Savings Experiment: Fly Around Pesky Airline Fees
Barbara Thau
Apr 5th 2011 at 10:00AM
Flying the friendly skies doesn’t feel so friendly these days.

What seems like a mounting list of hidden and not-so-hidden airline fees can make travelers feel like they’re being taken for more than just one kind of ride.

And you’re not just imagining that flight-related fees seem to be buzzing through more and more of your travel budget. It’s a sign of the times.

The airline industry has been hit hard by both high fuel prices and the recession, Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of FareCompare.com, told WalletPop. As a result, it failed to turn a profit in 2009. But that changed last year as consumers started to help foot the bill for the airlines’ woes, “mostly on the back of fees,” Seaney says.
Fees to check baggage and change a ticket have hit consumers the hardest, he says. But that doesn’t mean travelers have no recourse.

Here’s a primer on how you can avoid a number of these fees or at least keep them to a minimum.

Bag Checking Fees

First-checked-bag fees started to become widespread in 2008, “coinciding to some degree with the run-up in oil prices,” Seaney says.

In July 2008, gas prices peaked at a whopping $140 a barrel.

So on most domestic flights the major carriers now charge about $25 each way for the first checked bag and between $30 and $35 for the second. Prices can really take off if you’re traveling as a family.

To avoid that cost, a simple answer is to fly airlines that don’t charge for luggage — and the only ones that don’t are Southwest and JetBlue, Seaney says.

But if that’s not an option and you fly often, find out which airlines offer special membership rewards and frequent flier programs that waive baggage-check fees.

For example, Continental and Delta will waive some baggage fees if you book your flight using their branded credit cards. And while those airlines’ credit cards come with an annual membership fee, using it once a year to avoid the bag charge can cover that easily, Seaney says.

What’s more, members of frequent flier programs such as Continental’s OnePass Silver Elite aren’t charged to check a first or second bag.

Consider Shipping vs. Schlepping

In some cases, if you plan to travel with a lot of heavy bags, shipping luggage four or five days ahead can save you money.

Airlines will tack on an additional fee for luggage over 50 pounds. So it might work out cheaper to ship your luggage in advance via FedEx or UPS Ground, says George Hobica, president and founder of Airfarewatchdog.com.

For example, “You can ship 55 pounds of stuff via FedEx from Chicago to Orlando for under $40 each way,” he says. “On most airlines, a suitcase that weight would cost $115 each way.”

“The savings really kick in when you’re going shorter distances with heavy bags.” Just think of what you can save when flying your kid and his stuff off to college, he says.

A big added bonus of shipping vs. schlepping is that the shipping companies will track your bags much more closely and your luggage will be infinitely more secure in their hands, Hobica says. Consult Airfare watchdog’s “Shipping Versus Checking” chart for a side-by-side cost comparison of checking your luggage at the airport vs. having it shipped.

Changing Your Ticket

Most major airlines charge a $150 fee to change a domestic flight (and as much as $250 for an international flight). There’s little way to get around this.

But if you are the type of flier whose trips often are subject to change, fly Southwest, which is currently the only airline that does not charge for a flight change. The airline will, however, charge you the price difference if the fare goes up.

It sounds simple, but in general don’t pay for a ticket until you are as certain as possible that you won’t need to make a change.

This is especially true for most leisure flights under $200, Seaney says. “If you change your mind, you are in essence throwing that ticket in the garbage.”

Frequent Flier Programs

Read the fine print when you’re signing up for airlines’ frequent flier programs. They might end up costing you more than they’re worth, Hobica says.

Although you’re earning bonus miles with these cards as a way to qualify for free flights, you’re likely paying an annual fee — usually $75 to $100, he says.

Airlines also add fees for cashing in your frequent flier miles, cashing in miles close to your departure date, and upgrading to business class from economy class. So what’s an alternative?

Consider earning cash for your flight with cash-back-rewards credit cards, Hobica says.

With cards such as American Express’s Blue Cash Card — which has no annual fee — and the Discover Cash Back Bonus Card, you’re earning 5% back in cash rewards for everyday purchases like groceries and gas, as well as clothing, restaurants, hotel stays and car rentals.

The benefit of these cards is that you’re not beholden to airlines’ fees, capacity controls and blackout dates, he says. Instead, “You can take the cash and buy a ticket.”

Choosing a Seat

You’ve already paid for your ticket, but there’s another fee to pick a seat on the plane? Come on. Still, some airlines now charge travelers to accommodate their window, aisle or legroom requests.

American Airlines charges for its Express Seats in the first few rows of the coach cabin. The price varies by mileage.

While these charges aren’t yet common and usually are between $5 and $10, they can be as much as $20 for an exit row seat.

“Consumers can get around the fees by not choosing the premium options, letting the airline select their seats and by flying an airline that allows you to choose your seat for free,” says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com.

Check out Smartertravel.com’s Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees, which has a reference chart of seat selection fees, as well as other fees from all the major domestic carriers.

Thought you would enjoy a few unsolicited, comments about Arthur Blumenthal from the Renaissance workshop participants at the Cornell Museum. These are our “evaluations” 🙂 Folks are great about staying in touch. Also that day, two more couples will be joining us for our trip this fall “How to Look at Art in Paris!” October 13-21.

“I had the best time … I wish I could remember all that I learned, or relearned that day. It was very enjoyable. Besides being a great teacher—he is so funny! I never looked at my watch! LOL.
Susie D.
“Arthur did an amazing job! And I l overheard a lot of comments about what a wonderful presenter he is! Arthur, your knowledge and humor made it so much fun. Thank you for sharing your brilliance.”
Marilyn L.
“I truly enjoyed the seminar and the company! Arthur did a wonderful job. Anxious for more.”
Dana B.
“I was in heaven listening to Arthur talk and think he does such a great job of educating all of us about art. He appears to have complete and easy access to everything he ever learned about the Renaissance! His love of the subject shines through and is very inspiring. We’re looking for a way to get him to Mt. Dora. I loved the course!”
Shawn M.
“Awesome today! My brain wants more and more and more. Hugs!”
June N.
“I want to thank you for the workshop yesterday. You do a very nice job! You would think I might have memory of hearing things about color (after 20 years at the Orlando Museum of Art docent), but I learned new ones: i.e. aerial color (hooray!).”
Dee S.
“I write to express my appreciation for your “How to Look at Art!” seminar yesterday at the Cornell. It was enlightening and enjoyable.”
David T.

Florida has sustained two “bad weather” days in a row with today being the worst of the two! The Carnival Pride, all 85,000 tons of her, was blown away from the dock at Port Canaveral! All are safe!
This rain will make Florida greener for our visitors!

This story is well worth sharing with all of our readers. Written for University of Travel News.

The Daffodil PrincipleThis week’s newsletter is a little different.

This is a story that we have sent out in previous years and thought that it is the time to have those who have never read to read and for those who have read before it is the time to read again. Please enjoy.

The Daffodil Principle

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, “Mother, you must come and see the daffodils before they are over.” I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. Going and coming took most of a day – and I honestly did not have a free day until the following week.

“I will come next Tuesday,” I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call. Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove the length of Route 91, continued on I-215, and finally turned onto Route 18 and began to drive up the mountain highway. The tops of the mountains were sheathed in clouds, and I had gone only a few miles when the road was completely covered with a wet, gray blanket of fog. I slowed to a crawl, my heart pounding. The road becomes narrow and winding toward the top of the mountain.

As I executed the hazardous turns at a snail’s pace, I was praying to reach the turnoff at Blue Jay that would signify I had arrived. When I finally walked into Carolyn’s house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren I said, “Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these darling children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!”

My daughter smiled calmly, “We drive in this all the time, Mother.”

“Well, you won’t get me back on the road until it clears – and then I’m heading for home!” I assured her.

“I was hoping you’d take me over to the garage to pick up my car. The mechanic just called, and they’ve finished repairing the engine,” she answered.

“How far will we have to drive?” I asked cautiously.

“Just a few blocks, “Carolyn said cheerfully.

So we buckled up the children and went out to my car. “I’ll drive,” Carolyn offered. “I’m used to this.” We got into the car, and she began driving.

In a few minutes I was aware that we were back on the Rim-of-the-World Road heading over the top of the mountain. “Where are we going?” I exclaimed, distressed to be back on the mountain road in the fog. “This isn’t the way to the garage!”

“We’re going to my garage the long way,” Carolyn smiled, “by way of the daffodils.”

“Carolyn, I said sternly, trying to sound as if I was still the mother and in charge of the situation, “please turn around. There is nothing in the world that I want to see enough to drive on this road in this weather.”

“It’s all right, Mother,” She replied with a knowing grin. “I know what I’m doing. I promise, you will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience.”

And so my sweet, darling daughter who had never given me a minute of difficulty in her whole life was suddenly in charge – and she was kidnapping me! I couldn’t believe it. Like it or not, I was on the way to see some ridiculous daffodils – driving through the thick, gray silence of the mist-wrapped mountaintop at what I thought was risk to life and limb.

I muttered all the way. After about twenty minutes we turned onto a small gravel road that branched down into an oak-filled hollow on the side of the mountain. The fog had lifted a little, but the sky was lowering, gray and heavy with clouds.

We parked in a small parking lot adjoining a little stone church. From our vantage point at the top of the mountain we could see beyond us, in the mist, the crests of the San Bernardino range like the dark, humped backs of a herd of elephants. Far below us the fog-shrouded valleys, hills, and flatlands stretched away to the desert.

On the far side of the church I saw a pine-needle-covered path, with towering evergreens and manzanita bushes and an inconspicuous, lettered sign “Daffodil Garden.”

We each took a child’s hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path as it wound through the trees. The mountain sloped away from the side of the path in irregular dips, folds, and valleys, like a deeply creased skirt.

Live oaks, mountain laurel, shrubs, and bushes clustered in the folds, and in the gray, drizzling air, the green foliage looked dark and monochromatic. I shivered. Then we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight, unexpectedly and completely splendid. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into every crevice and over every rise. Even in the mist-filled air, the mountainside was radiant, clothed in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.

Each different-colored variety (I learned later that there were more than thirty-five varieties of daffodils in the vast display) was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.

In the center of this incredible and dazzling display of gold, a great cascade of purple grape hyacinth flowed down like a waterfall of blossoms framed in its own rock-lined basin, weaving through the brilliant daffodils. A charming path wound throughout the garden. There were several resting stations, paved with stone and furnished with Victorian wooden benches and great tubs of coral and carmine tulips. As though this were not magnificent enough, Mother Nature had to add her own grace note – above the daffodils, a bevy of western bluebirds flitted and darted, flashing their brilliance. These charming little birds are the color of sapphires with breasts of magenta red. As they dance in the air, their colors are truly like jewels above the blowing, glowing daffodils. The effect was spectacular.

It did not matter that the sun was not shining. The brilliance of the daffodils was like the glow of the brightest sunlit day. Words, wonderful as they are, simply cannot describe the incredible beauty of that flower-bedecked mountain top.

Five acres of flowers! (This too I discovered later when some of my questions were answered.) “But who has done this?” I asked Carolyn. I was overflowing with gratitude that she brought me – even against my will. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Who?” I asked again, almost speechless with wonder, “And how, and why, and when?”

“It’s just one woman,” Carolyn answered. “She lives on the property. That’s her home.” Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory.

We walked up to the house, my mind buzzing with questions. On the patio we saw a poster. “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking” was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs,” it read. The second answer was, “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”

There it was. The Daffodil Principle.

For me that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun – one bulb at a time – to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. One bulb at a time.

There was no other way to do it. One bulb at a time. No shortcuts – simply loving the slow process of planting. Loving the work as it unfolded.

Loving an achievement that grew so slowly and that bloomed for only three weeks of each year. Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world.

This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principle of celebration: learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time – often just one baby-step at a time – learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.

When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

“Carolyn,” I said that morning on the top of the mountain as we left the haven of daffodils, our minds and hearts still bathed and bemused by the splendors we had seen, “it’s as though that remarkable woman has needle-pointed the earth! Decorated it. Just think of it, she planted every single bulb for more than thirty years. One bulb at a time! And that’s the only way this garden could be created. Every individual bulb had to be planted. There was no way of short-circuiting that process. Five acres of blooms. That magnificent cascade of hyacinth! All, just one bulb at a time.”

The thought of it filled my mind. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the implications of what I had seen. “It makes me sad in a way,” I admitted to Carolyn. “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five years ago and had worked away at it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!”

My wise daughter put the car into gear and summed up the message of the day in her direct way. “Start tomorrow,” she said with the same knowing smile she had worn for most of the morning. Oh, profound wisdom!

It is pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson a celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, “How can I put this to use tomorrow?”

Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards
“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.”

Nolan Bushnell

Get ready “rats”, the cheese is moving again in air travel! More and more negative things are about to impact your flight experience “brother rat”. You are already frazzled and barely can give your last flight experience higher than a C- rating and now they are thinking about adding to that hassle by ratcheting up the pressure on your experience and your pocketbook!! And yes, that grade even includes the first class traveler too! (Today’s first class domestic experience is like coach used to be 15 years ago).
Adding insult to injury, soon the ala carte service costs associated with air travel will amount to a total cost equal to or more than that of the actual ticket price. Hoot man….maybe the train is the solution! Services your favorite airlines are thinking of charging for are: to board early, pay to have better seating, pay to have a pillow, pay to have a blanket, pay for peanuts, water and yes, maybe even a comfort package which will allow you…well, you know what I mean! And this “brother rat” is on top of all of the other fees they charge right now. Add this new layer to the hassle of just making it through security with your dignity in tact, wow watch for the fireworks! By the time anyone gets through this maze and seated on the aircraft, they will need a vacation to compose themselves before they reach their destination.
Let us be your “sedan car” and help make your experience one that is shared and the air travel maze not such a daunting experience!. http://travelagentonline.com/Who-Are-We.html
PS: Stockholders just approved the merger of Southwest and Air Trans Airways. Let’s hope this merger is a melding of what is best with both carriers making the customer the winner.

Please take a look at this .  Know that goodness still prevails throughout all of human kind.  It just doesn’t usually make the news… because IT’S TOO GOOD.


Tell us how this makes you feel when you see this!  We personally loved it!


YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN when you book travel direct or online.  Who do you call when disaster strikes and you are far away from home?   With today’s swiftly changing global landscape, a good agent http://travelagentonline.com/Meet-Our-Travel-Agents.html proactively works on your behalf to ensure you, their client(s), that you get  to your destination and back home safe and sound!  In other words, a good agent “watches your back” from inception of your vacation idea until you return home.  Isn’t it comforting to know you have a relationship with a professional travel agent and can pick up your phone and speak directly to a human being who cares and can help you with whatever the difficulty might be? Now that’s real vacation peace of mind!

When were you last in a travel crisis and needed an agent but didn’t have one?