The Real Cost – Don’t Forget to Account for Extra Airline Fees

The pricing structure at many airlines has changed dramatically over the last two years.  Unfortunately, when booking tickets people neglect to accurately incorporate all the extra fees when booking airline tickets.

I want to show you a few simple steps to be sure you are getting the actual lowest price on your airline tickets.

Here are some of the typical items you can expect to be charged for when flying:

  • Making your reservations by phone
  • Baggage
  • Seat selection / priority seating / middle seat
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Meals
  • Travel with pets
  • Unaccompanied minor fee
  • Change of Ticket fee

It quickly becomes apparent that, depending on the nature of your travel, your actual cost can be substantially higher than you might anticipate.

Here is what I suggest as a step-by-step guide:

  1. Check the price of airfare using the Step By Step Guide for Getting Cheap Airline Tickets.
  2. Identify the list of services (from the list above) that you will be using.  This will be different from person to person.
  3. Check out a site like Rick Seaney’s that introduces all the fees (last updated May 15th, 2009).  If you prefer a PDF version you can print it up for easy access. You can get one from Smarter Travel.  This will give you the updated cost list.  If traveling round trip you must remember to double the baggage cost as the fees are charged each way.
  4. Take the three cheapest flights from step one and use the attached spreadsheet (below) to list all the costs associated with your trip.
  5. Add up the total cost and buy the cheapest air tickets after you have accounted for all the fees.

Let me walk you through an example. In this example, let’s assume a person will be traveling round trip from BUF – Houston (either HOU or IAH) from July 14-21.  (For the sake of convenience, I only searched Sidestep and Southwest to get my fares).   Assume also that this passenger will take two bags and book over the phone.

Here are the Sidestep prices:

Sidestep Houston

Southwest came back with a total price of 179.90

Now we take the top three cheapest prices and add them into the Excel sheet:  This would be (1) Southwest at 179.90, (2) Delta at $188 (3) Air Tran at $218.

However, once we have added the extra fees (booking by phone and bags for both ways) our new total cost is (1) Southwest at $179.90, (2) Delta at $278, and (3) Airtran at $293.

What initially appeared to be about a $10 difference between Delta and Southwest actually turned out to be a $100 difference.

Don’t forget to account for all your expenses.

Click here to access a very simple Excel document that has all the categories prepared.  All you need to do it so enter the actual costs for the airline you plan to travel with. You are welcome to download it, save it, share it, edit it, and use it for your own personal use.

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