Even though airfare has never been cheaper, it’s never been more expensive to travel comfortably.
The current state of airline fees in the past few years has us nostalgic for the past. It seems like no one weighed suitcases back then, or carefully controlled how many carry-on luggage items were brought on board.
Since we still like and have to travel, we’ve prepared this guide. It’ll help you navigate airline fees from pets to carry-on bags. We’ll also take a look at some of the most popular airlines’ fee policies, and answer questions you may have.
Traveling may have changed, but we’ll rock the socks off of airline fees in 2019!
What Are Airline Fees (and what can I expect to pay)?
It may seem like everything requires an additional fee these days, but you still have some leeway. For example, bringing personal items (e.g. a purse, a laptop bag, or anything that doesn’t have to be placed in the overhead compartment) is still free.
As for everything else, let’s take a look.
Checked Baggage Fee
Checked baggage used to be free once, but now it requires a fee.
The standard baggage you can hand over at check-in are usually big suitcases. However, you can check ski equipment, golf clubs, baby strollers, and a variety of other things that are too big to fit on the plane.
On average, you can expect checked baggage fees to set you back $25 for the first checked bag.
Excess Checked-in Bag Weight
If you have checked baggage, make sure you don’t go over the limit as you’ll be charged between $25 and $200 for excess weight. Yes, even if you paid for the first checked-in bag separately.
Carry-on Bag Fee
While most airlines still don’t charge the carry-on baggage you’re bringing on board (and which has to be placed in the overhead locker), some have started doing it. For example, American Airlines and United have basic economy seats where passengers have to pay $25 for a carry-on bag that doesn’t fit under the seat in front of them.
However, there are usually restrictions to what kind of bag you can bring on board and what its dimensions should be, so keep an eye out for that. Even with airlines that don’t charge carry-on baggage fees.
Additionally, don’t forget the TSA 3-1-1 liquids rule, and leave the prohibited items at home.
When it comes to personal items (which are free with all airlines), make sure you know what the airline’s personal item size policy is.
Airline Pet Policies
If you want your pet to travel with you, you’ll have to pay an airline pet fee.
Depending on the size of your pet, it may be possible to bring it on board, which can cost you more than your ticket.
Again, different airlines set different pet fees, but you can expect to pay at least $75 if your pet is traveling in the plane cabin with you. If you have to put your pet into the cargo hold, the price will rise to an average of $150.
Keep in mind that some airlines don’t allow pets on their flights at all.
Phone and In-Person Booking Fees
Even though most of us book plane tickets online, if you decide to deviate from that habit, you’ll be charged.
Airlines can charge up to $45 in fees for booking your tickets through the phone, or doing it in person.
If you’d like to pick your seat and not have it randomly assigned to you during check-in, you’ll have to pay a fee for that.
If you want a seat with extra legroom, you can expect that to cost you anywhere from $4 to $200 dollars.
Airline Fees for Food & Drinks
In-flight meals and refreshments haven’t been complimentary for a while now. Each airline has their own menu and since it is air travel, you’d be better off buying snacks before the security check.
If you’re flying anything other than economy class, double-check as you may have food and refreshments included in the price of your ticket.
Wi-Fi & In-Flight Entertainment
No two airlines are alike, and neither are their Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment offers.
Some, like JetBlue, offer complimentary Wi-Fi, while others charge per hour or per flight.
Airlines also offer monthly subscriptions to frequent travelers so if you fly with one airline often, it might be good to look into it as it can be significantly cheaper than paying for Wi-Fi every time.
In-flight entertainment usually depends on the length of the flight, but in some cases you can be expected to pay from $5-$8 dollars for seeing a movie while up in the air.
Travelling with Children
If you’re travelling with children, make sure you get all the information about your airline’s policies and fees related to your trip.
If you’re taking a car seat and a baby stroller, some airlines will let you hand them off at the gate for free (and receive them upon return), while others may ask you to pay for them as checked baggage.
Items like diaper bags, breast pumps and milk bottles don’t count towards allowed carry-on weight in most cases, but it’s best to check with your airline of choice.
If you’re traveling with a child (who’s not paying for a ticket) and they exceed their baggage allowance, it’ll be counted towards your baggage allowance.
Airline Fees for Unaccompanied Minors
If your child has to go on a trip without you, you can expect to pay anywhere between $25 and $200 for your unaccompanied minor.
If you can’t avoid this situation, make sure that your child also has a valid form of ID, and your Letter of Consent.
Common Airline Fee Policies
Now that we've covered the majority of things airline ask you to pay a fee for, it’s time to take a look at popular airlines’ policies.
Some airlines are definitely pros at customer service and offer great benefits like snacks and check-in bags for free, while others are best flown with an upgrade (or avoided entirely).
Let’s take a look!
Alaska Airlines Fees
If you’re flying with Alaska Airlines, you’ll be able to bring both a personal item and a carry-on bag on board.
However, when it comes to baggage fees, Alaska Airlines charges the following:
- $25 for the first checked bag (up to 50 lbs)
- Baggage weight excess (up to 100 lbs): $75
- Exceptions: car seats, baby strollers, mobility aids and medical devices are not subject to standard airline fees
- If you’re travelling from Hawaii, you can bring a box of pineapples free of charge
- Fee waivers apply for loyalty program and credit card program members
If you want to travel with your pets, consult the Alaska Airlines pet policy:
- Pet in cabin: $100 each way
- Checked pet: $100 each way
- Breed and location restrictions apply
Space is limited, so passengers are asked to book ahead
The unaccompanied minor fee at Alaskan Airlines is $25 for direct flights, and $50 for connecting. If you want to book your tickets by phone, you can do so for $15.
If you’re from Alaska, you’ll be happy to hear that you can get many of the airline fees waived through the free Club 49 program for residents of the state.
American Airlines Fees
American Airlines’ baggage policy stipulates the following:
- Carry-on items are fee-free (personal item and full-sized carry-on bag)
- Maximum size of American Airlines carry-on bag is: 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in)
- First checked bag is $30 on a domestic flight, and the second is $40
If you’re travelling to Brazil, South America or Transpacific, first 2 checked bags are free
- If you’re travelling across the Atlantic, you’ll get the first checked-in bag at no extra cost
Maximum dimensions of American Airlines checked baggage are 62 inches
Maximum weight of checked baggage: 50 pounds (for Brazil: 70 pounds)
American Airlines pet policy is as follows:
- Carry-on pet: $125
- Checked pet: $200
Emotional/psychiatric support and trained animals can fly with AA free of charge
If you want your child to travel with AA without you, be prepared to pay the $150 unaccompanied minor fee, and if you want to book by phone, that will add $25 to your charge.
AA also has a complete list of all their fees so if you’re considering them for your next flight, you can browse it here.
Delta Airlines Fees
Delta Airlines allows passengers to travel with both their personal item and their carry-on bag, but their checked baggage policy states:
- First checked bag (under 50lbs): $30 on domestic flights
- Second checked bag: $40
When it comes to Delta’s pet policy, you can:
- Bring your pets on board with you for $125
- Check your pets for $200
Restrictions still apply if you want to bring your pets on your next Delta flight, so make sure you double-check with the airline to see if they can accommodate you and your pet.
Additionally, Delta’s fee for unaccompanied minors is $150. Booking by phone is completely free.
Frontier Airlines Fees
Unfortunately, Frontier Airlines is among those airlines which charge for carry-on baggage.
And since the Frontier Airlines personal item size restriction is 8″ x 14″ x 18″, it’s best to come prepared for their baggage policy:
Different carry-on baggage pricing depending on the platform; starting at $35 for the carry-on bag
- First checked bag starts at $30
- Second checked bag starts at $45
Frontier Airlines bag fees are quite confusing since their prices vary depending on the platform you’ve used to book them through. If you’re flying with them, take a look at the price list and make sure you book through the right platform.
Frontier Airlines pet policy states:
- In-cabin pet: $75
Only in-cabin pet transport is allowed at Frontier Airlines
The unaccompanied minor fee at Frontier Airlines is $110, and only if it’s a nonstop flight. If you’d like to book tickets over the phone, that will cost you $10.
JetBlue Airline Fees
JetBlue is a passenger favorite because it offers a lot of features at no extra cost. Carry-on bag and personal items are completely free, and the rest of the fees are very competitive.
JetBlue baggage policy states:
- First checked bag is $25, but it can vary depending on the carrier
- Second checked bag is $40, and the third is $150
If you want to travel with your furry family members, JetBlue pet policy stipulates the following fees:
- In-cabin pet fee: $125
JetBlue doesn’t ship pets as cargo
The unaccompanied minor fee at JetBlue is $100, and you can book your tickets by phone for $25.
Spirit Airlines Fees
Spirit Airlines prides itself on giving you more control over what’s included in your airfare, which means that you have to pay for everything – including your carry on bag.
Spirit Airlines carry-on bag fee: starting from $35
Personal item size: 18"x14"x8"
Spirit Airlines carry-on size: 22 x 18 x10 inches (including handles and wheels)
Boarding passes printed at the airport: $2 or $10
In addition to charging for bags, Spirit Airlines pet policy stipulates that they only transport pets in the cabin with their owners. The carry-on pet fee is $110.
You can add other services to your airfare according to your needs, but an unaccompanied minor fee is $100. In case you want to book by phone, they’ll add $35 to the cost.
Spirit Airlines is a solid choice for anyone who can pack light, and wants to customize their experience. The Bare Fare is a good foundation to add on upgrades, and Spirit Airlines has a lot of them.
How to Avoid Airline Fees?
It’s pretty impossible to avoid airline fees these days, but as a rule of thumb:
- Join loyalty programs
- If you’re a frequent traveler, see what the airline can offer you (e.g. monthly WiFi subscription, loyalty program upgrade, etc.)
- Get a credit card that will improve your loyalty program, and reward you for flying
- Book well ahead of time
- While airline fees are becoming a fact of life, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find good deals.
- And if you’re traveling with pets, make sure you choose an airline that suits not only your needs, but the needs of your furry friends, too.