5. Fight the fees
Fees for checked baggage and other amenities were nearly nonexistent before 2007, when early fee programs brought in $464 million for the airlines. Last year, Delta more than doubled that take on its own as the amount of annual revenue from airline fees broke the $3 billion mark for the first time. For airlines that faced nearly $150-a-barrel fuel prices in 2008, it's an option they with they'd had earlier.
"Bag fees are worth close to $3.5 billion to $4 billion a year to domestic airlines," Seaney says. "That gives them more arrows in their quiver than they had during the last fuel crisis."
That doesn't mean consumers have to like them. Surprisingly, there are still fee-averse carriers out there. Republic Airways Holdings' (RJET) Frontier Airlines raised eyebrows in April when it reduced itinerary-change fees from $100 to $50 and baggage fees from $20 to $15 for passengers who checked bags online. Air Canada, JetBlue (JBLU) and Southwest (LUV), meanwhile, still don't charge a fee for the first checked bag -- with Southwest still shunning fees even for the second bag.Air Canada and Southwest are also the only booking-fee holdouts, though they charge for meals that Hawaiian and, surprisingly, Continental offer for free. If seat selection is still important to certain travelers, JetBlue, Virgin America and United are the only carriers who won't charge for it. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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