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A Brief History of Airline Fees – Bags, Blankets, Food & Drink

April 7, 2010 | Posted in: Airfare News,Airline News,Ask Rick

history airline fees bags blankets food

I think most of us were blind-sided by Spirit Airlines’ decision to start charging for carryon bags, but I saw it coming. It wasn’t too difficult – after all, the air traveling public has been subjected to one unusual fee after another in the past few years.

So I thought I’d offer up a brief history of airline fees, so you have a sense of the past – and maybe, the future.

Let me note that in some instances, it’s not crystal clear which carrier was the very ”first” with a fee, but I’ve narrowed it down as best I could.

So keep reading to see Airline Fees through the years…

Airline Fees through the Years

Bags

2008 – American Airlines is the first legacy carrier to break the baggage barrier by imposing a fee for checking a bag ($15 at the time) – others quickly follow (NOTE: Allegiant and Spirit were charging for checked bags as early as 2007)

2010 – Spirit Airlines breaks imposes a carryon bag fee ($20 – $45)

2010 – Only two carriers now have free checked-bags: JetBlue (1 bag), Southwest (2 bags)

Blankets

2008 – In August, JetBlue announces it will charge $7 for a pillow and blanket

2009 – US Airways begins charging for pillows/blankets

Food & Beverage

2001 – After 9/11, many airlines begin dropping meal service

2003 – Delta begins selling of snack boxes on some flights

2005 – United begins selling $5 snack boxes in place of meals

2008 – US Airways begins charging for all drinks (including water, coffee, soda)

2009 – US Airways stops charging for all drinks (because no other airline joined in)

2010 – Continental announces the last “free Coach meal” will be served in the fall

Credit Cards Only*

2005 – Hawaiian Airlines begins accepting credit cards on some flights; by 2006, some routes were “cashless” and a policy of “credit cards only” on all routes was established by 2008

2010 – Twelve U.S. carriers have adopted a “credit cards only” policy – including all legacy carriers

*This involves no fee (beyond what your card company may charge you) but is included because it is an in-flight convenience – or, inconvenience.

Peak Travel Day Surcharges**

2009 – Airlines began adding surcharges to “peak travel days” in September of 2009, and airlines keep adding surcharges to new days (see our Peak Travel Day Surcharge Chart).

** Not a fee per se, but a surcharge does represent extra dollars coming out of your wallet…

2 Responses to “A Brief History of Airline Fees – Bags, Blankets, Food & Drink”

  1. Kirby says:

    Allegiant Airlines had checked baggage fees before 2008, but I think they were only $2 per bag.

  2. Rick Seaney says:

    Kirby,

    Thanks for the update – I have changed the post to reflect that both Allegiant and Spirit were charging a checked-bag fee as early as 2007. However, it was big news when American made this move, because it was the first legacy carrier to do this.

    Thanks for writing,
    Rick

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