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Airline 'ancillary fees' top $80 billion


Ancillary fees, those nasty bugs that bite you in the wallet when you buy your ticket, have broken through the $80 billion a year line, and grown by 264% in seven years, according to a new study sponsored by IdeaWorks.

That amounts to about $20 per passenger for baggage, seat assignments, food, changes, and who knows (some of YOU do) what else across the world's airlines. 

There are a few champions whose income get between 20 and 50 percent of their income from fees. That list includes Ryanair, Wizz, Frontier and Spirit. But while those are familiar low-cost-carrier names, the past year's biggest fee growth has come from legacy airlines lowering fares by cutting off meals, seat assignments and more with hopes of then selling them back to passengers.

British Airways has been last year's leader in that, but others are not far behind. In interviews last week, the president of American Airlines spoke bluntly, saying that the main purpose of American's highly-restrictive 'basic economy' fares was to convince passengers to buy higher-price seats instead.

Airlines that earned the most from fees:

  1. United - $6.22bn (£4.77bn)
  2. Delta - $5.17bn (£3.96bn)
  3. American - $4.9bn (£3.76bn)
  4. Southwest - $2.83bn (£2.17bn)
  5. Air France/KLM - $2.1bn (£1.61bn)
  6. Ryanair - $1.98bn (£1.52bn)
  7. EasyJet - $1.36bn (£1.04bn)
  8. Lufthansa - $1.35bn (£1.04bn)
  9. Qantas - $1.19bn (£912m)
  10. Air Canada - $1.18bn (£904m)

Airlines that depend the most on fees:

  1. Spirit - 46.4% of total revenue
  2. Frontier - 42.4%
  3. Allegiant - 40%
  4. Wizz Air - 39.4%
  5. Ryanair - 26.8%
  6. - 26%
  7. Volaris - 24.3%
  8. Hong Kong Express - 24%
  9. Jetstar - 22%
  10. Pegasus - 22%

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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