In perhaps not-so-shocking news, airlines are squeezing their customers.
The fees that airlines add to tickets ostensibly to cover fuel costs rose twice as fast as the costs themselves last year, according to a study from Carson Wagonlit Travel cited by the Los Angeles Times. And even though the cost of fuel has dropped since 2009, most airlines haven’t lowered their fuel surcharges in response.
The study’s findings may be fodder for critics who argue that airlines use the fuel surcharges as a way to be less transparent about ticket pricing. Many foreign airlines use the fuel surcharges as a way to add an expensive fee on to tickets purchased using frequent flier or other loyalty programs, according to Ed Perkins of SmarterTravel.com. In addition, non-U.S. based airlines sometimes post their ticket prices without the surcharge in an aim to make their fares appear lower.
In the U.S., airlines can’t post fares that exclude the fuel surcharges, according to Perkins.
Airlines worldwide are feeling the heat over fuel surcharges. Qantas and Virgin Australia are facing pressure from Australian travel agencies to lower their fuel surcharges after the cost of jet fuel fell 25 percent over the past three months, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The travel agencies argue that the airlines responded quickly to a surge in fuel prices by hiking their surcharges, but they’ve been slow to react to the drop.
Though airlines may be squeezing customers on fuel surcharges, airline fees overall have been falling. Airlines took home more than $3 billion in fees in 2011, according to a June report from the Bureau of Travel Statistics, that’s a drop from 2010.
Check out some notorious airline fees below:
Back in 2010, American Airlines <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/08/american-airlines-to-char_n_454109.html" target="_hplink">started charging $8 for blankets</a>.
Ryanair Boarding Pass Fees
Songstress Lily Allen took to twitter to express anger over<a href="http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/06/06/lily-allen-twitter-ryanair-boarding-pass/" target="_hplink"> Ryanair's policy of charging passengers to print out their boarding passes</a>.
Spirit's Online Booking Fee
In November 2011, Spirit Airlines <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/14/spirit-airlines-raises-on_0_n_1093430.html" target="_hplink">raised its domestic "passenger usage fee" (aka online booking fee) from $8.99 to $16.99</a> each way.
Southwest Airlines <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/26/southwest-airlines-fees-fuel-costs_n_1381008.html" target="_hplink">raised its ticket prices by $4 to $10 to offset the high cost of jet fuel</a> in March 2012. Its subsidiary AirTran, plus United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, US Airways, Frontier Airlines and Virgin America followed suit.
Ryanair Emergency Row Fee
Ryanair found itself under investigation after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/20/ryanair-in-hot-water-over_n_1366497.html" target="_hplink">instituting a 10 pound fee to sit in the emergency row</a>.
Allegiant Air's Carry-On Fee
In April 2012 the budget carrier announced a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/02/allegiant-air-carry-on-fe_n_1397911.html" target="_hplink">$35 carry-on fee</a>.
Spirit's New Carry-On Fee
A month later, low-cost Spirit Airlines <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/02/spirit-airlines-carry-on-fee_n_1472508.html" target="_hplink">upped carry-on fees to as much as $100</a>.
Airlines Could Charge Extra For Seats Together
Late May 2012 saw airlines start to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/21/airline-charges-seats_n_1533866.html" target="_hplink">reserve more window and aisle seats for passengers willing to pay extra</a>. This would make it it harder for friends and family members to sit next to each other.<br /> <br /> Sen. Chuck Schumer urged airlines to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/chuck-schumer-airlines_n_1548794.html" target="_hplink">allow families with young children to sit together without paying extra</a>.
United's $100 Bag Fee
In June 2012, United <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/united-airlines-raises-international-bag-fee_n_1589223.html" target="_hplink">raised its fee for a second checked bag on trans-Atlantic flights to $100</a>. Delta had done the same a few months earlier.
Wizz Air's Carry-On Fee
Carry-on fees have finally hopped the pond. <a href="http://skift.com/2012/07/09/carry-on-bag-fee-spreading-wizz-air-charge-europe/" target="_hplink">European regional carrier Wizz Air instituted a 10 Euro (about $12) fee to use the overhead bins</a>. Bags that fit under the seats still fly free.
Credit Card Booking Fee
In August 2012, Airefarewatchdog called out <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-hobica/the-latest-airline-fee-credit-card_b_1829396.html">Allegiant Airlines for charging more to book flights via credit card</a>.
Southwest Airlines' Early Boarding Fee
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/southwest-airlines-fees_n_2525443.html?utm_hp_ref=travel#slide=more232494">Southwest passengers can pay $40 to be one of the first 15 people on the plane</a>, as of January 2013.
United Fare Increase
United Airlines announced in December 2012 that it would be raising domestic fares up to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/united-airlines-raises-prices-10-dollars_n_1954864.html" target="_blank">$10 per round trip</a>. While the price bump is minimal, travelers looking for the best deal could be dissuaded from purchasing the slightly more expensive tickets.
One of the most profitable airlines in the U.S., <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/allegiant-air-fees_n_3516384.html" target="_blank">Allegiant Air</a> came into the spotlight for its length list of added-on fees. The budget airline is similar to Ryanair in wooing travelers with low-cost flights to small airports and tacking on hidden fees in every aspect of the flight. In addition to the run-of-the-mill luggage and seat-choice fees, Allegiant has fees for paying with a credit card ($8), using the overhead luggage compartments ($10-$25) and booking over the phone ($50!). (AP Photo/David Becker)
American Airline Fare Initiatives
In response to "nickle-and-diming" complaints, American Airlines introduced new <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-hobica/american-airlines-new-fare_b_2312289.html" target="_blank">fare-bundling initiatives</a>. The options -- "choice essential" and "choice plus" -- offer an array of packaged perks for one set price, rather than a la carte. While many complained about the initiative, others saw it as a way to get more for your money.
United Premier Access
United Airlines rolled out "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/01/united-premier-access-rip-off_n_2788513.html" target="_blank">Premier Access</a>" in March 2013. The program includes a designated check-in and security lines, and priority boarding and bagging handling. While the fees for the exclusive services only start at $9, travelers must <em>already</em> be elite customers.
Frontier Third-Party "Fees"
In May 2013, <a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/05/frontier-airlines-carry-on-fees-050213?MBID=twitter_" target="_blank">Frontier announced</a> that anyone purchasing a ticket through a third-party, such as travel agents or websites like Expedia, would be subject to additional fees. In reality, the fees are actually perks (such as carry-on luggage) Frontier only offers to travelers booking through the airline directly.
New Alaska Airline Fees
In July 2013, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/09/alaska-airlines-fees_n_3568206.html" target="_blank">Alaska Airlines</a> raised its baggage checked fee from $20 per bag (for up to three bags) to $25 per bag for the first two bags, and $75 for an additional piece of luggage. The airline also upped it's ticket-change fee to $125.
Spirit's Potential New Fees
Spirit Airlines is mulling the idea of tying airfare fees to demand. In October, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/31/spirit-airlines-fees_n_4181354.html" target="_blank">the AP reported</a>: "Spirit Airlines is considering tying the fees passengers pay to check a suitcase or pick a more desirable seat to demand. On a peak travel day, for instance, the fees could be much higher. Passengers who booked a Spirit flight for this holiday season can relax however — the changes are months away, if they happen at all."
Virgin Atlantic Seat Reservation Fee
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/17/virgin-atlantic-seat-reservations-fee_n_4459610.html" target="_blank">Virgin Atlantic</a> will start charging travelers $40.65 (£25) per flight to reserve their seats more than 24 hours in advance. Those who aren't picky about where they sit can choose their seat less than 24 hours before the flight at no cost.