Readers Speak Out About Airline Fees

It has not been a happy summer for travelers, judging by the frustration and exasperation readers have expressed about recent travel news.

Over these past few months, we at SmarterTravel.com have gotten so many insightful, funny, and thoughtful comments that we're bringing you a roundup of discussions inspired by the summer's most popular blog topics.

Fees, Fees, and More Fees

This will be remembered as the summer of fees. Baggage fees, food and beverage fees, seat assignment fees, frequent flyer award fees, and others have surfaced almost daily. Some lively discussion came out of Senior Editor Molly Feltner's survey about which are better, higher all-inclusive base airline fares or lower base fares with fees for value-added amenities. The overwhelming majority of commenters wanted a higher base fare (or at the very least, one checked bag included in the fare), though there were a few dissenting opinions:

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JB - "I'd rather all the people that want the extras go ahead and pay for them with fees instead of asking me to help pay for it by raising airfares across the board. If you've got to have a meal on board or you want to bring 2 changes of clothes for every day of travel, you need to pay for that convenience."

Locommish - "Fees may seem like a pain but the money has to come from somewhere ... Pay for what you use - seems the most fair way."

In the same vein, our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees generated a lot of positive feedback from readers overwhelmed by the thought of keeping tabs on so many new fees. A few readers even requested coverage of additional airlines or fees. We're working to expand the chart; in the meantime, plenty of additional information can be found on the Airline Fees page of the SmarterTravel wiki, as well as on individual Airlines' wiki pages.

A Hated New Fee

Judging by the comments, one of the most frustrating new fees of the summer was Spirit's seat assignment fee, which includes even middle seats. Many of you felt it unfairly targets families who need to sit together, and will result in further delays:

KK - "This will create some plane-loading delays as I try to negotiate to swap seats ... The irony is I'm escorting three young children on this flight, and if Spirit wants to seat them all over the plane, various other passengers will have the pleasure of sitting with these loud and hyperactive children."

Fee With a Silver Lining?

One upside of the new baggage fees came up after American Airlines announced it will begin strictly enforcing carry-on restrictions. Dozens of readers, frustrated by years of carry-on abuse and the resulting lack of overhead storage space, were pleased with American's new policy:

Eileen - "I am ecstatic that stricter rules will be applied to carry-ons. I cannot understand why, in the past, airlines have allowed people to abuse the system, to the detriment of those who obey carry-on rules".

GloomAndDoom - "I'm glad at least one airline's serious about carry-on limits, but it's not being done to please us customers, only another nickel-&-dime-'em-to-death grab for our wallets."

Fees for Frequent Flyers

Finally, on the frequent flyer side of things, Delta's addition of fuel surcharges to award tickets frustrated many SkyMiles members. One reader, GA Pilot, calculated that a $25 fuel surcharge more or less covers the total per person fuel cost of a short-haul flight. Several other posters pointed out that fuel is an operational cost, and that a surcharge—if there is going to be one—should cover only the incremental increase in fuel costs due to rising oil prices, not the entire fuel bill:

srdshelly - "...The cost of fuel is a cost of doing business and should be included in the fare. Are they going to come up with a "pay crew" surcharge, a "lease jet" surcharge, a "buy advertising" surcharge, a "CEO golden parachute" surcharge?"

We always enjoy reading your comments, compliments, and complaints, so please, keep them coming! You can even start by weighing in on your least favorite airline fee in the space below.

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