5 Most Ridiculous, Worst Airline Fees

by James Andrew Scott on July 3, 2012

in American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Tips, US Airways

The 5 Worst, Most Ridiculous Airline Fees

5.  Surcharge for Electing Airline Miles for Car Rentals

Rental Car Frequent Flyer Surcharge - Worst Airline feeYou might not have realized it but every time you ask to receive frequent flyer miles for your car rental, you’re also agreeing to pay a “frequent flyer surcharge” to the car rental agency. All the major U.S. car rental companies charge these fees, which range from 0.75 cents to $1.50 per rental day. While some agencies cap the fee, Avis and Budget have no maximum fee. The most ridiculous part about these fees is  they can more than offset the value of the frequent flyer miles.  See our analysis of the cost of frequent flyer surcharges compared to the value of Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

4.  Administrative Fee for Processing an Award Ticket

We bother collecting airline miles and points for essentially two things: free flights and the hope of attaining elite status. When airlines implement an “award processing fee,” they’ve devalued the entire program; award tickets are now worth (at least the processing fee) less.  US Airways is the worst offender with its $25-50 fee award processing fee.  The other major carriers are not without fault, either.  American, United, and US Airways (again) all charge a “close in” booking  fee of $75 for booking award travel less than 21 days from departure.  In total, an award ticket to Europe booked 20 days or less from departure will cost $125 (plus applicable taxes) on US Airways.  Better plan ahead.  The winners with no late booking or award processing fees are Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue.

3.  Charging for Carry-on Bags

Not content to merely charge passengers between $18-38  for the first checked bag, Spirit Airlines decided you should pay for the privilege of carrying-on too. And you can’t avoid the fee by planning ahead.  You can decide to carry-on while booking your flight in your bathrobe months ahead of time ($20-30) or at the gate ($45).  Either way, you will pay.  Spirit calls these fees “optional.”  Unless you plan on wearing all your clothes and/or stuffing everything into your “personal item,” these fees are not optional.

2.  Spirit Airline’s Gate-Checked Carry-on Fee

Beginning November 6, 2012, Spirit will begin charging $100 for any carry-on bag checked at the gate. Currently, this fee is merely unreasonable at $45.  $100 is skyway-robbery!  Of course, Spirit is one of two airlines (the other is Allegiant) that actually have the nerve to actually charge for carry-on bags.  To add insult to injury, Spirit views this new policy as a solution to it’s self-created problem of charging passengers for carry-ons in the first place.  According to Spirit spokesperson Misty Pinson, “We don’t want any of our customers to wait until they get to the boarding gate to pay for their carry-on bags as this delays the boarding process for everyone.  We expect that our new $100 fee charged for those who wait until they get to the gate will ensure that customers purchase their bags before arriving at the gate.”   Good grief.

1.  Printing Boarding Pass Fee

Low-cost Irish carrier, Ryanair, charges an outrageous £60 ($93) dollar fee for printing a boarding pass at the airport. Ryanair calls it an “Airport Boarding Card Re-issue Fee.”  Ostensibly, Ryanair says the high fee was implemented to encourage passengers to print their boarding passes at home.  Curious then that Ryanair also has a rule closing online check-in 4 hours prior to departure (and thus ending any chance to print your boarding pass at home).  Once you’re inside the four hour window, you’re forced to check-in at the airport and pay the $93 fee.  By comparison, Ryanair competitor EasyJet closes online check-in just 2 hours prior to departure.  This fee is so outrageous a Spanish judge ruled it illegal and void, before being overturned on appeal.

Any other nominations for the most ridiculous airline fees?  Please share them with our readers.



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