A day doesn't go by without a story about travel fees, delays or changes. If you're having trouble keeping up with the new rules and restrictions and what it means to you and your budget you are not alone.
Historically October is a month where many businesses start worrying about end of the year sales/profit numbers and internal activity picks up. It is not uncommon to see more people traveling in a last quarter effort to add to sales.
Airline, hotel and rental car companies also have their eyes on the end of the year measurements. After a summer of incentives and discounts, here come the fees.
1. Airlines - Continuing on their quest to identify additional revenue streams new fees are still being added.
a. Checked luggage fees: In the first half of 2009, legacy airlines collected $1.3 billion in checked luggage fees. That's a lot of baggage. If you are not an elite member of an airlines frequent flyer program be prepared to pay for your checked luggage. And to keep you guessing, fees differ between airlines and destinations.
b. Change reservation fees: $1.2 billion has been collected by the airlines in changed reservation fees through June of 2009. Since business travelers often have to change plans you can get hurt the most by this. Instead of paying an additional fee ($50-$150 per flight leg), reserving a ticket in a higher fare class might be a more economical and more comfortable.
c. Want a preferred seat? Be prepared to pay. A number of airlines are holding out preferred seating for passengers at a charge of $5-$75. Fees differ between airlines and destination.
d. New this week - Holiday Penalty. American and United are assessing a $10 surcharge for people traveling during peak holiday times. Although the airlines are claiming it's a fuel surcharge - if you are planning on traveling November 29, the Sunday after Thanksgiving or January 2 or 3rd add an additional $10 into your travel budget.
e. Less is More (for the airlines): Reduced flight routes. Airlines have reduced the number of planes in the air and the number of options for smaller markets. Servicing has been switched to large airports where more passengers are likely to be. For example American Airlines has reduced by half the number of planes services Raleigh Durham and St Louis.
2. Hidden Hotel fees - most large hotel chains offered some type of incentive program during the summer of 2009. To supplement revenue, the hospitality industry continues to add fees -- if you are not aware of them -- they may surprise you on your bill. For example, a 'holding' bag fee for checking your luggage with the bell captain; mini-bar restocking fee; resort fee; early check out and internet service fee.
3. The mystery of rental car charges - Fees vary (like crazy) between locations and according to availability. In addition to the daily rate, rental contracts can include airport concession fees, facility charges, state rental surcharge, energy surcharge, insurance, refueling costs. The daily car rental fee at any car rental company is subject to supply and any pre-negotiated discounts. These discounts can be from your employer, association membership (ABA, AAA, AARP) or credit card/airline promotions.
These additional fees can pinch any traveler's budget plus give you a headache just trying to keep track of them. The good news is some of these items can be negotiated and the old saying of 'forewarned is forearmed' is true and can be more economical and less hassle.