PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Vacation travelers are getting much better at taking a break from airline fees.
According to the Department of Transportation, U.S. airlines collected $3.35 billion in baggage fees last year. That's an oversized haul, but down from $3.49 billion in 2012. Yep, that's $100 million passengers kept out of the hands of money-grubbing airlines that seem to be in constant battle with their customers, their pilots and their competitors who don't see why either need to be flogged just for having the misfortune of running across the airlines in question.
The airlines are only doing it to themselves. Since American Airlines (AAL) introduced the first checked bag fee in 2008 ($15, which has since climbed to $25), airlines shocked everyone into packing a carry-on. As a result, airlines can only gate check those bags for free once the overhead bins are stuffed. They also made elimination of baggage fees a basic tenet of their loyalty programs, and card carriers have caught on. Also, it hasn't escaped anyone's notice that those fees are just 1.7% of the $199.7 billion in revenues airlines made last year overall. But what about their profits, you say? Up to $12.7 billion last year from $98 million the year before.
So, yes, those baggage fees are worth ducking, as are the reservation-change fees carriers have begun tacking on. The latter fees accounted for $2.81 billion alone. The $6.16 billion in combined baggage and change fees is actually up from $6.06 billion last year, making baggage fees just one of the pitfalls travelers need to avoid.
With a little help from the folks at travel pricing and guidance website Smarter Travel, we've found five of the absolutely most egregious airline fees passengers can pay. If you thought $25 was outlandish for a checked bag, wait until you see how little that buys you on other airlines: