Traveling has become a special kind of hell in recent years, thanks to ever-multiplying fees. Check a bag, that's $25. Buy a sandwich for the flight, that's another $10. Ask for a blanket or rent a movie? Be prepared to fork over some serious cash.
But when it comes to in-flight Internet, some airlines are moving in the opposite direction from charging additional fees, at least for now. JetBlue announced this week it will offer free Wi-Fi for in-flight use starting early next year. (Hat tip: Time's Moneyland Blog.)
The Wi-Fi won't just be free, according to the company's blog, it's also supposed to slay any other airline's Internet service in terms of connectivity speed. According to the chart JetBlue published with its announcement on Tuesday, the new satellites that its planes will be using to connect passengers to the Internet are 100 times more powerful than the old-school satellites other (unnamed) airlines have been using. However, JetBlue did leave the door open to charging fees in the future -- and said its free basic Wi-Fi service was just "to start."
Some other airlines are testing a modified version of free in-flight Internet, but those feel more like access to a digital SkyMall than an actual Internet connection. (Don't get us wrong, perusing SkyMall for Beer Pagers and DNA analysis kits for your pet is a totally legit way to spend a 4-hour flight.)
For example, Delta allows passengers to connect for free to Amazon.com and several other content partners, but doesn't let fliers roam the Internet wilds. Meanwhile, the airline collects a small commission on purchases made in-flight on Amazon, according to the The Street. American Airlines and US Airways also have offered similar limited Internet services, which nudge passengers towards certain online shops with time-limited Internet access.
Untethered access to the Web, however, will cost you anywhere from $1.95 to $17.95 on American, for example, depending on flight distance and length of access. Virgin America offers in-flight Internet priced from $4.95 to $17.95. These and other major airlines in the United States offer Internet services through Gogo, a mile-high Internet service provider.
Airlines might have good reason to offer Wi-Fi for free: Much like free booze, Internet access could help subdue nervous or impatient passengers. In an era where flights can be stuck on the tarmac for hours and hours and passengers can come unhinged without access to Words With Friends, free Internet access could be a very good thing.
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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.