Airline Fees Total $4.3B in First 9 Months of Year

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The top 20 U.S. airlines took in $4.3 billion in fees -- $2.56 billion for checked bag fees and $1.7 billion for cancellations and changes -- in the first nine months of the year, according to information collected by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).


Delta raked in close to $1.26 billion in fees through the end of the third quarter. The newly merged United and Continental together collected $922 million (though the data was gathered separately). American collected $784 million.

Despite its position as one of the nation's largest carriers, Southwest checks in low at No. 14 for bag fees because it does not charge a fee for first or second checked bags. The carrier does not even appear on the fees list for flight changes as it doesn't charge change fees.

For the third quarter, the airlines pulled in a total of $906.3 million in baggage fees, up from $739.8 million in the third quarter of 2009.

Cancellation/change fees actually declined in the third quarter, from $613.5 million last year to $590.3 million this year.

The BTS data do not tell the whole airline fee story, however. Airlines charge a wide array of fees for priority boarding, pillows, blankets, food, entertainment, inflight Internet access and even, in the case of Spirit Airlines, stowing a bag in an overhead bin.

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