Here's an easy way to avoid one pesky airline charge: Bring your own earphones to listen to in-flight music, TV, and movies. A number of U.S. airlines charge economy-class passengers a fee to purchase or borrow headsets, including American ($2), Continental ($1), Delta ($2), and US Airways ($5). These airlines generally provide free earphones in economy on some international flights, and always in business and first-class, but most coach passengers are out of luck.
By carrying your own earphones, not only will you avoid these fees, you'll likely have a better headset than the airline's flimsy, poor-sound-quality models. I myself like the Bose noise-cancelation headphones ($299-$349), which are also great for blocking out noisy seatmates.
If you'd rather not have one more item to cram into your carry-on, some airlines do offer free (albeit mediocre) earphones. This group includes AirTran, JetBlue (you can upgrade to nicer earphones for $1), and United. Northwest (except Asia service) and Southwest don't offer in-flight entertainment in coach, so there's no need to worry.
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