The World's Worst Airline Fees

Worst Fees Ever

flight attendant walking up aisle of plane
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The rise in airline fees can be traced to the aftereffects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The number of airline passengers plummeted and carriers were struggling to stem the tide of red ink. Fares were cut to entice travelers back into the skies, further hurting the bottom line.

This began the slide into what the airlines called ancillary revenue, charging for everything from speaking to a customer service agent to bringing your pets aboard flights. Consulting firm IdeaWorks and CarTrawler found that airlines collected nearly $60 billion in ancillary revenue in 2015, up 18.8 percent from the previous year. Below are nine of the most hated airline fees.

  • 01 of 14

    Overweight Bags

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    A pile of luggage. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

    Most airlines allow you to have checked bags that weigh up to 50 lbs without extra charges, although Spirit Airlines caps its maximum weight at 40 lbs. But after that, overweight baggage fees rise exponentially, depending on the airline. But be prepared to pay $100 and up, depending on the weight of the bag.​​​

  • 02 of 14

    Unaccompanied Minors

    Photo courtesy of Giuseppe Milo/Flickr

    If you want your child to fly alone, the airlines will charge for what they call unaccompanied minors. The fee ranges from $50 to $150 each way, on top of the child's fare. There are also rules on the age of a child and the type of flight they're on.

  • 03 of 14

    Wi-Fi Access

    JetBlue is the only airline that offers passengers free high-speed Wi-Fi access aboard its flights. The major providers of inflight Wi-Fi are Gogo, Panasonic, Row 44, OnAir and GX Aviation. Prices are based on either time used or distance of a flight, although Southwest Airlines charges a flat $8 a day. 

  • 04 of 14

    Changing Your Name

    Image courtesy of Eviatar Bach/Wikipedia

     When booking a flight, it's important to make sure you use the correct name on a ticket. As far as the airlines are concerned, you bought a non-refundable (most times) and non-transferrable ticket. If your name is incorrect on that ticket, the airline can -- and will -- charge fees and, if applicable, fare differences if you need to make any change.

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  • 05 of 14

    Extra Room Seats

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    United Airlines Economy Plus cabin. Photo courtesy of United Airlines

    You want more room on your next flight? That's going to cost you. Airlines are charging between $25 and $200 to sit in exit rows, bulkheads or "more room" products.

  • 06 of 14

    Basic Economy Fares

    Photo by Benet J. Wilson

    United Airlines recently announced it would start selling these ultra-low fares. But it took this to its basest level by making it the most restrictive in the industry. Those buying these fares can't choose a seat in advance and -- the kicker -- can only bring one carry-on item that fit underneath the seat in front of them and they can't use the overhead bins. Budget carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet have built their businesses on a basic economy fare platform, charging for almost everything once travelers buy their fares.

  • 07 of 14

    Checked Luggage Fee

    Luggage carousel at the airport
    Image Source/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines decided to start charging passengers to check their bags in 2007. At the time, it was considered heresy, but once their competitors saw how much money the carrier was raking in, others followed suit.  Fees range from $15 to $45 for first bags, depending on the airline. International carriers including Air Canada, WestJet, Ryanair and Norwegian also charge for bags at fees ranging from $35 to more than $100, depending on when they are booked. Southwest Airlines is now the only domestic U.S. carrier to allow travelers to bring two checked bags for free.

  • 08 of 14

    Carry-on Bag Fee

    In 2010, Spirit Airlines again shocked the industry by charging passengers to bring on a larger carry-on bag that fits into an overhead bin. The carrier charges $35 when booking a flight online, but that fee jumps to $100 if you pay the fee at the gate. Iceland-based Wow Air charges $40.99 for a larger carry on when booking a flight or $99.99 at the gate.

    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    Choosing Seats

    Empty cabin of airplane
    fStop Images - Halfdark/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    Some airlines now charge you to choose a specific seat. For example, Spirit Airlines doesn't charge when they choose your seat. But if you want a specific seat, there's a fee involved, based on routes and seat locations. International budget carriers like Malaysia's Air Asia, Spain's Vueling and Brazil's Azul also charge for seat selection. Dubai-based Emirates began charging for seat selection in October 2016.

  • 10 of 14

    Priority Boarding

    You may not be able to afford to sit in business or first class, but the airlines will let you board your flight with that elite group -- for a fee. Those who pay get on before the rest of the economy class passengers, with the chance to snag precious overhead bin space and the ability to be among the first off the plane. Rates depend on the length of the flight, but range from $30 to more than $100.

  • 11 of 14

    Ticket Changes

    Gone are the days when if you needed to change a date or cancel a ticket, it could be done for free. Now, most airlines charge a fee that ranges from $50 to $150 -- and possibly the fare difference -- for changes and/or cancellations. And some -- like Spirit and Ireland's Ryanair -- do not offer refunds in any circumstances.

  • 12 of 14

    Food and Snacks

    A meal on American Eagle. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

    As part of the cuts, carriers began dropping the traditional free meals and snacks served in coach class. In 2003, Atlanta-based carrier Delta Air Lines became the first carrier to actually charge passengers for snack boxes. Other carriers followed suit, creating buy-onboard snack boxes and bistro-styled meals at prices ranging from $2.99 to more than $10. The practice has spread to the rest of the world, with British Airways announcing it was removing free food and snacks on its shorter flights to match what's being sold onboard by competitors EasyJet and FlyBe.

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  • 13 of 14

    Pillows and Blankets

    Image courtesy of Amazon

    In 2004, Delta Air Lines announced that it was removing these staple items from its flights as part of continued cost-cutting efforts. Again most airlines followed suit on domestic flights. JetBlue is the only U.S. airline that sells them, charging $6 for a Claritin pillow and $5 for an Arm & Hammer blanket that travelers can keep.

  • 14 of 14

    Speaking to Customer Service Via Phone

    Office workers working in office
    Michael H/Getty Images

    Before the internet, most travelers booked their flights either via a travel agency or by calling an airline directly. A helpful agent would ask questions and present options. They would also make changes if requested. But the internet allowed everyone to book their own flights and make their own changes.  Airlines saw that and realized they could cut the number of agents they needed. They also realized they could make people pay if they really wanted to speak to someone over the phone, charging anywhere from $15 to $25 for the privilege.