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Southwest Announces … Fees?

Southwest, the “no fees” airline, has announced a few new fee … uh, service charges. The airline will, for the first time, allow small pets onboard, for an extra cost. It has also rolled out charges for children traveling alone as well as for people checking overweight or third bags. All fees take effect June 17.

To be fair, these aren’t charges that are going to affect the average traveler. The airline has steered safely clear of the unavoidable and sneaky fees many airlines are using to boost revenue, for instance, first-checked bag fees, seat-selection fees, booking fees, and ticket-change fees. Southwest’s new fees target special circumstances: traveling with pets, children traveling alone, and people packing more than the usual amount.

The in-cabin pet fee of $75 is lower than any domestic airline except AirTran, which charges $69 per one-way flight. And the mere fact that Southwest has opened up under-seat space for passengers’ furry friends is bound to make pet travel enthusiasts happy.

As for the $25 unaccompanied minor charge, I’m frankly really surprised Southwest didn’t charge for this before. Until now, it has been the only domestic carrier not to charge for shepherding children flying alone onto flights and supervising them inflight. Compared to the $75 to $100 [[Children_Flying_Alone | most airlines charge]] (AirTran coming the closest to affordable with a $39 fee), a $25 charge doesn’t seem unreasonable. And, considering Southwest, along with AirTran and United, allow children 12 and older to fly as adults, the fee actually has a pretty limited scope.

The airline has also raised its third/overweight bag fee from $25 to $50. Third checked bags and bags weighing 51 to 70 pounds will incur the new fee. Considering that Southwest is the lone domestic airline that doesn’t charge for first or second checked bags, this third bag fee fails to rouse much ire, at least in me. You can check our fees chart for a full comparison of airline fees.

What do you think? Is Southwest still the fee-free airline in your book? Do these charges seem reasonable or more like airline nickel-and-diming? And are you already packing up your dog and heading to the airport?

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