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Consumer
When Airline Fees Are Worth It
WASHINGTON (10/22/13)--New fees aren't surprising; they are big business for airlines. Last year airlines made $27 billion in fees and extra charges, more than doubling their takes from 2009 (MarketWatch Oct. 2).
 
 While some smaller airlines already charge fees for carry-on luggage, the major airlines are following suit by emphasizing priority boarding. If you're not willing to spend extra to be seated first, you might not have overhead-bin space for your carry-on (The New York Times Oct. 11).
 
Some fees are obviously worth skipping--paying extra to print your boarding pass or book by phone, and paying for onboard snacks, for instance. But some fees are worth it, particularly on longer flights and layovers.  They include:
  • Premium economy seats. Premium seating usually offers more legroom, the ability to recline further, and outlets to charge mobile devices. While not worth the $10 to $50 extra on a shorter flight, the added comfort could be worth it for longer flights. Be sure to check what premium seating offers, at it varies by carrier.
  • Airline lounge passes. A one-day pass to an airline's lounge, which offers perks such as free snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi, more comfortable seating, and a quieter space to relax, can be worth its $50 price tag during long layovers. If you have multiple layovers, your pass should work at each stop as long as they're on the same day.
  • Seat assignments. Are you an aisle person? Do you fear being stuck in the middle? Are are you traveling with small children necessitating easy access to the restrooms? Then paying extra to pick your seats might be worth it.
  • In-flight Wi-Fi. If you want to get work done or want a broader variety of in-flight entertainment than a handful of sitcom reruns, paying for Wi-Fi is a good option. Delta and American charge $14 a flight. Southwest's fee is $8.
Before paying any travel fee, research what you're paying for to ensure it's exactly what you want and worth the additional cost.
 
For more information, read "Do You Need a Travel Agent?" and "Make Tracks: Traveling by Train for Your Next Trip" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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