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Your guide to navigating confusing airline fees

By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Airlines Writer Published: May 22, 2014
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Q&A

What fees should you expect to pay?

Q: When was the first checked bag fee?

A: American Airlines in May 2008 became the first major U.S. carrier to charge a fee for checking a suitcase. (Discount airlines like Allegiant and Spirit already had such a fee.) The other large airlines quickly followed.

Q: Why did they do it?

A: In 2004, U.S. airlines were paying an average of $1.15 a gallon for jet fuel. By May of 2008, the cost had nearly tripled to $3.23 a gallon. Airlines that year burned through nearly 18 billion gallons of fuel. Passengers make decisions whether to fly based on price, and the bag fees were a way for airlines to collect more money without jacking up ticket prices and scaring away customers.

Q: How much money does that bring in for the airlines?

A: The typical bag fee is $25 for the first checked suitcase, $35 for the second. That added up to $3.4 billion last year. Airlines collected another $2.8 billion from flight change fees, typically $200.

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