No, the holy grail of magical travel hacks is not here. This is purely an anecdotal and thoughtful look at airline fees and whether passengers actually enjoy them. Why? Because airlines love to tell us that every move they make is in response to customer feedback – yet more and more we feel like it’s definitely not our feedback. Do travelers enjoy breaking up expenses by paying separately for airline fees, like checked bags and seating assignments?

Theories For Yes-

“Soften The Blow”- The initial blow of travel purchases can be staggering. Much like the idea of leasing a car- paying small amounts over time, versus one massive up front charge, I think people like softening the blow of an airline ticket purchase. $350, with another $100 or so in fees perhaps months later may very well feel better than $445 with all fees paid at once. Going a step further, travelers could then split any further charges like seat assignments and bag fees amongst other methods of payment.

“I Really Don’t Need This”- At the very least, travelers are a resourceful bunch. More and more, thanks to clever packing, brilliant luggage and a desire for short term getaways, I think people often really don’t need a seat assignment or checked bag. This is a common argument airlines make- the “customization” of airline tickets. It may not be the traditional experience we’ve come to know, and it could easily be seen as a deceptive purchase practice to those expecting these once standard perks- but for an increasingly large subset of travelers, it could legitimately save money.

“It’s Just Freaking Cheap”- Yeah, this fits into the ” I really don’t need this” category, but there’s something incredible about the ridiculously cheap deals out there. We recently booked a dirt cheap Norwegian airlines fare and through a few solid moves managed to have a wonderful experience. Check out this link for a review of the experience, and this one for how to potentially get all the perks of a checked bag and seat assignment for the same price of a ticket without it

Theories For No-

“It’s Just Not Clear”- While regular travelers, booking direct with airlines may be able to clearly discern what is included with their ticket, many others can’t. It’s not clear to many passengers that their “really cheap deal” is actually about the same price, and that they’ll end up paying fees for just about everything, which could amount to paying more. Airlines now have so many levels of ticket, like: basic, standard, plus, extra and so forth that the average traveler is at a disadvantage.

“What Once Was Free”- We’re seeing exceptionally good deals in many- but not all travel markets. Many airlines charge virtually what they’ve always charged on certain routes, only now -they hit you with add on fees for what was once free. It’s extremely frustrating to get nickel and dime’d for things that have generally been free, especially when at the same time airlines are touting the benefits of their “loyalty” programs more than ever. Doesn’t seem fair.

“You Tricked Me”- Yes, of course, you should read the fine print- always. But it’s not always abundantly clear just how much each fee is separately, versus bundled in. Some airlines offer a far better price if you get the checked bag, seat assignment and meal together – than booking each separately. Quite often people don’t realize that the difference in price shown at the time will be quite different when each piece is booked separately, a la carte after the fact. Thus, the “you tricked me” feeling.

My Personal Thoughts On The Matter…

I personally believe that many price conscious travelers (almost all of us, in some way)- love the concept of a great deal. Softening the initial purchase blow by separating ancillary expenses can go a long way mentally for many travelers, even if they know deep down they’ll pay more later. In a perfect world, fares would remain low while basic joys like a complimentary seat assignment would return. It’s for this reason I personally love carriers such as Norwegian, WOW Air and the other innovative airlines driving down prices. Legacy airlines have proven time and time again, that they don’t enjoy low fares, so forcing them to compete on price is wonderful for travelers. And in my opinion- when a legacy carrier says they can’t make money on low fares while also offering a seat assignment and checked bag, they’re lying through their teeth. My best solution- follow these 12 steps to self cater and take as much (possible) control of your own economy journey.