The Most Absurd Airline Fees

Fifty-eight billion dollars. That’s how much money airlines around the world are expected to make this year from their long list of new fees, according to estimates from the International Air Transport Association. Unfortunately, airlines are still struggling at home and abroad.

Airlines in the U.S. grossed nearly $4 billion from extra fees in just the first six months of 2009, and yet our domestic airline industry ended the year about $3 billion in the red and having to fire roughly 30,000 employees. The causes are obvious: a global recession, the threat of terrorist attacks and the increased security procedures employed to defend against them. Unfortunately, the solutions remain hidden, and many airlines continue to push out new fees to raise revenue.

Yet, as USA Today points out, the airlines that have done the best during the recession are the ones who have the lowest fees per customer. Southwest Airlines (Stock Quote: LUV), for example, charged an average of just $6 in extra fees per passenger (compared to other airlines that charge up to $24 per person) and yet this airline actually made a profit of $58 million last year. Perhaps the other major airlines should take note. They’d certainly win more fans.

Is there such a thing as a good airline fee?

As consumers, it’s easy to lash out against these airline fees, but it’s worth noting that while many are egregious, some may be justified. CNN points out that there is a right and a wrong way to approach fees. It’s more acceptable to add new services that cost money rather than to charge for old ones that used to be complimentary. They point to airlines that add items to their menus or offer wireless Internet access for a small fee. Of course, there are bound to be passengers who disagree with these fees, but in these cases it also comes down to the price. Wi-Fi is a valuable service that does not need to be free, but it’s debatable whether travelers should be forced to pay $10 or more for access.

Here are 11 of the most controversial airline fees that are either currently imposed on consumers or that have been proposed.

The Toilet Tax

Ryanair (Stock Quote: RYAAY), a budget European airline, recently made waves when it announced a plan to begin charging customers to use the bathroom. Ryanair reportedly asked Boeing to “redesign the cabin” and install coin-operated toilets in more than 150 planes. Ryanair also requested that Boeing cut the number of bathrooms on flights to make room for more seats (and more customers). However, this unusual scheme may have hit a temporary setback as Boeing recently stated it will not modify its planes in this way.