The Great Baggage Fee Scam

Sometimes that airplane ticket price IS too good to be true. Depending on which airline you choose, the type of ticket you purchase (economy, economy plus, business class, etc…), and your destination – you can end up paying another $100+ to bring an ordinary 21″ roller bag along with you on your trip.

I believe the theory is that you should be able to live for a week out of a small backpack. To this I say, well… something rude. I’m all for discouraging people from packing a jumbo suitcase for a week. No one needs that much clothing unless they’re samples for your new line of product, or some such thing. But for a trip to visit family on the other coast, or sight see around Hollywood? Nope.

But I’m not talking about a big suitcase. I’m talking about a small suitcase with clothing that has been carefully curated to coordinate and layer. In addition I have a backpack for my camera, Chromebook, and eReader plus sundry charging solutions. A chunk of space is allocated to meds, which anyone over 50 will find consumes more and more space and attention.

But my Vueling ticket (economy) from Barcelona to Spain, does not permit me to carry on my roller bag. Same deal with my flight from the US to Europe on Lufthansa. I had to check my bag since I couldn’t afford to pay about FIVE THOUSAND dollars more for our two tickets. So I check my bag. $60 for the flight to Europe. eu50 (about $54) for the flight from Barcelona to Seville. And then of course, there is the fee for the trip back. So all told, I’m paying another $228… just to bring some clothing along on my 3 week vacation to the European Union. Multiply that by two for a couple. That’s a lot of sight-seeing tickets or massages… or a couple of deluxe meals. All to bring along your undies, some small electronics, basic toiletries, medications and enough clothing to be comfortable in various weather.

Raise your hand if this sounds reasonable to you. Please raise your hand if it sounds reasonable, and you own stock in one or more airlines. Now please raise your hand if it sounds reasonable, and you work for an airline.

Is anyone’s hand still not raised? I seriously doubt it. But this is today’s travel experience. Keep this in mind when you book airlines. Fortunately, Cheap Air tries to keep track of all these fees and baggage limitations across the airline industry. I prefer to be an educated consumer. Mind you, some of these so-called “free” first bags only apply to Business and First Class tickets. You have to go onto each airline’s particular baggage policy for the most current details.

You should also take advantage of any frequent traveler accounts and status you may have. You can save yourself a nice chunk of change just having (as in my case, a Silver status with United’s (Star Alliance) courtesy of my lifetime Titanium status with Marriott’s Bonvoy club. This means that we only had to pay the $60 fee to check my wife’s (small) suitcase. I caught this just in time and the Lufthansa service person had to check with her Supervisor to confirm. I’d like to believe that you could get a refund if you realize after the fact that your bag should have been checked for free. Somehow I doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt to call your Frequent Flier customer service line and ask.

This practice of charging additional fees for things that really should be included in the purchase price is an increasingly common snake-in-the-grass for travelers. It’s that 2.10 for a small bottle of water or eu30 for a seat closer to the front door of the airplane, or $125 for extra legroom. For a while Ryan Airlines charged a pound to use the bathroom during the flight, a practice initiated in 2010 that gained them a bad reputation with customers which sticks to this day.

What all this boils down to is that sometimes the low cost ticket you are considering, isn’t really as cheap as it looks on Expedia or Travelocity or some other online booking site. Take a moment to check each airline’s baggage and fees policies before making that purchase.

What about you? Encounter any egregious travel fees lately? What really got your ire? Share the experience in the Comments section below!

The Best (Airplane) Seats in the House

Anyone who has ever gotten stuck for hours in a seat in the back row of an airplane can relate to the fact that not all airline seats are created equal.  

Or maybe you volunteered, or paid to upgrade to the better legroom found in the exit row. (provided you are willing , and able to help people clamber out of the plane in the event of an unfortunate landing).

There’s usually a seat in the row just ahead of the exit row that doesn’t recline in order to give those two exit rows extra spacing.  

And then there is the first row behind the First Class ‘cabin’, where you have nowhere to stow anything under the seat ahead, because you’re facing a … well, it’s not really a bulkhead, it’s a carpeted divider establishing the fact that people sitting in First Class are luckier than the rest of us. 

The seat you select can make a big difference in how comfortable your flight is going to be.  Frequent fliers will regularly visit the airline’s web site to see if their preferred seats have opened up.  Now that more airlines have begun reconfiguring their planes to give a chunk of the ‘Coach’ fliers more leg room, seat selection has become even more important. 

Yet even in the slightly upgraded Coach seating, there are winners and losers; seats that are right next to the toilet, window seats with no window, seats over a segment of the plane that vibrates noisily, etc…  And the same equipment (plane) can be configured differently by different airlines.  

What to do? 

Check Seat Guru

Seat Guru is a sweet web site geared for regular (and ‘in the know’) travelers who know how a bad seat can affect their productivity and comfort. If you have a flight number and a date, the site will show the actual seating configuration for your flight so you can make an informed selection.  It will highlight seats that aren’t great, and ones that are abysmal.   

They also have a blog about airplanes, airlines, and seat configurations that can come in handy when considering which cheap ticket to grab.  In case you can’t remember the  name of this blog, I’ve included their link on the Resources page as well.  You can find the link to that page at the top of the site (it’s a bit hard to see, but I’m working on beefing up the text). 

If you’re taking a long flight over the ocean, a good seat can make all the difference in your ability to tolerate the trip.  Seat Guru.  Tell them I sent you.  😉

Have you tried Seat Guru?  What was your experience?  Is this a useful tip?  Drop me a comment.