Airplane-refueling-at-gate-featured-imageAirlines fees are mystery to most travellers. It seems that airlines are done absorbing the costs of things like airport check-in, printing boarding passes and the cost of maintaining their website.

I have decoded for you some of the mystery behind these surcharges that can easily almost double the cost of the lowest advertised airfare.

Me, I prefer one rate: this is what it’s going to cost me, rather than US$299 plus, plus, plus, plus. And for some things I have no control over, like a boarding pass – can’t board a plane without one. Or fuel surcharge when the price of oil is half of what it used to be when the habit of the surcharge popped up.

Airlines have made so much profit from these extras and are constantly looking for new ways to help themselves, and screw us over.

Airport Tax Fee
Leaving the San Jose (SJO) and Liberia (LIR) airport will cost each passenger US$29. In most airports around the globe the airport tax is incorporated in the price of the ticket. This is now starting to happen in Costa Rica, with more airlines joining the airport tax included fee.

Fuel Surcharge
This one gets me, airlines charing us extra for fuel. Wait, isn’t the fuel calculated as part of the overall cost of operations in determining ticket prices? Supposedly, “fuel surcharge” was meant to reimburse the airlines for high oil prices. As oil prices have fallen, this fee has remained. Some airlines are calling it now “airline surcharge”, confusing the s**t out of customers.

Boarding Pass Fees
Some airlines, in particular the budget airlines, are charing passengers for services once complimentary, like seat assignment and the printing of a board pass. The biggest rip-off is the Irish budget carrier RyanAir, which charges an additional US$108 for airport check-in. RyanAir is a principal investor in the new low-cost airline, Viva Airline, that will start operations in Costa Rica soon.

Other airlines charge passengers for the right to choose their seat, a service that can easily add US$25 or more per passenger. Don’t like the seat assigned you by a computer?

Credit Card Fees
Credit cards are the universal payment option. However, airlines increasingly charge passengers extra for the privilege when making their online booking. Charges vary, from a flat fee to a percentage. The charge can be avoided by going to the airport and make the reservation there.

In Costa Rica, this is totally the reverse.  Some carries (Avianca, for instance) charges an extra US$25 for reserving at the airport or its offices, but no fee if the booking is done online.

Admin Fees
What exactly is an admin fee? Mysteriously these fees pop up (on top of the advertised price) on international flights. Mainly, these are fees to pay for things like the airline’s website.  When looking at an advertised price, read the fine print and add up all the extras, which can almost double the price advertised price.


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