How To Get Around Hidden Airline Fees

Plane tickets are cheaper now than they were in the past when you had to pay one time and everything was all-inclusive. The emergence of discount airlines has changed the industry. You can fly for a very low price if you don't need anything but a seat and have no luggage. Nowadays, it's not uncommon for airlines to tack on a few hundred extra dollars for luggage, carry-ons and more. Then there are the hidden fees. Companies made more than $6 billion in profits from baggage, cancellation and change fees in 2014 alone, according to a Department of Transportation report.

Don’t book over the phone

Time is money. So when you call the airline to book a flight, the travel agent will charge you a fee. It usually is between $15 and $35. Calling your credit card provider to book a flight – with your reward points or not – will also cost you extra. New air bookings made by phone are additional $39 per ticket, according to AmEx Travel.

Don’t request a paper ticket

Use your phone as a boarding pass. Spirit, for example, will charge you $10 to print each boarding pass with a gate agent, according to the company's site. If you're traveling in Europe and using RyanAir, a low-cost airline, you have to check-in online. If you want to do it at the airport, prepare to pay about $50 more and an additional $17 for a printed boarding pass. Bonus: You help save the environment.

Choose an airline with flexible booking period

Many times you buy a ticket through a third-party website such as CheapTickets the sale is final. [See: Most Outrageous Passenger Requests As Told By Flight Attendants] You may or may not see a message in very small print that says they won't even a partial refund if you if you have to reschedule. You'd be charged a fee, which may end up costing as much as the ticket itself. Some airlines, such as AlaskaAir, have a flexible booking period of 24 hours after a purchased  ticket. You may have to make a reservation via their site. If you're traveling in Europe, EasyJet, another discount airline, has FLEXI fares available on all routes and provide unlimited flexibility to change the date of your flights up to two hours prior to the scheduled departure time.

Think before using your miles

Using your miles to buy a ticket may seem like you're flying for free. But some airlines have constraints. According to Airfare Watchdog, using your miles may cost you $75 for "Last minute" which can vary between 20 days to three days before the flight date. Plus, you'll also have to pay the airport and fuel fees. In the end, depending on where you're going, you may have to pay the same amount as if you were not using your miles. You might as well save them then.

Leave your toiletries at home

If you take them with you, you have to check a bag. Most airlines will charge you at least $25 – it can sometimes even reach $75, especially if you're using a discount airline – for the first checked bag. Most hotels have shampoos, soaps and conditioners in the rooms, free for you to use as you please. Even buying a small-size shampoo or body wash at a local store will be less than $25.

Use a co-branded credit card

Co-branded credit cards can save you baggage fees, in addition to earning you points. The United Explorer card lets you check one bag for free. The Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage card does the same, plus there are no foreign transaction fees on purchases.

Carry-on bag fees

First it was paying to check a bag, now you have to come out of your pocket to simply carry a bag on board. If you can, fly with an airline that doesn't have such a fee yet.  Or pack very light. They won't charge you for carrying a purse. According to Airfare Watchdog, Allegiant will charge $10 to $75 depending on when and where purchased and route flown; Frontier will charge $25 for "economy fares" if paid at time of initial fare purchase; Spirit will charge $25-$50 ($100 if you pay at the gate).

You don’t have to use their WiFi

Most airlines offer a WiFi service but it's not free. It ranges between $5 and $50. Depending on why you need Internet, you can avoid the fee.  A good trick is to open all sites, apps and programs you may need before you leave for the airport. [See: The 17 Most Dangerous Airports in the World] Open as many tabs as you think you need – new stories, games or documents – because you won't be able to refresh the page.

Bring your own water bottle

Who doesn't mind paying $5 for a small bottle of water? You can't bring your own through airport security but you can bring an empty water bottle. Fill it up at one of the many water fountains at the airport before you board. You will probably get a complimentary beverage on the plane but a small cup of water is simply not enough.

Do you have to pick a seat?

You will have to pay if you want a specific seat on the plane. [See: Airlines Offering Least and Most Leg Room] The extra charge for this perk may vary between $3 and 20 (or more). AirTran charges $5 if you're on a discounted coach ticket; Allegiant charges $11; AirTran charges $15 if you want to grab an exit row seat; and Northwest recently upped the charge from $15 to $20, according to Airfare Watchdog.

Pay for baggage in advance

More and more airlines are charging higher bag fees if you pay them at the airport, as opposed to paying them in advance on the airline's website, according to Cheap Air. It is always recommended to check your flight in advance and see if you can pre-pay your bag fees. Bonus: This will save you time at the airport as well.