Two Airline Fees That Really Aren't so Bad

Some travel stories seem designed more to generate heat rather than inform consumers. Two in particular have been a bit over the top.

Last week, we were treated to a flood of stories about Southwest charging $40 to board early. Well, yes, you pay $40 to move up when you're at the gate. But if you know you'll want to move to an earlier group, you can do that in advance for a modest $10. Just opt for Early Bird check-in when you buy your ticket.

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Early boarding on Southwest provides several advantages. Because Southwest doesn't assign seats in advance, early boarding means you're more likely to avoid getting stuck in a middle seat. If you're traveling as a couple, you'll have a better chance at sitting together. And you'll have early access to the overhead baggage bin before it fills completely.

All in all, early boarding is probably worth $10 to a lot of people. And the only folks who are likely to want to pay that $40 charge are those who find out after they get to the airport that they're in one of the latest boarding groups and are destined for a middle seat.

A second example of an airline fee that isn't as bad as it looks: Last year, we heard a lot of news about Spirit's $100 fee to stash a bag into an overhead baggage bin—and about how outrageous this fee is. Yes, $100 is outrageous. But you pay it only if you wait until you get to the boarding gate to check your bag. Otherwise, you can pay $35 online, in advance—excessive, to be sure, but a far cry from $100. Or if you wait until you get to the airport, you'll pay $50 at the airport counter or kiosk.

Fee hungry as the airline is, my guess is that Spirit doesn't want to take in a lot of $100 fees. Instead, it wants to prevent the hassle of collecting fees at the departure gate when the agents are trying to load and close the flight.

I'm no fan of Spirit, a carrier that has continually resisted honest ticket-price advertising. But in this case, I think Spirit really just wants to encourage passengers to check bags in advance.

What do you think?

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(Photo: Plane via Shutterstock

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