How to Avoid Airline Fees This Summer

I said some very unkind things when I heard that US Air is now charging for water in coach class. Water! On top of the baggage fees, fuel surcharges, booking fees, change fees, and breathing fees they’ve come up with recently, this one really burns me. I’m trapped in their airplane. They least they can do is spend three cents to give me a cup of water.

The new fees made me so angry that I set out to find ways to avoid them, especially the baggage fee, which was instituted AFTER I booked two plane tickets for this summer. If you want to avoid spending all your vacation money on the plane, here’s my list of ways to avoid the new airline fees. You can also check my other tips for more ways to save money on travel. To check the latest fees before you book or before you leave, review the Domestic Airline Fee Chart.

Fuel Surcharge

Unfortunately, you can’t skip this one, and you can only expect them to go up. They can’t charge you an additional surcharge after you’ve booked the ticket, though. When booking tickets, use a site like Kayak that includes this fee in the ticket price.

Baggage Fees

The baggage fees were not in force when I booked my tickets. The FAA recently announced that airlines CAN’T charge you the baggage fee if you booked your ticket before the date it was implemented. To make sure you don’t get charged, visit the airline’s baggage rules page. It should state the exemption dates. Now take a screen cap of that. If you don’t have screen cap software, tap the Print Screen button on the keyboard. Open your Paint program (free with Windows), and hit CTRL and V on the keyboard to paste it into the Paint window. Now print it and put it with your other travel documents so you can show it to the clerk if they try to charge you a fee when you check in.

If you booked after the fee was announced, then they can charge you. The only way to avoid the fee is to pack lightly so you only need to take a carry-on. But be warned – most people will adopt this same strategy, so you might not be able to find room in the overhead bin. I don’t yet know if there’s a fee to gate-check bags that don’t fit on the plane.

Food Fees

Most of the airlines have abolished free food, and many are even getting rid of free snacks. Instead they’ll charge you $5-$10 for a “snack box.” This one’s easy to avoid, though. You can make a sandwich or package up other food at home and carry it through security (check the TSA prohibited items list first). A small lunch sack also doesn’t typically count as a carry-on item. Be careful with chilled foods, though. Ice packs can’t go through security.

If you don’t want to bring food from home, you can buy it in the airport for a slightly lower fee than you’ll pay in the airplane. It will probably be a larger portion and it may also be fresher than the food on board.

Beverage Fees

I started bringing my own water on the plane with me a long time ago. Once they instituted the ban on carrying liquids through security, I switched to sport bottles. I have a metal one, but you can also use a hard plastic one. Once you get through security, fill it at the water fountain and you’re good to go. No, it’s not a soda, but at least you’re not at the mercy of the flight attendant.

If you don’t want to bring your own water bottle through, you can also buy water and soda in the airport. It will no doubt be cheaper than what you could get on the airline (assuming they charge for water/soda/juice.)

Most travel experts advise drinking only water on a plane in order to stay hydrated. Both soda and coffee dehydrate you. There’s no reason to pay $5-6 for crappy wine or hard liquor. Just wait and get a drink at a bar when you arrive.

I’ve no doubt that the airlines will probably start charging us for the foam in our seats soon enough. No matter how many airline fees they throw at me, I’m going to try to dodge as many as I can. My hard-earned cash is meant to spend at my destination, not on the airplane I took there. I paid for my ticket. As far as I’m concerned, that’s payment enough.

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