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Pricey Fine Print: 5 'Hidden' Airline Fees

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on May 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Summer is here! But before you book that dream jet-setting getaway, watch out for fine print that might be riddled with hidden airline fees.

As any air traveler is well aware, the airline industry is constantly monetizing things that used to be free, so be vigilant.

Here are five airline fees that might be buried in the fine print:

  1. Carry-on bag fees. Nowadays, it's pretty common to be charged a fee for checked bags, but there are a couple of airlines that charge for carry-on bags too. For example, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air charge hefty fees to those who don't read the fine print and fail to pay for baggage ahead of time, according to Forbes. So if you're traveling on Spirit or Allegiant, remember to pay for carry-ons at the time you book your flight online.
  2. Foreign-exchange fees. Watch out for foreign transaction credit-card fees, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press reminds us. For example, if you have tickets for an American Airlines flight that was booked through British Airways' U.S. website, you could incur an extra 2% fee for booking with a foreign-based company. Those 2% fees can add up, so make sure to check your credit cards' policies before you book.
  3. Discount club fees. Discount club memberships (like Spirit Airlines' "$9 Fare Club," which costs about $60 to join) might automatically renew each year and deduct the fee from your account unless you cancel. If this happens to you, contact your credit card company and contest the charge. Going forward, always check the fine print.
  4. Standby fees. Standby travel appears to be following in the footsteps of free food in coach. Several air carriers like United Airlines have stopped allowing people to stand by for earlier flights without a charge, MoneyWatch reports. The standby fees will often depend on your ticket reservation type, whether you're a loyalty program member, and/or your specific route. Check the fine print to figure out airlines' standby policies.
  5. Window and aisle seat fees. It's standard for airlines to reserve the front and emergency exit rows for passengers who pay more for the extra leg room. However, a number of airlines now charge premiums for window and aisle seats, CNN advises. So if you're traveling with a group this summer, read the fine print on "preferred seating" if you want to sit together during the flight.

Keep these "hidden" airline fees in mind when you're planning your summer travels. If you find the fine print too confusing, you may want to consider consulting a legal professional -- or even signing up for an affordable personal legal plan. For example, LegalStreet plans start at less than $13 a month and include unlimited attorney contract reviews (up to 10 pages). That may be a small price to pay for some legal peace of mind.

Happy travels!

Disclosure: LegalStreet and are owned by the same company.

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