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Taking to the skies? Watch your wallet!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Flying is by far the most expensive way to travel, and it's not necessarily just the cost of your airplane ticket. Passengers who desire a decent seat with ample legroom, a snack and a soft drink are expected to layout far more than what they estimated their trip would cost. Many feel that the pirates of today have forsaken their ships for jumbo jets.  

LOS ANGELES, CA ((Catholic Online) - In fact, air flight providers collected more than $27 billion last year in fees and other non-fare revenue. These sudden, unexpected expenses are considered by the airlines as "a crucial component of airline income," a new report finds. This figure represents a substantial 20 percent jump over 2011.

For added fees for checked luggage, early boarding to pillows, travelers know to bring plenty of discretionary cash.

"Every year, key numbers are getting larger. The most aggressive airlines easily generate more than 20 percent of their revenue from a la carte fees," the report by IdeaWorks reads.

"Once largely limited to low fare airlines, ancillary revenue has now become a financial necessity for airlines all over the globe."

Among the airlines most dependent on discretionary spending, United Airlines tops the list. United Airlines is,followed by Delta, American and Southwest. Even the most budget conscious carrier, Spirit Airlines, collected the most as a percentage of its total income, with fees and other extras making up 38.5 percent of its revenue pie.

The most disliked fees, such as services for checked bags, priority check-in and assigned seats were analyzed among 53 airlines that disclose their ancillary revenue.

The report also included the money airlines make from selling frequent flier miles to hotels, credit cards and other program partners; offering advertising space in the in-flight magazine and selling duty-free items on flights.

Passenger fees, not surprisingly, drew the highest amount of irritation from travel advocates.

"This is $27 billion of deception," Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance says. Leocha says that these extra charges are making it harder for fliers to know and compare the true cost of tickets at the time of booking.

"The growth in ancillary revenue streams makes it more important than ever today that the airlines begin disclosing these ancillary fees at all points where they sell their airfares."

Other industry observers say that these airlines don't force travelers to pay extra. It's just that these airlines have figured out new ways of making money, much in the same way the cruise and hotel industries have.

"The margins in the industry are ridiculously, laughably small, even with these fees," George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. "When (airlines) tried to raise fares, people stayed home, so they have to find other sources of income . I'm not outraged, I just think it's something that had to be done."

In the end, fliers can avoid extra charges by signing up for a carrier-branded credit card that will let them check bags for free, Hobica notes.

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