Fine Print

Air travel costs on the rise

Air travelers who are looking forward to getting away in the summer of 2007 can expect to encounter something of a downer, since air carriers are set to increase fees.

Air fares themselves are already at their highest levels since 2000. According to a recent report by the Department of Transportation, the average domestic air fare totaled $378 round trip. 

In order for airlines to survive, they may have to do more than simply increase their revenue. As a result, many carriers are prepared to hike their fees on all kinds of services that air travelers have come to expect gratis.

Airlines are projected to have record full flights this summer, making it tougher than ever to get a good seat. As a result, certain carriers expect that travelers will be willing fork over extra cash for a preferred seating assignment.

With seats filling up, airlines are also implementing fees for passengers’ baggage. Currently, most domestic airlines allow passengers to check two bags weighing no more than 50 pounds each. Travelers who exceed that weight limit will pay $25 or more per bag, as well as up to $80 for each extra bag they wish to check.

Additionally, beginning in the summer of 2006, some airlines began charging extra for curbside luggage check-in to the tune of about $2 per bag.

Separately, climbing oil prices mean added fuel surcharges ahead of the busy summer travel season. If oil prices continue upward, more air carriers are likely to follow the lead of British Airways, which increased its fuel fees for long haul flights by $6 beginning May 2, 2007.

Passengers who used to enjoy flying standby for free may get hit with a fee, too. Northwest Airlines instituted a fee of $25 in April 2007 for passengers looking to fly standby. However, the airline stated that elite members of Northwest Airlines WorldPerks frequent flier program and those traveling on refundable tickets will still get to stand by for alternate flights at no cost.

With all these added costs expected to making air travel even more costly, it may be a good time for travelers to redeem miles earned with an airline credit card. For those who are expecting to book a flight, there is still time to apply for one of the best airline credit cards before travel season gets into full swing.  

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Published: May 10, 2007

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