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Airlines amassed $7.8b by charging fees in ’09

Bag charges fuel a 42% increase

By Samantha Bomkamp
Associated Press / May 4, 2010

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NEW YORK — The government yesterday confirmed what many travelers suspected:

US airlines made a lot more money in fees last year.

The Department of Transportation said revenue from so-called ancillary fees rose 42 percent to $7.8 billion in 2009.

The biggest chunk of that came from checked-baggage fees, which were introduced in 2008 when the price of oil soared and eventually reached $147 per barrel.

Other fees include those for reservation changes, pet travel, and mileage sales.

United Air Lines and Continental Airlines, which yesterday announced plans to combine to form the world’s biggest airline, were sixth and seventh among carriers in fees collected. United took in $619.5 million in fees; Continental, $539.7 million.

Delta Air Lines, currently the world’s largest airline, collected the most from fees, $1.65 billion.

American Airlines was second, followed by US Airways.

Southwest Airlines does not charge for the first two checked bags, but it earned fourth place in the fee rankings.

Southwest, which carries more passengers than any other US airline, charges $50 for a third checked bag, as well as fees for pets traveling in the cabin and unaccompanied minors.

The smaller discount carrier Spirit Airlines is not in the top 10. But 21 percent of its total operating revenue came from extra fees.

Besides bag fees, Spirit charges for seat assignments, drinks, snacks, pets, and children traveling alone.

And it plans to start charging as much as $45 for a carry-on bag as of Aug. 1, a first for a US airline.