The Real Reason You're Getting Charged Extra Airline Fees

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Frontier Airlines announced earlier this year that it will not only add a baggage fee, but will also start charging customers $1.99 for non-alcoholic beverages with the exception of water.

Frontier said in a statement that the baggage fee is an attempt to create more space in the overhead bins for its frequent flyer customers, who complained in a survey that the space was taken before they could board their flights.

It's also an attempt to get people to use their website to book their flights, as customers who do will be exempt from the fee. Also exempt are those coveted frequent flyer customers.

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Those who aren't enrolled in frequent flyer programs or who didn't book at the website will pay a $25 per bag fee if paid in advance or a whopping $100 fee at the gate. The fees are going into effect this summer.

Frequent flyers and those booking anything but the least expensive economy class tickets are also exempt from the drink fee.

The rise in fees on Frontier's part is the latest in what seems to be a never ending introduction of fee raising or new fees instituted by the airlines. Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com in New York City says that the only way customers are going to see these fee hikes stop or even slow is if the customers get tired of it and let the airlines know.

"The airlines are returning to profitability because of fees," says Kelly. "If flyers don't like them, they need to vote with their wallet and not fly those airlines and also let the airlines know on their social media."

In fact, according to a report released last summer by IdeaWorks, a consulting firm, the airlines made $22.6 billion through additional fees in 2011, the last year for which numbers are available.

Frontier's new fee structure may seem like change compared to the other new fees that many major U.S. carriers such as American, Delta and United are now charging for change fees.

Those new fees were raised from $150 to $200 this year. "It really seems like collusion," says Kelly. "United did it, and the rest followed soon after." Glenn Haussman, editor-in-chief at Hotel Interactive Network, a publication for those who work in the travel industry, says that he doesn't believe fees will go away, no matter how loud customers grumble.

"The airlines have cut back their schedules to the point most flights are maxed out or oversold," says Haussman. "This is giving the airlines an ability to implement new fees the public may grumble about, but will still pay in the end in order to get to where they want or need to go."

In fact, Haussman says, travelers can expect more fees in the near future. He says he sees more airlines charging for specific seats such as ones with more legroom or any specified window or aisle seat.

There are things that you can do to minimize your fees, Kelly, says.

The first is committing to one airline and enrolling in frequent flyer programs, which give rewards based on miles flown.

If you're not a frequent flyer, you can still save yourself the extra money the airlines might rack up in additional fees.

"Flyers need to understand all of the fees before hitting the purchase button," says Kelly.

He advises going directly to the airline's websites and checking their fares compared to their fees for extra baggage. "Southwest still allows you to check two bags for free," says Kelly. "The ticket might be more expensive, but you have to look at the entire picture and add in the cost if you are trying to check bags on another airline."

Analyzing your options will be the key to saving money as long as there are airlines and people who need to fly, the sky really is the limit as to where they will end, says Haussman. "I don't foresee a bathroom fee just yet," he joked.

--Written by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell for MainStreet

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