Why airline fees are actually good news for some

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23 2013 8:35 a.m. MST

Airline fees can clearly increase the cost of flying, but they do lower base prices, according to an article by The Atlantic.

As obnoxious as the tacked-on fees are, those who travel lightly are rewarded. Competition and price management have created lower prices for airfares since the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, according to Eduardo Porter’s book "The Price of Everything."

But it does penalize those who are unable to — or don’t — travel lightly. The more airlines use fees, the more they pull down the price of base tickets. But someone has to pay the fees.

“Fees annoy customers for the perfectly sensible reason that they seem like surprising tricks, since the true cost of flying isn't shown on their ticket," said Derek Thompson in his article for The Atlantic. “But the 'true cost of flying,' if such a thing were measurable, could scarcely be represented on a uniform ticket because it costs varying amounts to fly various passengers on the same plane.

Airline fees for 2012 by company

For example, consider whether it costs the same price to fly a 40-pound child as it does to transport a larger person with several checked bags. Bags require sorting, tagging, carrying and added boarding time if they are checked.

Airlines that fly the farthest have the most fees, The Atlantic says. That’s why Delta and US Airways have huge fees compared to airlines that only fly domestically.

Cancellation, change and baggage fees soaked up $6 billion of Americans' money in 2012 on top of ticket prices, the story says. Fees, according to The Atlantic, are up 4 percent over past years. Delta made the most in fees with more than $662 million during the first three quarters of 2012, according to the Department of Transportation. The airline also carried the most passengers.

EMAIL: alovell@deseretnews.com

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