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Air Travel Means Hidden Fees, Taxes, Charges

Air travel goes to the slums as airlines cheat customers with hidden fees, charges, taxes, trickery, and scams No series on the new affronts to the modern traveler would be complete without a review of the underhanded tactics now being used by airlines to cheat money out of passengers and to make up the difference [...]

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Air travel goes to the slums as airlines cheat customers with hidden fees, charges, taxes, trickery, and scams

No series on the new affronts to the modern traveler would be complete without a review of the underhanded tactics now being used by airlines to cheat money out of passengers and to make up the difference from offering “low fares.”

Air travel was once an enjoyable activity, I once basked in how the rabble of the world only had to board a plane to enjoy a small taste of luxury and the fruits of modern technology. I once enjoyed how the stewardesses would always smile at me and speak politely, how I would get filling complementary meals, free beer, orange juice, snacks, blankets, a comfortable seat, and could even use the bathroom free of charge as I quickly traversed the globe.

I feel as if I am dreaming now.

I am. Air travel has changed, flying has gone to the slums.

I now groan when I want to make a jump across the planet that requires a plane, and I try to make these jumps the least amount of times possible per year. All the rigors of overland travel no longer compare to the annoyances of modern air travel. I would now rather walk slow than fly fast. This is a sad day for travel.

Hidden airline fees

You will never know how much an air ticket will cost you until you are sitting on the plane. Airlines have now become masters of deception, trickery, and scams as they try to make up the difference for offering you the “lowest airfares.” An industry where consumers can quickly find the lowest price is an industry that is in a race to the bottom. Any dummy can now easily find the cheapest airfare on the internet — the super airfare search engines that check a million sites in a few seconds often come up the cheapest results — and who is not always going to select the cheapest option?

Mad as Hell About Hidden Fees Graphic

So the airline who can price their tickets to be the “cheapest” is the one that is going to get the most sales. This is simple consumer/ business interaction, and air fliers have proved that they will choose cheaper fares over frills, as the airlines race to the bottom.

But how is an airline to make a profit when they need to always offer a fare cheaper than their competitors but also need to make money?

The answer is evident:

They cheat their customers.

When you push the purchase button for an airline ticket never think that you are finished paying for it. Nope, hidden fees and taxes, huge checked luggage costs, and even carry on baggage expenses often raise their heads to the surface. I once fully paid for an flight just to realize that I would need to pay five extra dollars for a seat.

I suppose my ticket was just good to get through the door of the plane, but not to sit down inside of it.

“Ok, I will stand.”

No dice, pay $5.

Baggage fees have now gone through the roof. There was once a time when air travelers were allowed to transport a carry on and two checked bags for free. Then it was down to one checked bag free, then it was no checked bags free, and now some airlines even charge passengers to bring their carry on bag on board.


What is worse is that the fees for transporting baggage now often challenge the price of the flight itself. I have paid over $30 to check a bag on a $150 flight, and have heard of people pay over $100 to check a single piece of luggage.

Spirit Air now charges $30 to $45 for carry on baggage.

Spirit Air to charge for carry on baggage

Spirit Air defends this move as follows:

“In addition to reducing fares even further, this will reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve in-flight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience,” Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie said in a statement.

No shit.

But as far as improving the overall customer experience, Spirit Air is f’cking nuts: people have a natural aversion to being tricked, scammed, and ripped off. No, lying and stealing from us is not going to “improve the overall customer experience.”

Complementary meals, snacks, and drinks is now a luxury lost in traveler’s lore, I have even been charged for a drink of water on a flight before.

Ryan Air now even charges 1 Euro or 1 Pound ($1.25 to $2) to use the bathroom on their flights.

Ryan air to charge to use toilets

‘By charging for the toilets we are hoping to change passenger behavior so that they use the bathroom before or after the flight.
‘That will enable us to remove two out of three of the toilets and make way for at least six extra seats on board.’

I suppose a passenger without proper change just needs to piss on the floor like a dog.

What is perhaps most heinous of all is that some airlines are now charging a fee to buy their tickets.

No shit.

The last flight that I purchased I had to pay a fee to use a credit/ debit card. I was buying the ticket online, how else could I pay for it? Smush money through the screen? So I called them, and was politely informed by someone in an Indian call center that I would need to pay $15 additional dollars to buy the ticket over the phone.

This airline was charging me to give them money!


I am now waiting for airlines to start charging a fat person tax, an old lady in a wheel chair fee, an infant in your lap ticket, a you look like a fool charge.

We who use airlines are all made out to be fools.

My wife just informed me this morning that Air Tran has great deals from Mexico to Maine and Rochester, and wanted to know if I would like to visit our families. $100 from Cancun to Portland, ME, she told me. I could only laugh: a $100 air ticket no longer costs $100. Double it, triple it, bugger me and hand me the bill: modern air travel is the pursuit of fools.

The above graphic was taken from the Mad as hell about hidden fees movement to coerce airlines to openly revel all fees before selling tickets.

Related articles: Why airlines continue to go bankrupt | Plane tickets fees included taxes excluded warning | Airfare from Dominican Republic to Guatemala

This article is part of a series on the new challenges that the modern traveler faces, navigate through the series below:


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Filed under: Air Travel, Travel Problems

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

6 comments… add one

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  • Debrah Goss October 13, 2010, 12:00 pm

    BTW – Air Tran has just been purchaed by Southwest which will give them a terminal in Portland.

    Also – The charge of #35 per checked bag by Spirit quickly turns into $70 or $105 if you aren’t taking a direct flight. They charge $35 for each transfer.

    BUT – Come to Maine Anyway!

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 13, 2010, 12:09 pm

      That is good news — any way to get quickly in, and especially out, of Maine is good for us haha.

      Yes, Spirit Air is a scam all the way around. They also make you book each leg of your flight separately so that you have to pay all of the tricky fees and baggage costs over again for as many flights as it takes to get to your destination. When traveling from the Dominican Republic to Guatemala, we had to transfer flights in Florida, but we needed to buy two completely separate tickets to do so — and we paid the baggage fees, credit card fee, and every other stupid fee twice.

      Thanks for that note about Spirit air baggage fees — they are now so high that the cost of taking luggage and hand baggage on one of their flights costs far more than the price of the ticket itself.

      No frills airlines = theft with impunity.

      Good to hear from you again, Deb, looking at visiting Maine in the spring.

      Link Reply
  • Dee February 2, 2011, 4:06 pm

    Now if we could just everyone enraged on these scams and start protesting and calling their congressman, maybe they would stop these scams. I’ve always used SouthWest so no issues, but have to use USAir in this trip, I hate it, next time maybe a train, or better yet, if SouthWest doesn’t go there, then I don’t either.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 2, 2011, 8:45 pm

      Or start taking boats and trains again haha.

      Link Reply
  • Brooke June 26, 2011, 2:41 am

    American Airlines is a company treats numerous employees just as rotten as it does its customers — deceitful and dishonest! Its a company that needs to get rid of its management and treat employees fairly instead of deceiving them. They instruct their employees not to offer information about baggage fees, etc unless specifically asked that question. Why do you think they made so much money in profit? When asked specifically the management denies this, but it was recently all over the news how the airlines hid fees and made a huge profit. They’re liars! Do you think the employees just all gained up and decided not to inform passengers about fees unless asked? Their employees are unhappy because many of them are treated like garbage and the newer employees are ripped off big time to pay for the older employees pensions and high pay and benefits plus the managements huge vacations and pay. They’re liars and cheats trying hard to hang onto their big bucks while screwing the underlings! Where else can you make $30/hr answering a phone without so much as a high school education? That’s why you’re getting screwed! And that’s not counting the huge vacations and benefits packages. Plus the executives want their big bucks too. The newer employees don’t get all extravagance. They’re lied to and screwed over everytime they turned around, just like the customers! And the government employees have their airfare paid for with big discounts while soldiers pay regular mostly higher fares. That’s American Airlines for you! Rotten to the core! Let’s make sure they’re forgiven their fines for violations though!

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