The world is huge

Don't miss any of it

Travel news, itineraries, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.


New Website Calculates ‘True Cost’ of Airfare

“How much will it really cost?” is the question everyone is asking these days about buying an air ticket. With the proliferation of fees and charges—and lack of any consistent policies among various lines—a simple search through Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, or Travelocity doesn’t answer that question any more.

A new online site—TruPrice—aims to rectify that problem. It just went online in a “beta” or sort of preliminary version, but at least the basic function works well. TruPrice is very straightforward:

  • You first select all the “extras” you might want on your flight—TruPrice displays a menu of several options each for checked baggage, carry-on baggage, beverages, food/snacks, reservations and itinerary changes, boarding and seating (seat assignments, exit rows, and such), in-flight services (entertainment, WiFi, blankets/pillows), children and pets, and sporting and other special equipment (golf clubs, bicycles, skis, surfboard, and such).
  • Next, you use BookingBuddy, Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, or any other fare-comparison system to check the baseline fares on any feasible airlines. You should be careful to include “total” costs, including taxes and mandatory fees, not just the bare-bones (and often deceptive) first-screen fares you see.
  • Then you enter those supposedly “total” fares for each airline, and TruPrice adds in the costs of all the extras you selected and calculates a “what you really pay” total for any line you entered.

{{{SmarterBuddy|align=left}}}Today’s beta version of TruPrice covers AirTran, Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, JetBlue, Midwest, Spirit, Southwest, United, US Airways, and Virgin America. (Presumably, the “Midwest” listing really refers to Frontier, the merged line’s new name.) The main domestic exceptions are Allegiant, Sun Country, and USA 3000, but TruPrice will likely add them later. Ditto major foreign lines.

Of course, when you finally make an actual booking on an airline or agency-booking site, you see the fees for at least some of those options before you make your final purchase. What TruPrice does is allow you to see those numbers before you make a commitment—including a few that the airline might not show you—and factor them into your choice before you even start the purchase process with any one line. Thus, from the beginning, your pre-selection fare comparisons are really apples to apples.

Without that capability, today’s search systems can often mislead you about your total price. On any given route, for example, Southwest’s base fare might be higher than a competitor’s. But if you want to check two bags, Southwest would emerge as the true low-cost option.

The folks at TruPrice note that just determining all the fees and charges poses more of a challenge than you might think. They’re not all posted openly and obviously on airline websites.

TruPrice can obviously provide a very useful service. It would be far more useful, however, if it were integrated with a fare search system. In such a system, you would enter your itinerary, as you now do with Expedia, and, at the same time, you would enter the equivalent of TruPrice’s list of extras you wanted. The system would then display, from the outset, a fare comparison that would automatically include the costs of all the extras you selected.

Clearly, the folks at TruPrice recognize this obvious potential. So don’t be surprised if TruPrice joins forces with one of the metasearch engines such as Kayak, joins forces with one of the online travel agencies, such as Expedia, or decides to become its own metasearch site or online agency. And don’t be surprised if one or more of the current big metasearch or agency sites decides to provide an equivalent function.

For now, look to TruPrice as the go-to site for accurate, all-up fare-plus-fee comparisons. But you can also expect some rapid evolution into something more. One way or another, you’ll be able to develop easy apples to apples fare comparisons before too many months have passed.

Your Turn

How do you usually determine the true price of a flight? Will you be using TruPrice from now on? Share your thoughts by submitting a comment below!

(Editor’s Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From