The Hidden Costs of Budget Air Travel

The Hidden Costs of Budget Air Travel

Shopping for that budget friendly flight deal?  Hold on to your wallet!  That cheap airline ticket might cost more than you think.  Your good deal may turn into a money pit once you find out all the fees you may have to pay.  Here are some things to consider when booking that super-saver flight:

Carry-on or Checked Bags?
Most airlines will charge a fee for checking your baggage.  One of the bargain flight leaders, Spirit Airlines, charges you between $30 and $100 for the first checked bag.  The difference in price depends on when you decide to pay for your baggage.  If you pay for your baggage at booking, the cost is $30 but if you pay at the gate, expect each bag to set you back a full $100!   If you have several bags, the cost adds up quickly.  Think you can just carry on that bag?  Not so fast!  Your carry-on bag will cost you $35 if you pay for it when you book the flight, however, if you wait until you get to the gate it will cost you another $100!  You can save a little money on these fees if you join Spirit's $9 fare club but even that costs you $59.95.  Frontier also charges between $30 and $50 for carry-ons and between $20 and $50 for single checked bags.  

Money Saving Tip:  Southwest Airlines allows two checked bags and one carry-on  for free!  

Is there a chance your plans could change?
Bargain basement tickets usually come with cancellation fees or are non-refundable.  United Airlines charges a cancellation fee of $200 for domestic flights and up to $400 for international flights.  Spirit will charge a cancellation fee of $120 if you cancel online and $130 if you cancel at an airport or on the phone.  For non-refundable options, the only hope you have of any recovery of funds is travel insurance paid for at the time of booking.  

Money Saving Tip:  Book your travel more than 7 days in advance and you have 24 hours to cancel your ticket for a full refund.  

Nickel and Dimed To Death:  
Make sure you print that boarding pass at home or airlines like Allegiant or Sprint will charge you between $9 and $17 per ticket to print them at the airport.  If you purchase a ticket from Allegiant, be prepared to tack on an additional $10 fee for the convenience of booking online.  If you want an assigned seat on Spirit, be prepared to pay $50 in addition to your ticket price.   If you use a credit card, be prepared to pay more than you would using a debit card on Allegiant.  If your party needs to be seated together on Frontier Airlines, be sure to pay the $3 fee per ticket at the time of booking or risk random seating assignments.    

Flying on the cheap is a great way to save wear and tear on the wallet but make sure to do your research.  In many cases those bargain tickets will end up costing more than you may have budgeted.  Plan ahead.  Know what bags you will bring, how much they will cost and know if your selected payment method will tack on fees.  Read the fine print at the time of purchase.  Bargain prices exist but, as always, caveat emptor:  Let the buyer beware!