Thursday, July 15, 2010

Understanding Airline Costs

As I have searched for client's airfare over the past few days, I am being made aware again that the general public still does not completely understand the "real cost" of a particular flight. I will have clients that say they have found a flight for "X dollars" which appeared to be the cheapest option on the surface. That one flight may have come in $50 less than another option on another airline, but was it really $50 cheaper?

You won't know the answer to that question unless you are clearly aware of each airlines fee policy.

Southwest Airlines is always a good one to use when talking about fees due to their resistance to charge for certain items or services (such as baggage fees) above and beyond the actual airfare. So let's say you have found a flight on Southwest for $250 round trip. And for the sake of the argument, let's assume you do not want to check in early (earlier than 24 hours before your flight) just to keep it simple. You then go and search some more options and find a similar flight time on Frontier Airlines and their base fare is $199 round trip and you get all excited thinking you are about to save over $50. But let's also say that you will check in at least one piece of luggage for your trip. Southwest allows up to 2 free checked in bags per person. Frontier will charge you $20 for the first check piece of luggage each way. So now...the true cost of the Frontier Flight (round trip) is $239.

See? All of the sudden, most of the cost savings that you thought you were going to get with Frontier was just wiped away when you forgot to consider baggage fees.

We can get wrapped up in all of the other fees such as fees for pillows, blankets, advance seat selection etc, but the major cost difference between airlines (anything above the base fare) will be baggage fees. So please make sure you understand each airlines rules when it comes to checked in luggage before making your final decision, especially if you are basing your decision on cost more so than schedule.

So ask yourself these questions when you start looking into airfare:

1) Will I need to check in 1 or 2 pieces of luggage for this trip?
2) Will I care if I don't get to select my actual seat on the plane?

3) Will I care if the airline tells me that there will be a charge for any type beverage or food service?

4) Will I care if I am made to pay for a blanket or pillow on the flight?

Those are areas that airlines are finding ways of getting into your pocket book. If you answer no to all of those questions, then you will be in a better position to compare one airline's base fare to another and get a true apples to apples comparison. But if those 4 items do matter to you, then you better make sure which airline is charging what and how much before hitting the "purchase" button.

I hope this helps.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?