Expert Strategies To Avoid Airline Fees in Basic Economy

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Airline fees are one of the most common things that make it hard to find a good deal on air travel. Airlines have found a way to charge for almost everything now, from bringing any kind of luggage to as simple a thing as choosing your seat. There are also tried and true ways to avoid airline fees.

When you book a flight, you pay for it in two ways: the face value of the ticket and the fees. The face value of the ticket is often what draws you in. Fees for an airline ticket can sometimes add up to more than the fare itself!

Don’t be fooled: airlines are always advertising their cheapest tickets so that they come up at the top of travel searches. Knowing which airlines have hidden fees and how to avoid them can help you plan your next flight better.

Example airline fees:

  1. Fees for checked bags

Checked bag fees keep going up. For the first bag checked, airlines now charge up to $35 or more each way. That’s an extra $280 for a round-trip flight for a family of four. Most airlines charge more if you have more than one bag checked or if your bag is too heavy or too big.

  1. Fees for changing or canceling a flight

If you need to change or cancel a flight, airlines may charge you a fee to change your ticket. For some flights, the fees can cost more than the price of your ticket. In those situations, it might not be worth it to cancel your flight because all you’ll get is a travel credit worth less than what you paid in cancellation fees.

  1. Fees to choose a seat

If you want to choose your seat before your flight, some airlines will charge you extra. This makes it harder to sit next to the people you are traveling with. Also, you can expect to pay even more if you want a bulkhead, exit row, or another seat with more legroom.

  1. Fees for carry-on bags

Many travelers only bring carry-on bags, so they don’t have to pay for checked bags, wait in line at baggage claim, or risk their bags getting lost or being late. Some types of airline tickets now cost extra if you even bring a bag onto the plane. You might have to pay extra if you want to use the overhead storage. Most still let you put a small personal item under the seat.

So, how can you save money without paying extra fees on basic economy fares? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Choose the right carrier

Not every airline has the same basic rules for the economy, and some of them aren’t so bad. For example, Delta’s basic economy fares let you bring a standard carry-on bag and a personal item, just like every other passenger. You’ll also get your seat after you check-in.

  1. Pick the right plane

If you buy a basic economy ticket, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in the dreaded middle seat. But some smaller planes don’t have middle seats at all, so you’re always near a window or the aisle. Look for regional flights on Bombardier CRJ, Q400, or Embraer ERJ planes, which only have three or four seats across, instead of Boeing or Airbus planes, which have six or more seats across. This will make sure you don’t end up in the middle seat.

  1. Find out how big the personal item is

Even if you have a basic economy fare, every airline lets you bring a personal item with you. This doesn’t have to be a purse, briefcase, or backpack, but it can be. As long as it fits the size requirements, you can bring a duffel bag or even a small roll-on suitcase.

For example, United says that a personal item is anything smaller than 9 inches by 10 inches by 17 inches. American, on the other hand, lets you bring a personal item that is 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches. Find a bag that fits those measurements, and you can put as much stuff in it as you can.

  1. Bring your own things

In the world we live in now, you don’t have to pay to use the entertainment system on a plane. Just bring your own phone, tablet, or laptop with music, videos, and games that you’ve already downloaded.

  1. Choose the right credit card

When you are booked in basic economy class, an airline credit card can be like a “get out of jail free” card. For example, many airline credit cards come with perks like priority boarding and a free checked bag that you don’t lose just because you bought a basic economy-class ticket.

There is a lot of money in airline fees. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation says that checked bag fees alone brought in $2.8 billion for airlines in 2020. But if you know the rules of your airline, know what perks you get as an elite member, or have the right credit card, you can avoid these fees and keep more of your money.

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About Maki Hojo

Maki Hojo is a student at the University of Michigan. A foodie since birth, she enjoys cooking, eating, photographing, reading about, and playing with any and all types of food. Her idolization of culinary delights is complemented by her active spirit - she enjoys running, swimming, barre classes, and even spontaneous bursts of interpretative dance if the mood strikes her.