Eliminate Flight Charges
Oh those extra flight charges we all love to hate. It seems that airlines are right up there with banks at their ability to find new way to implement fees for items we have always enjoyed. With a few simple tips you can save a significant amount of money on your next booking!
Over the past few years just about every airline has implemented a checked baggage fee, including your first bag. At the time of this writing WestJet and JetBlue have announced they are starting a checked bag fee for some airfares, while Southwest is still allowing 1 checked bag for free. Most airlines charge between $25-$40 for your first bag, and $30-$100 for additional bags; while fees for oversize bags range from $100-$150. As these fees vary widely by carrier, it is possible to avoid up to $200 in fees by flying certain airlines over others.
Do your best to keep your checked bags under the weight restrictions to avoid these unnecessary flight charges. Whether this means playing the “exchange game”, moving items between your carry-on and checked bags, or cutting down on what you need to bring, it’s hugely worthwhile (especially if you plan to bring souvenirs back with you!).
If you know you’re going to need to check a bag, it’s paying online ahead of time to save time at the gate. This is especially true if you are cutting it close to the check-in cut-off times (1 hour for domestic, 2 hours for international). I have recently been allowed through check-in and security lines after arriving a few minutes late because I had already paid my fees via that airline app while sitting in traffic on the way to the airport. A better option is to go without a checked bag whenever possible (you can often check your carry-on bag for free at the gate if you prefer).
We often look at the extra legroom, adjustable headrests, larger personal TV screens, and laptop power ports of premium economy seating as price prohibitive when we’re on a budget. Seat Guru provides a great analysis of premium economy offerings and pricing across airlines. Waiting until closer to your departure date can see the premium price drop significantly, but it will still demand a premium or regular economy. With a bit of work you may be able to book one of these seats without the extra fare. During booking, select any economy seat, and then continue checking online as your departure date approaches. Some airlines may release a few of the reserved seats as demand declines. When considering an upgrade to premium economy, you will want to take into account included extras like checked bags, snacks and Wi-Fi that you were going to pay for as an economy ticket-holder, but may now be included in your premium ticket price.
Unless you are booking your travel through certain travel clubs it’s tough to play the game of determining when to book your flight. How early is too early? How late is too late? When are the best rates posted? The day, time of day, and time of the month may all impact airline tickets cost. Quartz provides a great article on hacks you can easily implement to potentially save money based on when, how, and even where you book your flight.
If there is any chance you might need to change your flight you will need to pay a bit extra up front for that right. Changing your non-refundable airline tickets after they’ve been purchased can quickly rack up fees that range from $75 to $175. So although the non-refundable option is generally significantly cheaper, you’ll want to be sure there is no chance of your plans changing. Travel insurance is always an option to cover unexpected cancellations, protect personal items, medical insurance, etc. Although it may be worth getting, there are ways to have the same benefits without paying for it. A number of credit cards already come with travel insurance built in whenever it is used to book your flight. Be sure to check the fine print of your credit card to see what you are covered for before booking.
As airlines try to find more and more ways to implement fees for conveniences we’ve gotten used to, it’s becoming more and more difficult to know what you’ll be getting with your ticket. Always check the specific rules for the airline you have chosen to give your business for the best preparation, but a little pre planning can get around most of these extras:
- Bring your own entertainment. Load your movies, music, or books on your device (or pack a physical book in your carry-on), and ensure it is fully charged before you board. Some airlines provide in-seat outlets, but definitely not all of them!
- Wi-Fi prices are steadily increasing on many airlines, and can cost up to $30. Purchasing passes in advance can save you some money, or you can simply “go old-school” and treat your flight like a no email zone.
- When flying a budget airline you can expect to have to pay for everything from drinks to snacks to printed boarding passes to carry-on bags! Always verify extra fees before you book.
- Some airlines now charge if you call to book a flight over the phone, sometimes ranging from $15-$35. Always book online to avoid those fees.
If you are in a position to consider a change of credit card, an airline-specific credit card often comes with perks such as exemption from checked luggage fees, priority boarding, free tickets, hotel stays, etc. Please note that many of these cards come with an annual fee, so it’s important to include that cost in your calculations. There’s a good chance you’ll see savings even with the fee depending on your travel schedule (and ability to use other perks).
Now that you know how to eliminate some of the major flight charges, you can move your focus to saving on the rest of your trip (accommodations, food, etc.). Remember, the more you are able to save up-front, the less you’ll need to worry about once you arrive!
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