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Avoiding the trap of airline fees

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Perhaps the worst trend in travel is the increase in airline fees. These days, you can be slapped with charges for everything from checked luggage to being on the standby list—services that used to be free. In 2009 alone, airlines collected $7.8 billion in fees.

The airlines say the “a la carte” pricing delivers better deals to consumers. But Sarah Pascarella of Smarter Travel says that when she compared the same routes over different time periods, the a la carte prices were higher.

Advice for avoiding airline fees:

√ Know what to expect before you fly. Check out SmarterTravel.com’s “Airline Fees: The Ultimate Guide” for a complete list of the nickel-and-diming you’ll experience, airline by airline.

√ Do what you can to avoid the charges. Bring a book, for example, rather than pay for inflight entertainment. Pack your own snacks.

√ Invest in a lightweight bag. Airlines will charge an additional $50 for bags between 50 and 70 pounds. A wheeled duffel, for example, doesn’t cost much and is considerably lighter than most bags.

√ Give the low-fee airlines your business. Southwest and JetBlue are the only major airlines with minimal fee policies. Or, says Pascarella, consider taking the train as an alternative to flying: “If enough travelers start gravitating to rail services, airlines may get the message.”

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