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Airlines Stick Travelers with Still More Fees

In the weeks ahead, passengers will pony up additional funds for added legroom and checking extra bags, with a lot more add-on charges to come.

U.S. airlines, desperate to offset soaring jet fuel costs, are introducing new fees. The carriers already have raised fares and added fuel surcharges to the price of a ticket. Now come a host of other fees to help offset rising costs and boost the bottom line. But with these extra charges, the airlines run the risk of alienating passengers, says Kevin Mitchell, president of the Business Travel Coalition, which represents many large companies.

The latest are new fees for checking a second bag, getting a seat with extra legroom and checking a bag curbside. United Airlines was the first to announce charging for a second bag. Starting May 5, a second checked bag will cost an additional $25. The fee applies only to those passengers who buy nonrefundable tickets. Joining United will be US Airways and American, Northwest and Delta airlines.

JetBlue Airways will start charging for seats with extra legroom, from $10 on short haul flights to $20 on transcontinental trips. United and Delta have plans in place, too. United's Economy Plus section, between first class and coach, has seats featuring five inches of extra legroom. A seat costs $25 each way. Northwest has a program called Coach Choice and charges extra for seats in the exit row of the plane. Delta is charging travelers who check in at the curb $3 per bag.

More charges are on the way as well as increases to existing fees. Airlines are considering making passengers pay for sodas and snacks, blankets and pillows and priority boarding. And some analysts say it's only a matter of time before the carriers make passengers pony up for all checked bags. "The airlines have never met a revenue source they didn't like," says Terry Trippler of


Existing fees will also go up for an unaccompanied minor, oversize luggage, pet travel and booking a flight over the phone. Delta recently announced that it will charge frequent fliers a $25 handling fee for any Delta award ticket booked through a Delta employee that includes a segment on another airline.

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