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.

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.  

Secrets of Frequent Fliers – Status Matching

If you are working on obtaining status with an airline, you want to “buy local” whenever you have a choice of flights and airlines.  By this I mean that someone working on building status on Delta  (for example and just to show no hard feelings after all) should always try to fly Delta or a Delta code share partner (this includes airlines like Virgin Australia, Air France, KLM, Alitalia Joint Venture, etc…)  Every flight adds to your status. 

You may have worked your way up to Platinum on Delta, only to have your boss promote you to a new territory, or give you a new project with a customer in a different city.  As a result, the cheapest, most direct flight will always be on another airline (in my case when I moved out to the Coachella Valley, Alaska). 

Or you may be a Platinum member sitting in Coach next to a Diamond Delta member, and a Delta Million Miler, while three empty First Class seats are easily visible through the curtain, taunting you.  This actually happened to me on a 5 hour flight from LAX (Los Angeles California) to HNL (Honolulu Hawaii).  We were all flying for business and none of us were going to shell out the extra $225 for an upgrade that Delta felt we should be pleased to pay on our way to Paradise.  Maybe if we were on a once a year vacation that would have felt like a bargain.  Not so much if you’re flying back and forth three times a month.  I’m not sure how the others felt but I was all…

Verklempt and such. 

The only really good thing about having a commute that involves hauling luggage, braving the TSA, and nights away from family, friends, children, and furry babies… is having the kind of status that gets you a FREE upgrade to First Class where the legroom is better, you’re not crammed elbow to elbow with fellow travelers, and you can get some work done while enjoying a free adult beverage.  I know this may not seem plausible, but you’d be surprised how much work people can get done after a G & T. 

This had been happening for six months.  Sometimes, if I really needed to get a lot of work done, or I was short on sleep, or just plain exhausted… I’d go ahead and spring for the extra $225.  But I was just a working girl getting by in Los Angeles. I didn’t have money to burn.  I was also planning to fly to Europe for a writing trip to Scotland.  So I did the ultimate Frequent Flier

*fck u* very much… 

… and applied for a status match with United. 

What this involved was a phone call to a sympathetic customer service representative with United who was happy to extend my Delta Platinum status to me on United flights, contingent on my flying 30,000 miles in the next 90 days.  

This was back in 2012 mind you, so the rules have probably changed, but the premise has not. 

At that point, with the flight to Europe included, it was a slam dunk.  To this day I remain a loyal United flyer whenever possible, despite all the negative press.   Overall, United has treated me quite well, even when I had no status at all. 

Of course, I know how to work the system, which includes having a United Airline VISA card that I use whenever booking a flight… which guarantees me early boarding and free baggage checking.

If I were building my status, I might buy the United Economy Plus membership, which as far as I’m concerned used to be the best deal around to get you extra leg room, and boarding priority so you can get your suitcase over your seat.  They’ve now bumped it up to $499 (whatever the market will bear, thank you Capitalism), so you have to know you’re going to be stuck in Coach a whole lot, before that becomes worth the price.  Either that or you are going to be flying abroad more than once a year.  Then… definitely worth it. 

If I wanted to plunk down the extra $450 a year (as of 2018) for the United Mileage Plus Club Card, I could include unlimited access to United Club Lounges  (and a few codes hare partner clubs) for me and a travel partner. Two international trips, and you really start to appreciate the freebies, clean bathrooms, reliable WiFi,  comfortable chairs and quiet desk space. 

BONUS TIP: The VISA fee is $100 cheaper than buying the club membership directly from United, plus you get points for all the charges on the card.  
It’s actually a pretty sweet deal, the clubs (and the cards).  But that’s a blog for another day. 

What about you? Any good status match stories?    

Status Matching – Moving Your Frequent Flier Status to a New Airline

If you are working on obtaining status with an airline, you want to “buy local” whenever you have a choice of flights and airlines.  By this I mean that someone working on building status on Delta  (for example and just to show no hard feelings after all) should always try to fly Delta or a Delta code share partner (this includes airlines like Virgin Australia, Air France, KLM, Alitalia Joint Venture, etc…)  Every flight adds to your status. 

You may have worked your way up to Platinum on Delta, only to have your boss promote you to a new territory, or give you a new project with a customer in a different city.  As a result, the cheapest, most direct flight will always be on another airline (in my case, when I moved out to the Coachella Valley, Alaska). 

Or you may be a Platinum member sitting in Coach next to a Diamond Delta member, and a Delta Million Miler, while three empty First Class seats are easily visible through the curtain, taunting you.  This actually happened to me on a 5 hour flight from LAX (Los Angeles California) to HNL (Honolulu Hawaii).  We were all flying for business and none of us were going to shell out the extra $225 for an upgrade that Delta felt we should be pleased to pay on our way to Paradise.  Maybe if we were on a once a year vacation that would have felt like a bargain.  Not so much if you’re flying back and forth three times a month.  I’m not sure how the others felt but I was all…

Verklempt and such. 

The only really good thing about having a commute that involves hauling luggage, braving the TSA, and nights away from family, friends, children, and furry babies… is having the kind of status that gets you a FREE upgrade to First Class where the legroom is better, you’re not crammed elbow to elbow with fellow travelers, and you can get some work done while enjoying a free adult beverage.  I know this may not seem plausible, but you’d be surprised how much work people can get done after a G & T. 

This had been happening for six months.  Sometimes, if I really needed to get a lot of work done, or I was short on sleep, or just plain exhausted… I’d go ahead and spring for the extra $225.  But I was a working girl in Los Angeles. I didn’t have money to burn.  I was also planning to fly to Europe for a writing trip to Scotland.  So I did the ultimate Frequent Flier

*fck u* very much… 

… and applied for a status match with United. 

What this involved was a phone call to a sympathetic customer service representative with United who was happy to extend my Delta Platinum status to me on United flights, contingent on my flying 30,000 miles in the next 90 days.  

This was back in 2012 mind you, so the rules have probably changed, but the premise has not. 

At that point, with the flight to Europe included, it was a slam dunk.  To this day I remain a loyal United flyer whenever possible, despite all the negative press.   Overall, United has treated me quite well, even when I had no status at all. 

Of course, I know how to work the system, which includes having a United Airline VISA card that I use whenever booking a flight… which guarantees me early boarding and free baggage checking.

If I were building my status, I might buy the United Economy Plus membership, which as far as I’m concerned used to be the best deal around to get you extra leg room, and boarding priority so you can get your suitcase over your seat.  They’ve now bumped it up to $499 (whatever the market will bear, thank you Capitalism), so you have to know you’re going to be stuck in Coach a whole lot, before that becomes worth the price.  Either that or you are going to be flying abroad more than once a year.  Then… definitely worth it. 

If I wanted to plunk down the extra $450 a year (as of 2018) for the United Mileage Plus Club Card, I could include unlimited access to United Club Lounges  (and a few codes hare partner clubs) for me and a travel partner. Two international trips, and you really start to appreciate the freebies, clean bathrooms, reliable WiFi,  comfortable chairs and quiet desk space. 

BONUS TIP: The VISA fee is $100 cheaper than buying the club membership directly from United, plus you get points for all the charges on the card.  
It’s actually a pretty sweet deal, the clubs (and the cards).  But that’s a blog for another day. 

What about you? Any good status match stories?    

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.