When you’re traveling abroad, there are lots of things to worry about — safety, language barriers, not getting food poisoning — so getting slammed with an extra $750 in airline baggage fees shouldn’t be one of them.
If you pick the wrong airline and fail to read the fine print, you could rack up hundreds of dollars in unexpected fees and kiss your travel budget goodbye.
TravelNerd recently released a report on absurd fees collected by airlines for international travel, like a $150 fee for checking a bag 1 pound over the weight limit, or a $25 fee for booking via phone.
Read on for more absurd international airline fees, and tips to avoid them.
1. Heavy or oversized baggage
It’ll pay to learn how to travel light, especially if you’re flying internationally. For instance, American Airlines charges $60 for an overweight bag between 50 and 70 pounds on a flight to Japan, but if your bag weighs more than that, you’ll shell out $450. If your bag is oversized, you’ll pay $150 to $450 per checked bag.
If that and the list below isn’t enough to make you double-check your airline’s baggage fees, then nothing will.
- Lufthansa — up to $450 for oversized, overweight bags. That fee jumps to $750 if you have an excessive number of bags.
- Japan Airlines — $450 per overweight bag, $150 for an oversized bag.
- Ryanair — $26 per every 2.2 pounds over 44 pounds, on top of a fee for luggage that weighs less than that.
- Spirit — $100 to $150 for oversized bags.
- United Airlines — $200 per bag between 50 and 70 pounds, $400 per bag between 70 and 100 pounds on select international flights.
How to avoid it: Check your airline’s baggage fee section, then weigh and measure your bags before you go to the airport. If your bag is heavy, consider these options:
- Weigh your options. It might be cheaper to take two bags instead of checking one overweight bag.
- Redistribute weight. If you’re only a few pounds over, toss a few items in your carry-on bag.
- Travel with less. Is yet another outfit worth a bigger bag and a $100 oversized bag fee? Probably not; leave it at home.
- Leave room for souvenirs. Don’t pack your bags to within a pound of the weight limit.
2. Booking by phone
Do airlines really want you to book online, or do they want you to call so they can charge more? Check out these fees:
- American Airlines — $25.
- Air France — $25.
- Air New Zealand — $15 to $200.
- Ryanair — $18.22.
- Delta — $25.
How to avoid it: More often than not, you can bypass this by booking your trip online. If you have questions and need to speak with a customer service representative, do so without booking your flight through that person.
Note: Ryanair charges a $7 online booking fee and it can only be bypassed by finding promotional offers, according to its website. Double-check your airline’s website to see if it charges online booking fees.
3. Changing tickets
If you have to switch tickets, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars in fees, especially if you’re traveling internationally. For example:
- Air France — $50.
- Delta — $250, although the fee may vary.
- United Airlines — $200, and possibly more.
- US Airways — $150 to $300.
- Air New Zealand — $15 to $100.
How to avoid it:
- Be organized and know exactly when you’re going to travel. I learned the hard way after I mixed up my vacation days and had to switch my flight, setting me back $100 for a domestic, nonrefundable JetBlue flight. Now when I have to fly, there are dozens of sticky notes with dates around my computer.
- Book through your airline’s website. Using a third-party site may save you a few dollars, but you may have to pay an even larger fee if you need to change that flight.
4. Boarding pass
While Spirit charges $10 for printing out a boarding pass, it’s nothing compared with Ryanair, which charges up to $107.
How to avoid it: Not all airlines charge for printing boarding passes, but print one out at home in case they do. The last time I flew, I printed out two and shoved one in my carry-on, just in case.
Bottom line: Make sure you compare prices. An airline with extra fees may still have the lowest overall price. If you’re shopping for flights online, enter all necessary information (except your credit card) and “check out” until the final total shows. That’s the real price of your flight — if you don’t exceed baggage size and weight limits, of course.
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