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!

Cheap Flights

I know all those travel booking sites promise you the best prices… and they are a good place to start. 

However, if you are following my advice on obtaining frequent flier status with an airline, you may need to weigh the savings against the loss of points counting toward status. 

Also you may find a better flight (departure time, number of stops) on the airline site itself than you find on any of the aggregator sites.  Not every airline releases all their seats to those resale sites.  They make more money selling flights direct to their customers, especially their frequent travelers, because they’re not allocating a fee to the ‘retailer’.  So price it both ways (on the resale site and on the airline’s site).

The best way to get the lowest possible airline fares is to book 7 weeks out.  That’s the magic number.  Don’t ask me why.  I’ve tested it repeatedly and if you book further out (say, 12 weeks) or too close to the departure date (3 weeks)… you will begin to see a pattern.  If you book flights for a business professional, or book them for yourself… and saving money is a major factor, this is what you do.  Plan ahead.  Just not THAT far ahead.  7 weeks… not 6, not 8.  [see me shrugging]

Another tip when flying places that don’t have a major hub (think Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, London, Chicago, New York, Singapore) is to consider booking the segments yourself.  For example, I could try to book a flight from Los Angeles to Lisbon.  The prices will generally run me around $1200 USD (all prices in USD unless otherwise noted), and there will be at least one stop, possibly two.  On the other hand, if I book (7 weeks out), a round trip from Los Angeles to London (LHR – Heathrow) I can get a major deal of $600-$700.  Add a round trip from London to Lisbon for another $200, and I’ve saved myself $200-$300 – per person. It adds up.

When trying to reach cities with even smaller airports like say… Palm Springs, CA USA… consider flying to Los Angeles (LAX) and renting a car or taking a Tesla Loop shuttle to Palm Springs.  In other words, you don’t have to fly directly to your final destination.  You might spend four hours waiting for the next flight, and spend another $400-600 on the airline ticket price when you could have rented a car for a week for $280 and driven 2 hours there, and 2 hours back… while enjoying the freedom of driving wherever you feel like going without paying for a driver.  It seems a bit complicated, but you have to factor in how much you love spending big dollars on mediocre wine at an airport vs. the chance to see the countryside, and the actual distances between the larger airport and the smaller regional airport. Cars also give you the chance to stop when and where you please, take pictures, and visit special attractions along the way. 

This is especially true for holiday trips when sight seeing and exploration are more important than how fast you get to your destination.  So flying into Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport and taking the train to Barcelona Spain might be more enjoyable than a direct flight from CDG to BCN. Of course you have to get back to Paris and one way tickets are universally more expensive than half a round trip so you have to drive or take the train back.  

Which brings me to item number 3.  A round trip ticket on one airline may be cheaper than a one way ticket on another.  Or possibly even on the same airline.  So price both options.  

How to Get the Cheapest Airline Tickets

I know all those travel booking sites promise you the best prices… and they are a good place to start. 

However, if you are following my advice on obtaining frequent flier status with an airline, you may need to weigh the savings against the loss of points counting toward status. 

Also you may find a better flight (departure time, number of stops) on the airline site itself than you find on any of the aggregator sites.  Not every airline releases all their seats to those resale sites.  They make more money selling flights direct to their customers, especially their frequent travelers, because they’re not allocating a fee to the ‘retailer’.  So price it both ways (on the resale site and on the airline’s site).

The best way to get the lowest possible airline fares is to book 7 weeks out.  That’s the magic number.  Don’t ask me why.  I’ve tested it repeatedly and if you book further out (say, 12 weeks) or too close to the departure date (3 weeks)… you will begin to see a pattern.  If you book flights for a business professional, or book them for yourself… and saving money is a major factor, this is what you do.  Plan ahead.  Just not THAT far ahead.  7 weeks… not 6, not 8.  [see me shrugging]

Another tip when flying places that don’t have a major hub (think Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, London, Chicago, New York, Singapore) is to consider booking the segments yourself.  For example, I could try to book a flight from Los Angeles to Lisbon.  The prices will generally run me around $1200 USD (all prices in USD unless otherwise noted), and there will be at least one stop, possibly two.  On the other hand, if I book (7 weeks out), a round trip from Los Angeles to London (LHR – Heathrow) I can get a major deal of $600-$700.  Add a round trip from London to Lisbon for another $200, and I’ve saved myself $200-$300 – per person. It adds up.

When trying to reach cities with even smaller airports like say… Palm Springs, CA USA… consider flying to Los Angeles (LAX) and renting a car or taking a Tesla Loop shuttle to Palm Springs.  In other words, you don’t have to fly directly to your final destination.  You might spend four hours waiting for the next flight, and spend another $400-600 on the airline ticket price when you could have rented a car for a week for $280 and driven 2 hours there, and 2 hours back… while enjoying the freedom of driving wherever you feel like going without paying for a driver.  It seems a bit complicated, but you have to factor in how much you love spending big dollars on mediocre wine at an airport vs. the chance to see the countryside, and the actual distances between the larger airport and the smaller regional airport. Cars also give you the chance to stop when and where you please, take pictures, and visit special attractions along the way. 

This is especially true for holiday trips when sight seeing and exploration are more important than how fast you get to your destination.  So flying into Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport and taking the train to Barcelona Spain might be more enjoyable than a direct flight from CDG to BCN. Of course you have to get back to Paris and one way tickets are universally more expensive than half a round trip so you have to drive or take the train back.  

Which brings me to item number 3.  A round trip ticket on one airline may be cheaper than a one way ticket on another.  Or possibly even on the same airline.  So price both options.  


Try these tips the next time you need to get away from it all. Let me know if they work for you… or if they don’t. Do you have a killer trick that works on a certain airline? Educate us! Drop a comment in the box below.