Airline fees, as you may have heard, are out of control. Having already jacked up their checked baggage fees to the limits of reason, the major airlines have begun rooting around for ways to charge passengers. Carry-on baggage, front-row coach seats and priority boarding are all among the “perks” that will now cost you extra on some airlines.
But surely there are airlines out there that won’t kill you with fees, right?
Well, yes. There’s Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t charge for the first two checked bags, and Air Canada and JetBlue, which allow you to check your first bag for free (but will each charge you $30 for a second checked bag).
Unfortunately, the list of domestic airlines offering free checked baggage begins and ends there. Every other domestic carrier will charge upwards of $15 for the first checked bag, and the fees only go up if you dare to bring a second. You can fly the friendly skies, but don’t pack a suitcase – and don’t expect things to change anytime soon.
“The no-bag-fee campaign has been successful for [Southwest], but I don’t expect the other carriers to follow suit,” says Bill Miller, senior vice president of strategic partnerships for CheapOair. “And as the government begins to step in and make some noise about transparent pricing, I expect there to be a race to pile on more fees.”
That being said, here are some airlines that are still giving away the perks you love for free. They’re few and far between, but take what you can get while you still can.
Free Perk: Pets (in-cabin, inter-island)
Hawaiian will normally charge you $165 if you want to take a pet in the cabin with you, but they’ll waive the fee altogether if you’re just flying between islands. So there’s no need to charter a kayak for your corgi.
Free Perk: Seat selection
Numerous airlines, including Delta, American and Virgin America, allow you to select your seat for free when ordering your ticket online. But that doesn’t mean you can snag some extra leg room without paying a premium. Virgin America, for instance, will charge you $110 for an extra 6 inches of leg room (though, in fairness, you also get perks like a priority boarding and complimentary bottle of water).
Unfortunately, the flight attendants don’t always get the memo about these premium coach seats. Miller was recently flying out of LaGuardia on another airline when he decided to pay an extra $29 for a coach seat with more leg room. After he’d boarded his flight, an attendant asked him to move so that two people could sit together. Naturally, he refused. “I felt like a dirtbag, but I’d paid extra for the seat,” he says.
Free perk: In-flight meals
Continental is alone among airlines in offering free in-flight meals to economy-class passeng… What’s that? They’re ending free meals in the fall? Well, never mind, then.
Air Canada & Midwest
Free Perk: Blanket and pillow
Free pillows? Are they running an airline or a hotel here? Truly, this is the golden age of air travel.
Free Perk: Bathroom use
Just kidding! It will reportedly cost you $1.30 to use the bathroom when RyanAir implements this fee after the summer rush as planned. Still, not a bad deal if you really have to go, right?
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