Fighting airline fees

Seven On Your Side
December 11, 2009 12:45:33 PM PST
If you're flying this holiday season you'll likely encounter them, extra fees charged by the airlines. And they can add up. This year alone, airlines will collect an estimated $3.4 billion in extra charges. That's double last year's total. But there are ways to foil these fees and save you real money."This is just ridiculous, unreasonable, and just completely unwarranted." Rosario Houck-Gonzalez is angry, her airline charged her $200 dollars for Tiramisu.

Actually, Tiramisu isn't a food, it's a feline, her 5 month-old kitten. And the charge? $100 dollars each way charged by her airline, US Airways. The fee allowed her 4 pound kitty in the cabin, stowed in a bag under the seat in front of her. In all, she paid more for her cat ($200 round trip) to fly than her own ticket ($177 round trip).

"That more than doubled the price of my flight to go home and see my family," explained the weary traveller from Hamilton Heights.

Rosario says her cat just had surgery and didn't want to leave her with friends. So she reluctantly paid the price. "I was told again, the same thing, that this was policy. It was standard."

What's also standard are additional fees.

"The airlines are on a 'fee for all.' They're charging anything they can to make a charge for." But Budget Travel's Sean O'Neill has ways to fight the fees.

First tip? Instead of packing and checking your holiday gifts, shop online where retailers offer free shipping to your destination. "You'll save money," says the travel expert. "You won't have to pay fees that you otherwise would for either checked luggage or overweight fees."

And fees for checked luggage can be high, ranging from $20 on up to $175 (for an oversized bag.) To avoid all checked bag fees, fly a carrier that doesn't charge.

"Southwest doesn't charge any hidden fees for checked bags," says Budget Travel's O'Neill. "And keeps it's other fees to a relative minimum."

And Sean's last tip? If you must check bags, pay the fee online, beforehand. "It's usually $5 cheaper to pay your checked bag fee online instead of going to the airport."

As for Rosario? US Airways told us her $200 charge stands and that pet fees are now standard in the industry. But Rosario is defiant to the end and plans to take her complaining to the internet with a complaint forum on facebook.

"To me it's just another way to make money," says Rosario. "This is complete profit and it's insulting."

One last tip, if an airline says you have an overweight bag, it's a good idea to ask them to weigh it on a different scale. The city's consumer affairs found 1 in 8 airport scales are wrong.

Story by: Steve Livingstone

Guide to airline fees: