Have you ever had a job where people ask you questions and the answer is almost always, “It depends?” As a young child, you learn to introduce variables into the games you play. If you knock the enemy’s marble out of the circle, can you keep it? It depends; did they call, “No Keepsies?” How often should you change your oil? It depends; if you drive a tightly wound sports car and you race regularly in a local rallies, you should probably change it every week. Is grapefruit good for you? It depends; are you taking Lipitor? Grapefruit and Lipitor are a dangerous combination.
There are so many airline fees these days, and so many exceptions have been applied to them, that most people really have no idea how much extra cash they should budget for them when taking an average trip. How much is a pillow? It depends; you can be platinum with Frontier and not get one because they don’t have any, but you can purchase a “pillow kit” from Jet Blue for $7. How much am I going to have to pay to check my luggage? It depends; are you flying domestically or internationally? How many bags do you have? Do any of them weigh more than 50lbs? 70lbs? 100lbs? Are you silver, gold, or platinum elite? Have you kissed the ring of our CEO’s first born, and are you aware of the prophecy? It’s crazy.
Pets aboard the aircraft can cost $60 to $150 extra, depending on the airline. Sending a child (unaccompanied minor) will run you an extra $25 to $100, also depending on the airline. My favorite Airline Fee question is, “Does it cost anything to redeem my frequent flier miles for a free ticket?” It depends; the options and exceptions are so numerous here, that you’d need a spreadsheet to explain it. If you’re Platinum with Delta, it’s free to do it online, but $25 by phone unless you have a companion and you’re ticket is off-peak to a ‘travel saver’ destination… it gives me a headache to think about it.
Fortunately, our good friends at USAToday.com have assembled a giant spreadsheet that has the amounts of airline fees and it lists (or attempts to list) all known fees that airlines try to charge you. You may want to bookmark this link for future reference: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/travel/2009-06-22-chart-airline-fees_N.htm
There is one thing to remember about all of these fees, and it’s important. Collecting the moneys for them is almost always left up to the discretion of the employee you’re dealing with. Being polite and professional goes a long way to seeing these fees get removed. Personally, I believe ticketing agents are under enough stress, dealing with the long lines of people every day. They probably don’t look forward to stopping their routine in order to handle your credit card to charge you for a bag that’s only a few pounds over the limit. Common courtesy can save you up to $75 in those situations, so be nice!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.