It seems New Years rituals are everywhere.
Colombians have grapes. Italians have lentils. Greeks have hanging onions.
But the airlines around the world celebrate a brand new year with brand new, higher fees. And with $27.1 billion collected in ancillary, or ‘junk’, fees last year, how can they resist?
Among the airlines imposing new fees is Virgin Atlantic, which will assess a $41 fee coach passengers wanting to secure a seat assignment more than 24 hours prior to takeoff beginning April 1. This type of new fee could lead the floodgates of European carriers beginning to charge for the first checked bag on trans-Atlantic flights – something they’ve been able to avoid for some time.
United Airlines wasted no time waiting for the new year and has already doubled its fee for oversized bags — to $200 – and also increased the fee for three or more checked bags from $100 to $125 each.
Spirit Airlines, infamous for its low fares and even lower service, raised its bag fees by $5 to $6 for people who pay during online check-in and $10 to $15 if purchased through Spirit’s reservations center. The “$9 Fare Club” passengers will also see a $1 increase in bag fees. But what did you expect from the airline that practically pioneered creative travel fees? Spirit will continue to charge $100 at the boarding gate for all carry-on bags and each checked bag.
Nearly every dollar in ancillary revenues trickles directly to the net income line on a carrier’s balance sheet, according to Businessweek. In the third quarter, U.S. airlines collected $879 million in baggage fees, $635.4 by Delta alone, and $735 million in ticket-change fees.
We’re sure the airlines will get more creative with ancillary fees in 2014 and the years to come, but here is a brief history of where it all started:
American Airlines began charging $8 for blankets in 2010. Hey, at least they’re clean and you get to keep them! But it gets worse…
Ryanair charges 40 pounds (about $66) to print your boarding pass. The airline also 10 pounds (or about $16) to sit in an exit row and $100 fee for carry-0n bags.
Spirit Airlines charges $8.99 to $16.99 for a “passenger usage fee,” or, in other words, an online booking fee, among their other ridiculous fares.
In March 2012, Southwest Airlines raised its ticket prices from $4 to $10 to offset the high cost of jet fuel. AirTran, United, Delta, American, US Airways, Frontier Airlines and Virgin America soon followed suit.
In April 2012, Allegiant Air announced a $35 fee for carry-on bags. It also charges $8 to pay with a credit card and $50 to book over the phone. Coincidently, Allegiant is one of the most profitable airlines in the United States.
As of January, Southwest allows passengers to be one of the first 15 people to board for a mere $40.
United began charging $9 for “Premier Access,” which allows expedited service through security and priority boarding. The catch? You must already be an elite member to participate. Guess elite status isn’t enough to obtain perks.
If this is what loyalty looks like in the 21st century, is it worth your hard-earned dollars to remain loyal to an airline?