Gerri Willis Commentary:
Top Tips by Gerri Willis Column archive
Cut airline fees
5 Tips: We'll help you make the most of your next flight -- without paying more for the privilege.
By Gerri Willis, contributing columnist

NEW YORK ( - Airfares are up and there are fewer seats up for grabs. And if that isn't enough, airlines are padding their fares with some extra "gotchas".

In today's top 5 Tips we'll unveil these fees and tell you how to avoid them.

1. Go online

Picking up the phone to book a flight is going to cost you. Get your ticket through the airlines' Web site. This can save you fees as high as ten dollars. If you're using an online travel site like or it's going to be much harder to beat booking fees. These charges can range from $5 to $18 dollars per ticket.

2. Get another seat

Gone are the days when kids could fly for free. Most airlines tack on a fee that can be as much as 15 percent if an infant is sitting on your lap, according to

The solution? Get your kid their own seat. Some airlines may offer discounted fares for this. And besides, it will probably be a lot safer if your child does have a separate seat. And just think, you can take on two more checked bags.

3. Get the baggage requirements

Make sure you know the weight, size, and number limits posted on your airline's Web site. Most flights in the U.S. let you check two bags that weigh no more than 50 pounds each. If you go over that, expect to pay $25 or more per bag.

The excess baggage fee costs consumers nearly half a billion dollars last year, according to Consumer Reports. If you're over your baggage weight, split up your items into two smaller bags, or stuff some things into your carry-on.

4. Pack your own amenities

Food, pillows, all used to be a part of the flying experience. But now you're expected to pay for your snacks.

Some airlines even charge you for those pillows and blankets. It's a good idea to invest in your own travel necessities before you take off.

5. Know where to go

Discount airlines generally impose fewer fees. Southwest Airlines, for example, won't charge unaccompanied minors.

JetBlue and Southwest have a more lenient baggage limit and JetBlue lets flyers book seats with extra legroom at no charge.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.comTop of page

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