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!

4 tips for saving money on airline tickets

Plan ahead and save big to fly to your next travel destination

I don’t know about you, but the price of a ticket to fly somewhere fun can often be the sticking point on my vacation plans. With this in mind, I’m going to share the four things you should consider if you want to fly somewhere exotic without complete sticker shock.

  1. Fly out of as large an airport as you can easily reach. Small airports are an extra stop off the beaten track. They don’t have the runways necessary for larger planes to land, so you will probably have to change planes on your way to far destinations. If you are within a couple hours drive from Chicago’s O’Hare airport (ORD), New York City’s JFK, Los Angeles’ LAX, or San Francisco’s SFO airports you are almost certainly better off pricing tickets from that airport to your final destination. This is especially true of trips to other continents. The costs of parking and rental cars are generally far less than the price difference of the ticket.
  2. Be flexible in your dates. In fact, plan your trip around when the cheapest airline tickets are available. It would be great to start out on Saturday, and return on Sunday a week later. Nope. Expensive. Even more expensive are Monday and Friday departures and arrivals because those are business-travel heavy. For vacation, leave in the middle of the week, and return in the middle of the week.
  3. Book separate round trips yourself rather than relying on the travel web sites to calculate it all for you. Fly out of a large airport to a large airport. Then look at the distances and possibilities (rail, rental car, van, Uber, regional flight, etc…) to get to your dream destination. You can sometimes save even more money simply by booking each leg as a separate trip and exploiting the ‘mid week’ bargains. You’re on vacation… this is an extra opportunity to sight see and experience the area. For example, if you want to get to one of the sunny coastal towns near Lisbon, and you’re leaving from California… you book one flight from SFO or LAX to a large European airport like France’s Charles de Gaulle (CDG), London’s Heathrow (LHR), or Spain’s Barcelona (BCN) airport. Book a separate round trip ticket from Paris, London or Barcelona to Lisbon (LIS). Round trip tickets within the European Union are surprisingly cheap. You can even stay in that city for a few days when you arrive, or as you make your way back home.
  4. I’ve said this before, but I’ll throw this in because it’s a big one. Book airplane tickets six to eight weeks out from your departure. Otherwise you’re paying a premium. Often a significant one.

So that’s my public service announcement for the day. Stick with these four tips in 2019 and you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. You can stay longer, eat better, or get that once in a lifetime souvenir with the extra cash. Or maybe it will just make the difference between going or not going.


Educate me! What about you? What are your money saving tips? Drop me a comment, and don’t forget to subscribe for notice of more travel tips, tricks, and inspirations.