7 Ways to Avoid Airline Fees

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Because no one in history has ever said “I really love paying extra airline fees.”

Key points

  • Most airlines have quite a few additional fees they charge.
  • Following a few tips as you book airfare and prepare for your trip can keep you from paying extra.
  • Examples include weighing your packed bags and using a travel credit card.

When you’re trying to get a good deal on air travel, one of the most common frustrations is airline fees. Airlines have figured out how to charge for almost everything at this point, from bringing any sort of luggage to something as simple as picking your seat.

I don’t like getting charged extra any more than you do. Here are the best ways I’ve found to fly fee-free.

1. Check the details of the ticket you’re buying

Most airlines offer several different types of fares, starting with basic economy and progressing up to first class. Since basic economy is the cheapest, it’s what you’ll see first if you’re sorting by price on an airline’s website or Google Flights. It also has the most restrictions, and you’ll likely need to pay a fee if you want to choose a seat.

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Before you book anything, check what’s included with the ticket and make sure it works for you. If, say, you and a travel companion want to sit together, a basic economy fare wouldn’t be the right choice. Airlines offer a fare comparison on their websites where you can find all the details.

2. Know what you’re getting into with low-cost airlines

Low-cost airlines often draw people in with their prices. Then, you find out that you’ll pay extra for just about everything outside of your seat and a personal item. Spirit Airlines is one of the airlines that’s well-known for this, but there are plenty of others in the United States and abroad.

The savings may be worth it if you’re only looking to get from point A to point B. Just keep in mind that there can be lots of extra charges with low-cost carriers, and they also typically aren’t the most reliable airlines .

3. Weigh your checked bags after packing them

Overweight baggage fees can be some of the most expensive travel fees. They typically cost at least $ 100, and in some cases, a bag that tips the scales could end up costing you an extra $ 200 to $ 400.

I’ve been living out of suitcases for a few years, and I routinely push baggage weight restrictions to their limits. The best thing you can do is weigh your bags yourself after you’ve packed them to make sure they’re at or below the maximum.

If a bag is over the limit, see if you can redistribute some items. It’s a quick way to save yourself a big extra charge on your credit card. And if you can’t find a solution to an overweight bag, there’s one last resort that might work.

4. Ship some of your luggage

It may seem like an extreme solution, but if you can’t get your bags below a weight limit, it could be cheaper to ship some items. I’ve done this before, because $ 40 for shipping easily beats a $ 200 fee for an overweight bag.

Although you can do this with any mail service, there are now several luggage shipping services available that could get you a better deal. A few of the more popular options are:

  • LugLess
  • Luggage Forward
  • Send My Bag

5. Get a travel credit card that covers airline fees

If you’re a frequent flyer, look into travel rewards credit cards. There are quite a few that can save you money on airline fees, as well as other common travel expenses.

You have a couple of options if your goal is to find a card that will help you avoid airline fees. Some travel cards have airline fee credits, normally for $ 100 or $ 200 per year, that apply with any airline. For example, you could get reimbursed for your checked bag with United, an in-flight meal purchased on Delta, and so on, all with the same card.

Another option is airline credit cards tied to a specific airline. These often have perks that cover some of the most common expenses with that airline, such as free checked baggage. For travelers who have one airline they use the most, this type of travel card is a good choice.

6. Bring your own snacks and an empty water bottle

Your airline might provide a meal, depending on the fare you booked and the length of the flight. This is one of those details I’d recommend checking in advance so you know what to expect.

Whether there’s going to be free food or not, consider bringing your own snacks along. This way, you’ll have something to eat if you don’t want to spend extra or if you don’t like what’s available. It’s also a good idea to have an empty water bottle. You can fill it at a water fountain after security so you don’t need to pay for water.

7. Fly with Southwest

Southwest Airlines sets itself apart from other airlines by not charging many of the typical fees. No matter what type of fare you book, you get a free carry-on and up to two free checked bags, which can weigh up to 50 pounds apiece. Southwest also doesn’t charge change or cancellation fees.

Airline fees are an unwelcome surprise, especially when you’re trying to stick to a travel budget. With the tips above, you can fly where you want without all those extra costs.

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