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Avoid Added Flight Fees With These Rules of Thumb

Is that $99 fare too good to be true? The sad fact is you’ll never pay the base airfare advertised by airlines, because those eye-catching low prices don’t include taxes and fees, nor do they account for fuel surcharges.

To dodge additional fees, you’ll need to book online, since many airlines charge $10 to $20 to book over the phone. And don’t even think about changing your flight, because rebooking fees can dramatically inflate costs. For instance, United recently upped its change fee to $150 per ticket.

If you don’t care where you sit, you’ll be safe from extra charges. But on some airlines, including AirTran, JetBlue, Northwest, United, and US Airways, you’ll pay extra to select certain coach seats in advance.

As you’re packing for your trip, consider the fee pitfalls awaiting you at the airport. With the notable exception of Southwest, most airlines are now charging around $25 for a second checked bag. Even worse, American, Spirit, US Airways and United charge for the first checked bag as well. You’ll want to keep those bags light, too, because airlines are strict about weight and size maximums, and charge upwards of $50 for each bag that exceeds the limit.

Once you’re aboard, prepare to pay for food and entertainment. American charges $3 to $6 for snacks, while snack boxes on United and US Airways cost $5. And bring some extra cash in case your airline charges for movies or headphones.

Check our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees for more information.

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