Airline industry made billions off added fees

By Aaron Smith, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- Those baggage fees really add up: The airline industry raked in nearly $8 billion from fees last year, according to a government report.

The revenue from so-called ancillary fees totaled $7.8 billion in 2009, according to U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That's a 40% increase from 2008, when the revenue from ancillary fees totaled $5.5 billion, the bureau said.

The tally does not include air fares. It's made up of the plethora of extra fees that airlines have tacked on over the last few years, including fees to transport checked bags, pets, and musical instruments.

The fees are also applied to other services, such as curbside check-in or ordering tickets over the phone. The fees vary from airline to airline.

In 2009, the airlines collected $2.7 billion in baggage fees, $2.4 billion from reservation change fees and $2.7 billion from an assortment of other ancillary fees, such as frequent flyer award program mileage sales.

Delta Air Lines (DAL, Fortune 500) was the leading collector of ancillary fee revenue, bringing in more than $1.6 billion in 2009.

But the carrier that relies the most on extra charges is Spirit Airlines. In the fourth quarter of 2009, 21% of the airline's operating revenue came from ancillary fees, a larger percentage than any of its rivals.

In April, Spirit Airlines began charging extra fees for carry-on bags. Because that that measure was imposed in 2010, it's not included in the 2009 numbers. To top of page

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