The prices for additional bags on these services still apply as above, so if you purchase a Blue Flex ticket then you will get the first two bags for free. The third bag, and any additional bags, will cost $100 each.
Delta Airlines Baggage Fees
If you are flying from the US or Canada to North American destinations, your first checked bag with Delta Airlines will cost you $25; your second will cost $35. If you are flying to a destination within the US or Canada from Europe or North Africa the prices are $60 (€50) and $100 (€85) respectively.
You can take a carry-on bag and a personal item (handbag, purse, laptop bag) for free. As with many of the above baggage fees, the checked bag needs to be within 62 linear inches (157 centimeters) and weigh no more than 50 lbs (23 kg). If you are flying First Class, the weight limit increases to 70 lbs (32 kg), but in these cases you can get your first and second checked bag for free.
Other Hidden Airline Fees
Airline baggage fees are the biggest gripe. It’s something that will hit most travelers and can leave them out of pocket, with the airlines said to make between $3.5 and $4 billion a year from these fees alone.
But there are other hidden airline fees as well. These will likely be charged if you fly economy and will almost certainly be charged if you fly with an ultra low-cost airline, but you should be able to avoid most of them if you fly Business or First Class, or even if you use the perks offered by airline credit cards and travel credit cards:
Airline Food and Drink Charges
The average cost of a meal on a flight is around $10, but you could pay anywhere from $5 to $20 for this and in most cases it is very basic.
If you want a drink of soda, water or alcohol, it could cost you as much as $10, and in most cases you’ll get something that wouldn’t look out of place in a hotel mini-fridge. The same goes for snacks, which can cost up to $10 for something you’d pay less than $2 for in Walmart.
If you are sending a child (up to 17 years old) to fly on their own then the airline need to be notified so they can pay special attention to their wellbeing. This is a service that some airlines provide for free, but others can charge up to $150, with some charging per child.
With American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Frontier you will pay $100; with Alaska Airlines the focus is $25 to $50 and is dependent on whether there are connections or not. United and US Airways are said to charge the full $150.
The price for an unaccompanied minor on Spirit and JetBlue is $100, but this is the cost per child so it could be more expensive.
Some of the other fees that you may be charged by airlines include:
- Gate Fees: If you leave baggage fees late, or you cancel/change with little notice then you will likely incur fees.
- Pet Boarding: Anywhere from $20 to $200.
- In-Flight Wi-Fi: Free to $15 for 24-hours.
- Picking a Seat: Free (if you book early) to $50.
- Pillow or Blanket: Free to $10
- In-Flight Movie/TV: Free to $10