Monday, December 22, 2014

Little-known airline fees that tug at your wallet

Little-known airline fees that tug at your wallet

You can make waves after your next flight on Allegiant Air, but it’s going to cost you extra to check your boogie board.

The Las Vegas-based airline charges a $50 fee to check the rectangular piece of foam used by bodyboarding enthusiasts. Bowling balls, skateboards and bows and arrows also will cost you a fee to check on Allegiant.

If you are traveling with certain types of sporting equipment, you should expect to pay a fee on Allegiant and some other carriers, though the fees and types of equipment vary by airline.

Anything airlines can justify extra charges for based on extra handling “will get just that — extra charges,” says airline and travel consultant Bob Harrell.

Those are just a few of the little-known fees that airlines charge these days that passengers may not be aware of. Here are some others.

1. Firearms. Packing heat? You may not realize it in this age of hyper-vigilant security, but you can check firearms on many airlines. Rifles and shotguns, which must be unloaded, are subject to a $50 handling charge on all Air Canada flights. If your baggage count exceeds the maximum number of items allowed, you’ll be charged for an additional bag as well as the handling charge. Allegiant also charges a $50 fee.

2. Antlers. Frontier Airlines considers antlers a special, or fragile, item. A rack of antlers must be checked, and will cost you $100. Air Canada socks you with a $150 handling charge to check antlers and horns.

3. Door-to-Door Shipping. United Airlines will allow you to ship your bags door-to-door rather than carry them through the airport and check them on your flight — for a fee of course. The next-day service, currently on sale for $79 instead of $149, is provided by FedEx Corp. If you’re traveling on a United flight in the continental U.S., you can drop off baggage at a FedEx location or schedule a pickup. There are limitations for weekend travelers. Shipments cannot be picked up, dropped off or delivered on Sundays, and bags can’t weight more than 50 pounds.

4. Pets. Your dog or cat can travel with you in your cabin, but it will cost you. You’ll pay even more on some airlines if you check your pet to travel in the belly of the plane with the checked luggage. Delta Air Lines Inc., for instance, charges $100 one-way for your pet to travel in the cabin or $175 for your pet to be checked on a flight within the U.S. On Delta, pets permitted in the cabin include dogs, cats, and household birds.

5. Unaccompanied Minors. Most airlines charge a fee to parents who send their children on a flight alone. Airline personnel keep an eye on the kids during the flight and when it lands. American Airlines charges $100 for the service. Delta charges $100, while JetBlue Airways Corp. wants $75 and Southwest Airlines Co. charges $25. Parents are generally allowed to walk the child to the gate, where they are then looked after by crew members for the duration of the trip. On AirTran, unaccompanied minors have to be between 5 and 12 years old. A child 12 to 15 doesn’t need an adult with them, but the airline will keep an eye on kids this age upon request.

6. Infants. Irish no-frills carrier Ryanair Holdings PLC charges 20 euros, or roughly $29, one-way for children under 2 years old to fly, something U.S. carriers currently allow for free, as long as the child sits on an adult’s lap. While all carriers are weighing new sources of revenue amid the weak economic environment, U.S. carriers have so far not said they might charge for infants in the future. “This one I have not seen any chatter at all,” says Rick Seaney of FareCompare.

7. Duffel Bags. On AirTran, their size is measured to the point of fullness for soft-sided bags, but measured top to bottom on hard-bottom duffel bags, regardless of how empty or full the bag is. If the bag is measured at over 70 inches in length, the carrier will charge you $79 on top of the checked bag fee. Avoid the oversized bag fee by merging the few items into another bag or by carrying a smaller bag.

8. Pillows and Blankets. JetBlue charges $7 for a pillow and fleece blanket set, which is available on all flights over two hours. US Airways charges $7 for a kit that includes a fleece blanket, an inflatable neck pillow, eye shades and earplugs. The kits are available on all flights except trans-Atlantic and US Airways Express flights.

And remember, if you want to change the day of your flight after you book it, many airlines will charge hefty fees for that plus any change in fare for the new itinerary. The change fee at US Airways Group Inc., for example, is $150. Full-fare tickets on many airlines generally allow you to make changes without a fee, but of course those tickets are much more expensive. Be sure to read the fine print.

If you want to simply change the time of your flight, but fly the same day and between the same cities on your ticket, some airlines will let you fly standby for free.