Airlines Charged $7.8 Billion in Fees in 2009

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Airlines are staying high in the sky by collecting a variety of a la carte fees, and here's proof: Last year, airlines nickel-and-dimed travelers out of $7.8 billion dollars in fees. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), those numbers mark an astronomic 42 percent jump since 2008.

The BTS calculated "the airlines collected $2.7 billion in baggage fees, $2.4 billion from reservation change fees, and $2.7 billion from other ancillary fees, such as pet transportation fees and frequent flyer award program mileage sales."

Delta Air Lines collected the most of any carrier, charging around $1.65 billion from frees alone. American and US Airways came in second and third place for the most fees collected.

Southwest earned fourth place in the rankings. Although the airline allows customers to check two bags free of charge, the airline collected fees for pet transport, unaccompanied minors, and an early check-in option.

The Associated Press reported Spirit Airlines, who recently announced a plan to charge up to $45 for carry-on bags, did not make it into the top ten. However, the airline did manage to pull in 21 percent of its total operating revenue from extra fees alone, the most out of any carrier. Spirit charges customers for everything from seat assignments to snacks.

During the last quarter of 2009, revenue from fees rose 18 percent to around $1.9 billion. In the October-to-December period alone, bag fees totaled $736 million, $564 million was made from reservation change fees, and $611 million was gathered from other ancillary fees.

Is the airline industry addicted to surcharges? Are these fees the right stimulant for a failing industry, or just a quick fix? Feel free to share your thoughts below.
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