Airline costs getting trickier to track

WASHINGTON — Calculating the full cost of a spring break trip or summer getaway is getting trickier as airlines combine rock-bottom fares with numerous fees.

It’s part of a growing airline trend called “unbundling”: After paying a low base ticket price, consumers can then “customize” their flights with additional services.

This trend has driven growth in so-called “ancillary” fees, for such services as ticket changes, seat assignments, baggage, and food and drinks. Such fees do not have to be listed upfront by airlines or online travel companies.

Although unbundling can help travelers avoid paying for unused services, it’s also led to dissatisfaction, as they are often unclear about what’s included in a ticket.

Change and bag fees — as well as fees for seat assignments, food, drinks and entertainment — now account for about 10 percent of airline revenue.

As more airlines roll out basic fares, expect more fees for things like carry-on bags. Already, Frontier and Spirit charge an average $35 for carry-ons, according to research by the airfare app Hopper.

Across multiple airlines, checking a bag costs an average $25, according to the site.

Cancellations are hardly ever allowed for domestic trips, but those tickets can almost always be changed — for a fee. The average change fee is $191 for domestic flights.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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