Airline Fees Not Really So Bad?

Fees might be saving you money on travel.

We've all heard horrible things about airline fees--fees to check a carry-on bag, fees for the various amenities the flight offers, even--in the case of RyanAir (NASDAQ: RYAAY)--pay toilets on flights of less than an hour's duration.  But can all these fees actually be good for us?

It's strange to say it, but it seems like the airlines' addiction to fees have afforded us an opportunity the like of which we've never seen before.  Fees may be keeping prices at near record low prices. 

The current average price for a round trip airfare ticket is three hundred and six bucks.  A year ago at this time?  It was three hundred fifty eight.  And lest you think--like I did briefly--that that's just a function of a crippled and flailing economy, when you factor in inflation, it's actually cheaper to fly now than it was in 1995.  About twenty five percent cheaper, in point of fact, and that's not the kind of thing that usually happens.

Some suggest that fees are allowing the airlines to customize an experience--a bare-bones experience for the folks who just want to get from point A to point B and one for the folks who demand comfort and room for all their baggage.  This is a fair supposition, and it actually falls in line with the basic free market principle.  You get what you pay for.  And even if you pay fewer fees on, say, JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU), you may save money by taking the same flight on American Airlines (NYSE: AMR ) but getting fewer extras.  You'll now have an entire layer of possible airfare prices to compare to--airfare, and airfare with one carry-on. 

There's also something to be said for traveling lighter, which in turn allows airlines to save on fuel, and in turn, lower fares.

So if you're traveling, consider the fees carefully--you may be able to save some cash on travel if you're willing to settle for less.

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