Massachusets Warns Consumers On Airline Fee Costs

airlineA new survey on airline fees that details hefty charges and fees travelers can face for ordinary practices such as checking bags or requesting specific seats has been released by the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

The survey, conducted from April through July, examined all the airlines that operate out of Boston's Logan International Airport, using information either from the airline's website or supplied by customer service representatives over the phone.

The survey was based on the purchase of a basic coach ticket and did not include charges for requesting a non-stop flight versus a flight with layovers or plane transfers.

Air travelers can encounter fees from the beginning of the booking process, at the gate and even for carrying an extra bag on to the plane, the survey found.

Consumers who buy tickets over the phone rather than using the internet will be hit with an extra charge as well, the survey reports.

Travelers who cancel or alter their flight plans face the highest fees, with some airlines charging $100 or more for switching flights.

"We're not advising consumers to fly any specific airline on their next trip, but rather to shop around for the best deal and to pay attention to the fine print," said Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

"Travelers should closely examine airlines' policies that may affect how much you will pay. You may decide that you don't mind paying for an extra piece of luggage, but you should make an informed decision."

Airlines also are charging significant fees for taking pets on board or sending unaccompanied minors on flights, the survey notes.

Consumers also should be aware that selected a particular seat – one with more leg room, for example – can come with an additional charge.

"There are other costs that may crop up as consumers figure out the best way to get around," Anthony said. "Convenience is worth something, and often people may choose to pay more for expediency. They should just know what they are paying for – and then receive the expanded service."

"To determine applicable fees while selecting your ticket, consumers should start by asking themselves questions such as: How many bags will I need to check? How many carry-on bags will I have? How will I book the ticket: online, on the phone, or at the airport? Are my travel plans subject to change? Should I get a refundable ticket? Do I want to select my seats or upgrade by adding more leg room?"

During recent years, the traveling public has received additional tools to help them navigate the often confusing world of air travel, the survey says. Consumers are encouraged to visit the  Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division when planning trips or after encountering difficulties.

"Air travel is one of the major areas where a little planning and forethought can save a lot of headaches down the runway," Anthony said. "No one likes to pay extra fees for services that used to come with ticket purchases. But you can avoid many fees with some attention to detail and a little work."

Among the fees tracked the survey are booking fees, checked bags, carry on bags, cancellation/refund fees, change fees, pet fees, unaccompanied minor, seat assignment and overweight bag fees.