Airline Fees

Learn about ways to reduce the extra fees beyond the ticket price and get an airline ticket refund. There are a host of ever-evolving websites to search for the lowest-cost airline tickets and social media sites to help you voice your complaint (in addition to the Better Business Bureau).

It can be challenging to compare similar tickets prices since some airlines include certain items that others don’t. Some airlines have more fees than others from baggage, wifi, insurance, schedule changes, and more. When comparing ticket prices consider all the extra fees to get the fully loaded cost.

Luggage Fees

This fee has become more popular over the last couple decades and is relatively standard in the industry but the point at which this fee is activated can vary significantly. Airports commonly have scales near the ticketing counters to allow passengers to weigh their luggage and presumably shift items around if needed, prior to going up to the counter. 

Obviously, remain under the weight limit to reduce a fee or eliminate it all together. Try to consolidate items and get as much as possible into a free carry-on. If traveling with others you may consider sharing the weight among each other to help everyone reduce their costs. Of course you could wear a couple layers of clothes/accessories depending on your level of desperation.

Lost/Damage Luggage

If your bags are lost, damaged, or delayed there are numerous forms of compensation but it may not cover the entire direct losses (consequential damages) or indirect costs that you incur. For instance if you claim you missed and interview and it costs you lost the job as a result that may be more far fetched to get compensation. 

In any of these cases, there is typically a process to file a claim. This can be a cumbersome process. If you have to buy meals, clothes, hygiene products you should put the grand total on your claim. It may be negotiated or reduced but go after whatever you can prove you paid as a result of your lost/damaged luggage. Once you file a claim, it’s not likely you can continue to increase that claim while it is being disputed so ensure all the losses are captured upon your initial submission.

Timing

As supply-demand suggests, booking a ticket when the demand is lower will likely reduce the cost of the ticket. While this “high demand fee” is not shown directly on your ticket, you are likely paying a premium fee to fly on higher demand dates such as holidays.

Ticket prices tend to get more expensive as the date of the flight approaches. Booking sooner is another way to reduce your cost. Airlines do offer steep discounts on last-minute getaways which tend be highly random in timing and destination but if you’re flexible these can be a good value.

If you’re researching on line for the best price for tickets, use the “Private” or “Incognito” mode in a browser to reduce the risk of an algorithm recognizing your interest and increasing the price that is fed back to you.

If you’re schedule is extremely flexible you may look for multi connecting patterns to your destination. Also, booking a series of one-way flights may offer a lower overall cost. 

Periodically you’ll read an article about an airline computer glitch or human error offering ridiculously low prices and there are likely to be such events in the future. There are websites, a few are listed below, that specialize in detecting these events which usually only last a few minutes or hours. We do not have an affiliation with any of the companies listed below.

Points

Reward Points

If you have points with an airline you probably know the true “value” of these points can vary based on timing and destination. Sometimes points come with restrictions and they can expire. This is another creative way to maximize your value and lower your flight fees.

You may have an option to buy points. This is a risk/reward decision where you would anticipate your points being more valuable than your money on a future flights. 

Some credit cards offer a substantial amount of points just for opening up an account. Or they may provide a multiple of points for every dollar spent or mile flown. Be wary of annual fees on these cards. One example is with the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card or Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express in your wallet, you’ll receive a Companion Certificate each year just for renewing your Card. With this Certificate, you can invite someone special to fly with you on an eligible round-trip domestic flight. Keep in mind there is a annual renewal fee for the card itself. 

Wifi

If you have a long flight that offers wifi this can be an excellent convenience to get things done. Airlines recognize this so the costs of Wifi has skyrocketed over the last decade.

There are options to help you reduce your fees. As expected, the longer the duration of committment, the lower the cost per unit of time. You may also have an option to pre-pay when you book your ticket at a discount. 

If you’re working for your company on the plane it should go without saying that this expense is normally reimbursed. Your company may be able to negotiate a larger subscription package to reduce their overall long term wifi costs. 

If you find the wifi signal not working it’s most likely related to your connection, device, or global location at that time. There are likely geographical locations around the world where the connectivity doesn’t work. Wifi spots are usually published and you can review them in advance. In other words you may be able to login at some point and later realize you’re flying through a geographical zone where the signal is no longer available.

It may be worth looking into this if you have a four hour flight but only two hours are in connected zones to avoid paying for a package that exceed two hours. 

Wifi

Seating

Airlines have a variety of seating options with the more comfortable and spacious options coming at premium.  Even some locations on the plane, within the same seating category, can be more expensive that others.

On flights that are likely not to be full the flight attendants often allow people to move around once it’s recognized that there are open seats. But it’s not very likely you’ll be able to move around to a higher cost seating category such as Coach to First Class.

If space, comfort, or features are important to you, the lowest prices to upgrade are usually upon ticketing unless you are willing to take the chance for a free upgrade during the boarding process.

Overbooking Vouchers

These are a way some people seem to travel around for nothing. Taking a voucher means you are giving up your seat at the last minute due to the flight being overbooked putting the airline in a position to persuade passengers to fly another time. Airlines overbook to maximize plane utilization and expect some percentage of passengers not to show up and thus will not need to offer these vouchers. When this doesn’t happen, vouchers usually become available. 

A voluntary form of bumping is when the airline offers a voucher is offered at the boarding gate when it’s realized to be overbooked. They announce the offer over the intercom and start with a lower value such as $100 or $250. If they aren’t successful in getting takers, the values go up until they do. It’s not uncommon to reach $500-$1000.

The risk is you need to be flexible and able to get on the next flight(s) offered. If using the voucher at a later date they usually can’t be redeemed on a discounted airfare site. You must book at full price directly with the airline and often with other terms. 

There isn’t a standard set of rules around this form of compensation so be sure to ask the attendants at the ticket counter about the voucher’s conditions such as next flight available, meal coverage, and expiration date.

But it isn’t recommended to try predicting which flights may offer vouchers. Just be aware if you can allow some flexibility in your travel schedule, this option may pop up for you.

The airline may conduct involuntary bumping as a last resort to bump passengers; passengers may or may not be compensated. In most cases, passengers are compensated but there are terms and other conditions that apply.

Other Ideas

Other Ideas

Book Online – booking online and using a mobile app are other options to possibly reduce your costs. These applications of technology reduce the operating costs for the airline and thus can reduce your fees. 

Pack a Lunch – food at the airport and the plane are expensive. Consider packing your own to save yourself a few more bucks.

Credit Card – some credit cards offer compensation or insurance against costs that are within or out of the airlines control. They could cover the non-refundable portion of your costs or an immediate family member; however, there is a cap on the amount of compensation. 

Cancellations/Delays

Most tickets offer an option to be refundable but this comes with a premium and usually a large percentage of the non-refundable rate. Depending on the level of risk you’re willing to take you may elect to avoid this fee. The U.S. Department of Transportation does not require passenger compensation if the cancellation is due to weather, mechanical issues, or air-traffic. Each airline should have its own policy detailing forms of compensation related to cancellation, lost luggage, and more.

If the airline cancels the flight they will usually work with you to get you rebooked on another flight. If you’re forced to stay overnight they may provide lodging, allowance for meals, and an overnight kit.

If you’re not satisfied with their options, prepare to keep all your receipts for expenses you incur and file a complaint with the airline. Even if you are content, contact your airline for the inconvience you were put through and its possible they will offer some form of compensation. 

The same applies for flight delays. Depending on the reason the airline may handle your options differently. But regardless of the reason, contact the airline afterwards to express the inconvenience and any costs you incurred. Be assertive but firm in your demand for some refund of fees, credits, voucher, reward points, seat upgrade, or anything of value to you.  

Cancellation

Filing an Airline Complaint

The links below get you to the complaint process. Southwest Airlines not only acknowedges your complaint but offers a response within 5 days. The others do not commit to anything better than 30-60 days. Review the section on “Effective Complaining” before submitting a complaint. 

Keep in mind that response times vary depending on weather, cancellations, or other events that may or may not be in the control of the airline. 

Filing a complaint with Spirit Airlines

Toll Free at 855-SAVE-555 (1-855-728-3555)

Text: 48763

WhatsApp: 801-401-2222

Twitter

Filing a complaint with Delta Airlines

Toll Free: 800-455-2720

Mail: Delta Air Lines, Inc. Customer Care at P.O. Box 20980, Department 980, Atlanta, GA 30320-2980

Online Form

Twitter

Filing a complaint with Southwest Airlines

Customer relations: 855-234-4654

Baggage Delay/Damaged: 888-202-1024

Twitter 

Filing a complaint with American Airlines

Customer relations: 800-371-4771 (includes delayed luggage)

Mail: American Airlines Customer Care at 4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Phoenix, AZ 85034

Online Form

Twitter 

Filing a complaint with United Airlines

United Airlines Refund Policy

Customer relations: 1-800-490-2021

Baggage: 1-877-858-3876

Mail: United Airlines – United Refunds, P.O. Box 4607, Dept. NHCRF, Houston, TX 77253-3056

Online Form

Twitter

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