The Ever Expanding Airline Fee

As airline travelers we always seem to find something to complain about. The entire process of traveling by air for many of us has turned into a stressful, potentially expensive adventure. Instead of just enjoying the convenient excitement of hoping on a plane from point A to B we find ourselves faced with new worrisome challenges and added expenses.  How much do they charge to check a bag? Is my bag too big to carry on? Is it too heavy to check? How much will they charge me if it’s overweight? Does the plane have Wi-Fi or seat back television and do thy charge for them? Of course some of these questions we ask ourselves can be petty; however, they overload our brains to the point where the fun of air travel gets lost. What happened to free? That answer might be a lot simpler than you realize but there are some components that are important to understand.


The most obvious airline expense is always fuel. The average cost for jet fuel today in the U.S hovers near $5 a gallon. Now let’s say we are flying from Washington DC to LAX on board a Boeing 757 which holds a maximum of 11,489 gallons of jet fuel. That’s a cost of $57,445 for a fill up, granted the airline doesn’t have some sort of fuel discount. It’s likely the airplane won’t burn through all of that fuel but you get an idea on a portion of the operating cost to get the airplane off the ground and on its way. Now if we factor in some of the addition operating cost such as catering, cabin cleaning, airport fees and many others I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention, it shouldn’t be a too much of a surprise on why the airlines are finding new ways to charge the flying public new fees. Let’s imagine our D.C to LAX flight is only half full with passengers. The minimum ticket cost was $200 one way for economy seating and $1000 one way for first class. It should be pretty clear that this particular flight did not make a profit and will lose money. However, when you add in the passenger fees such as bag fees, it is entirely possible that some sort of profit was made.


Unfortunately for the flying public, those fees are here to stay and likely to increase. The fees are the airlines new life line as long as the demand for cheap economy class tickets exists in a bad economy. Finger pointing is futile in an industry that is in constant competition with each other. The days of customer loyalty to one particular airline are gone. Most of us simply look for the cheapest option and go with it, many times not knowing the consequences of addition fees.


For example, ultra-low cost carrier, Spirit Airlines is offering $27 one-way fares to LAX from Las Vegas. That’s before the taxes and carry-on bag fees. Assuming you’re only bringing one carry on. Spirit currently charges $30 per carry-on bag for domestic flights if the ticket was purchased online only. Come November 2012 that price will increase to $35 per carry-on. For checked bags Spirit charges $28 per bag. Again, that price will increase to $30 in November. I should also add if you want to do an online check-in, it will cost you an additional $5. Can you see where this is going? When all is said and done, that attractive $27 one-way fare will more than double before you get through the security line. If you’re trying to be frugal by getting a cheap ticket online, you must read through the airlines bag policy.


The newest tactic in fees seems to be leaning towards preferred seat assignments. You’ll have to pay a little extra for that window or isle seat on most major U.S carriers which has been creating a conflict with passengers that travel in groups and families.


The bottom line is that airlines have to compete and compensate for higher fuel cost and the constant demand for cheap airfare in order to stay in business. Over all, it’s cheaper to fly today than it was twenty years ago.