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Airline Fees

Airline fees keep piling up

May 03, 2010

Airline fees continue to change, with most fees headed up and a few headed down. One thing's for sure, these fees are here to stay, so you need to be informed to avoid being surprised.

Travelers used to be able to catch an earlier flight, with no extra charge, if they got to the airport early and there were empty seats available, but now many carriers charge fees to fly standby. American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways charge $50 to fly standby, and Alaska and Horizon are charging $25 to fly standby on most flights.

While Southwest doesn't charge a change fee, it does require you to pay the difference in fares between the price of your ticket and a walk-up fare. If you bought a cheap seat, you might be paying more than the $50 change fee other airlines are charging. If you're flying on AirTran, you can fly standby for no fee. Some airlines waive these fees with certain fare classes and for elite frequent fliers.

If you want to send your child to visit grandma this summer, you'll want to know the rules and fees for children flying solo. Some airlines require the charge only for children ages 5 to 11, including Southwest, AirTran, Continental and United. Others require it for children ages 5 to 14. These include American, Delta, Frontier and US Airways.

Alaska and Horizon recently lowered fees for kids flying solo from $75 one way to $25 each way for nonstop flights and $50 for connecting flights. It's required for ages 5-12.

Southwest just doubled its one-way fee from $25 to $50, which seems cheap in comparison to the $99 one-way charge by United and the $100 one-way fee levied by American, Continental, Delta and US Airways. AirTran charges $39 for nonstop and $59 for connecting flights each way. Frontier charges $50 for nonstop and $100 for connecting flights.

On most carriers, if someone in the party is older than the mandatory unaccompanied-minor age, you can avoid the fees for children flying solo. For example, if your 7-year-old is traveling with your 15-year-old, you aren't required to use the unaccompanied-minor service.

It can be expensive to change your nonrefundable ticket when your travel plans change. Changing a ticket will cost you $150 on most carriers on domestic flights; on international flights most airlines charge $250. If you bought a $100 round-trip ticket from Dallas to Houston, the change fee would cost more than a new ticket. There are some exceptions to these fees and amounts. Southwest doesn't charge for changes, AirTran and Alaska (online) charge $75 to change tickets, and Frontier charges $100.


The Icelandic volcano wreaked havoc recently on European flights. Because of travel horror stories, a lot of people might rethink their travel plans to Europe, and prices may go down.

We've already seen a dip in May prices, so if you bought a ticket earlier this year for May travel, you should check prices for the same itinerary.

We have seen some prices drop by $300 to $400, which could make it worth paying the change fee. If you're traveling with a family of four and the price drops by $400 per ticket, you could get hundreds of dollars back for doing nothing more than pricing and rebooking the flight. Remember that the seats have to be on exactly the same flights to get a refund.

If you haven't yet bought tickets to Europe, check those May fares for deals. There's still room for movement in summer fares, but it may not happen for flights between June 20 and Aug. 20, since that is a very popular travel period.

Airline fees keep piling up
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