Which Airlines Charge the Most Extra Fees?

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Online tools have made it easy to compare airfares and find the lowest ticket prices. But for travelers who don't factor in fees for "optional services," the overall cost of a flight can be surprisingly high. What used to come standard -- a carry-on bag or nonalcoholic beverage, for instance -- may now come at a cost. At the same time, existing fees are rising, and JetBlue just joined the crowd charging for the first checked bag. Cheapism.com has compiled detailed charts comparing a range of airline fees levied by 10 U.S. carriers and picked the best and worst when it comes to extra charges. Here are the rankings, along with fees for domestic flights in the lowest fare class.

10. SPIRIT AIRLINES


The Spirit model is to charge as little as possible for airfare and then add fees for virtually everything else. That includes seat selection ($1-$50), boarding passes printed at the airport ($10), carry-on bags ($35-$100), and in-flight beverage service ($2-$3).

First checked bag: $30-$100 (depending on how far in advance the fee is paid)

Change/cancellation: $110 online, $120 by phone or at the airport

9. ALLEGIANT AIR


This discount airline charges numerous fees including $2 for nonalcoholic drinks; $10-$75 for carry-on bags; up to $8 for using an American Express card; and up to $80 to select a seat. Allegiant fees are assessed per segment (one takeoff and landing).

First checked bag: $15-$75 (depending on the route and how far in advance the fee is paid)

Change/cancellation: $75 per segment

8. (TIE) UNITED AIRLINES


There's little difference in fees among the transcontinental legacy carriers (United, Delta, and American/US Airways). United was the first to increase its domestic change fee to $200. The airline also has some of the highest fees for a third checked bag ($150) and oversize bags ($200).

First checked bag: $25

Change/cancellation: $200

8. (TIE) AMERICAN AIRLINES/US AIRWAYS


Although the two airlines have merged, fees are still assessed by the carrier operating the flight. Most charges are the same, including a steep $200 change fee. On American, passengers can upgrade to Choice Plus (an additional $80-$89) to avoid that fee and receive one free checked bag, among other benefits.

First checked bag: $25

Change/cancellation: $200

8. (TIE) DELTA AIR LINES


With fees comparable to what the other transcontinental legacy carriers charge, Delta shouldn't surprise many travelers with its add-ons. Along with American and United, it waives certain checked-bag fees for customers with airline-branded credit cards.

First checked bag: $25

Change/cancellation: $200
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5. FRONTIER AIRLINES


Fees for non-alcoholic beverages and carry-on bags are sure to aggravate some passengers, but overall Frontier's fees are no higher the rest of the industry's. Many fees are waived with the purchase of a more expensive Classic Plus ticket, and there may not be much difference in fare.

First checked bag: $20-$60 (depending on how far in advance the fee is paid)

Change/cancellation: $99

4. VIRGIN AMERICA


Virgin America charges middling fees in general but is notably lenient when it comes to excess baggage. The third checked bag costs the same as the first -- $25, compared with at least $75 on most other airlines -- and almost no one charges less for oversize and overweight bags.

First checked bag: $25

Change/cancellation: $100 or $150 (depending on the route)

3. JETBLUE AIRWAYS


JetBlue recently added a checked-bag fee but still offers travelers complimentary DirecTV, as well as free snacks more substantial than the usual pack of pretzels. Change and cancellation fees are graduated based on the price of the flight, fare type, and number of days before departure.

First checked bag: $20 online or at a kiosk, $25 at the ticket counter

Change/cancellation: $70-$135

2. ALASKA AIRLINES


Alaska waives many fees for residents of its namesake state, through the free Club 49 program, and keeps extra charges relatively low for everybody else. A second checked bag costs only $25, and fees for bags that are overweight ($50) or oversize ($75) are below the industry average.

First checked bag: $25

Change/cancellation: Free at least 60 days in advance; $125 otherwise

1. SOUTHWEST AIRLINES


Southwest is hands-down the best airline for travelers worried about fees. It's the only one that lets passengers check up to two bags without paying and charges no fee to change or cancel a flight. Customers pay only the difference in fare.

First checked bag: Free

Change/cancellation: Free