BOSTON (TheStreet) — So you want to book a flight home for the holidays on United Air Lines (Stock Quote: UAUA) for you and your 52-pound bag. That'll be $189 to $299, please.
That money won't get you anywhere. It's just the sum of the fees you'll pay for calling in your reservation ($25), checking a bag at the airport ($20), stuffing said bag ($125 for bags 51-100 pounds), selecting a seat that's not in the back of the plane or between window and aisle seats ($14-$119) and traveling before or after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day ($10). United is just one of the cash-strapped carriers giving U.S. domestic travelers capacity cuts and fee hikes as gifts this holiday season.
Check out an interactive graphic of airline fees.
American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR), Continental Airlines (Stock Quote: CAL), Delta Air Lines (Stock Quote: DAL), United and U.S. Airways Group reported multimillion dollar losses for the last quarter, leading to them to tack on a $10 surcharge to travel during the holidays as well as spring break, Easter and Memorial Day. Holiday fares are about 10% less than they were last year, but the folks at FareCompare.com say that seating capacity on flights to the 50 busiest cities the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is down 3.4%. Meanwhile, the ancillary costs for those who can get seats are hitting new altitudes.
Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com
, and her colleagues update their chart of domestic airlines fees daily. The chart has grown substantially larger as more services come with a price tag.
"We built this chart in the early summer of 2008, when the airlines were introducing the first wave of checked bag fees," she says. "It's been over a year and not only are there more bag fees, but there's been an overall increase in fees across the board."
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, baggage fees brought in $1.2 billion for airlines during the first half of 2009, up from $301 million during the same period last year. In that time, bag fees have risen from $15 for the first bag to as much as $25 for one checked bag on U.S. Airways and Spirit Airlines.
Those fees have carried over to other baggage — like pets and unaccompanied children. Taking a critter into the flight cabin costs at least $69 each way on AirTran and a lofty $250 on United. While AirTran charges $39 per flight leg to escort a lone child passenger, at least four airlines charge $100 for each portion of the route. These fees are to travelers what a condo fee is to a homeowner — built-in, mandatory costs.