Airlines Made $7.8 Billion in Fees in 2009

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the airline industry took in $7.8 billion in ancillary fees and charges last year. According to the AP, revenue from fees rose 42 percent in 2009, and "the biggest chunk of that came from checked baggage fees, which were introduced in 2008 when oil prices soared and eventutally reached $147 per barrel."

$7.8 billion. Wow. Here are the top ten airlines in terms of ancillary fees revenue:

  1. Delta: $1.6 billion
  2. American: $1 billion
  3. US Airways: $912 million
  4. Northwest $718 million
  5. United: $619 million
  6. Southwest: $617 million
  7. Continental: $539 million
  8. AirTran: $249 million
  9. JetBlue: $193 million
  10. Alaska: $147 million

Here's another big number: $2.2 billion. That's how much airlines brought in through bag fees alone.

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Now, you may be asking yourself why Southwest is on that list, and how an airline that shuns perhaps the most egregious fee—checked-bag fees—could bring in so much revenue. Well, Southwest does charge fees, just not as many as other airlines, and its fees are generally cheaper than its competitors. And, remember, it's one of the biggest carriers in the country based on traffic.

But as eye-catching as this list may be, the more interesting chart shows what percentage of each airline's revenue comes from fees. Spirit, for example, unsurprisingly, brings in 20.9 percent of its revenue through fees. Delta, which made the most from fees, clocks in at 9.1 percent. Southwest, among the lowest, brings in only 6 percent of its revenue through fees.

Readers, can you believe how much money these airlines are making through fees, and through baggage fees alone?

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