Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary
Columnist

Just in time for summer: New airline fees that will make you hot

It’s not even summertime, but you may get hot and bothered by a slew of new airline fees.

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Frontier Airlines announced that it will start charging customers from $25 to $100 for certain carry-on bags if the customer fails to book the flight on its Web site, reports The Washington Post’s Christopher Elliott.

No, sir, you did not read that wrong. You could be charged $100 for a bag you bring on board that needs to be put in the overhead bin. The airline announced the new fee in a press release this way: “Frontier Enhances Services for Customers Using FlyFrontier.com.” The company said the add-on fee was in response to customers who “have made it very clear that finding overhead bin space for carry-on bags has become unacceptably difficult.”

In response to this outcry, Frontier is introducing a charge for carry-on bags for customers who buy their tickets through third-party sites. You’ll pay $25 if you pay in advance and $100 at the airport. All tickets sold at FlyFrontier.com include a carry-on bag with the fare.

And effective July 1, customers who purchase Economy or Basic fares will be charged $1.99 for coffee, tea, soda and juice. But-- yippie! -- you will receive a full can of soda or juice and free refills if you choose coffee.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Airways and United Airlines have increased the change fee of most discount fares from $150 to $200, rendering many of its tickets all but unchangeable, Elliott says.

“Airlines have crossed the line and will continue to cross the line, whether it be change fees, baggage fees or whatever other fees they can think up,” Elliott quotes Dale Mellor, a finance director from Steamboat Springs, Colo. “We are largely powerless.”

Even Southwest, which stands above its competitors for its lack of annoying add-on fees, has a new policy that will cost some passengers. “The carrier will implement a new ‘no show’ policy that sticks the MIA traveler with the cost of the fare,” reports The Post’s Andrea Sachs. “The rule applies to passengers who book Wanna Get Away or DING fares on or after May 10 and are traveling on or after Sept. 13. Previously, passengers had up to a year from the purchase date of the ticket to rebook a flight.

Airlines took in more than “$6 billion in baggage and reservation change fees from passengers last year — the highest amount since the fees became common five years ago,” the Associated Press reported this week.

To avoid the fees, Elliott suggests using a different means of transportation for shorter distances. For elite fliers, who are now required to pay the change fee increase, try contacting another airline to see if they offer to match the elite status. However, he adds, “of course, that in no way guarantees that the other carrier won’t at some point adopt equally onerous fees.”

Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare.com, says the airlines have gone nuts. He writes: “There is a certain brutal honesty to today’s airline fees, and it’s real simple: You pay for what you use. If you want a soft drink (on Frontier and Spirit, anyway), you’ll pay. Want to load up a huge suitcase? You’ll pay. Want to bring along your pup on the flight? You’ll pay. Whether these fees are worth it or not, only the individual passenger can say for sure.”

Color of Money Question of the Week

What do you think of all the add-on airline fees? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “New Airline Fees That Will Make You Hot” in the subject line. Include your full name, city and state. Or tweet me your response to @SingletaryM or post your comments on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com.

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Join me at noon ET for my live online discussion.

It’s just you and me. If you can’t join me live, send your responses in early.

Traveling With Freeloading Friends

As vacation season hits, many friends will be traveling together. The benefit of traveling together is sharing the cost of the vacation.

Or is it?

What if your friend comes along but doesn’t pay his or her fare share as you thought you agreed?

“A getaway shared with friends or relatives can be the stuff of everlasting memories -- unless squabbles over finances turn close relationships into ancient history,” warns Cybele Weisser on CNNMoney.com.

Weisser provides some tips on how to travel with friends without letting financial baggage ruin your vacation. For example, she says, talk before taking off to make sure everyone is on the same page. And be specific about what each person will contribute toward expenses.

The Cost to Cruise

Exploring the friendly seas could be very financially unfriendly.

Ian Salisbury of the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch counts down 10 things cruise lines fail to hype, such as all the add-on fees passengers can be charged.

“From Internet service (up to 75 cents a minute on Carnival) to fountain sodas for the kids (unlimited refills are $4.50 a day on Royal Caribbean)” there is a charge,” writes Salisbury.

He goes on to say: “Even meals have begun to come with surcharges, according to experts. While the main dining hall is still free, ships have been jumping on the foodie trend by creating smaller boutique restaurants. Thus, Norwegian’s specialty restaurants, which specialize in French, Brazilian and other cuisines, ‘provide refined choices’ for an extra $15 to $75 per person, according to its website.”

Read the rest of the countdown here.

I Want My Ring Back

NFL player Mario Williams is suing former fiancee Erin Marzouki for failing to return a 10.04-carat diamond engagement ring worth $785,000.

Williams said that since Marzouki was the one who called off the wedding she should return the bling.

This led me to ask: “Should Williams’s ex have to return the ring?”

“That is a conditional gift that hinges on actual marriage wrote Erica M. Caesar of Gaithersburg, Md. “Since marriage did not occur, the ring be returned to Mr. Williams.”

Mary Maxwell of Orlando wrote: “Whoever ends the engagement gives up the ring. Period.”

“I seem to recollect that etiquette books advised that if the young woman breaks an engagement, she must return the ring,” wrote Virginia Russell of Bala Cynwyd, Pa. “Technically, she should return all expensive gifts, as well. On the other hand, once the couple is married, the wife is entitled to anything she has received, no matter how short the marriage may be. Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I still see merit in this guideline. The ring is given as a symbol of love that is meant to last through a couple’s lifetime together. If she doesn’t want that commitment from him anymore, why would she want to retain the ring?”

Should Charles Ramsey Cash In?

Being hailed as a hero may lead to a payday for Charles Ramsey, the Ohio man who helped rescue Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter allegedly kidnapped and raped by Ariel Castro.

So, for last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “Should Ramsey accept any money or rewards for his actions?”

“Yes, Charles Ramsey should cash in on the rewards people are gathering for him,” wrote Teresa Woods of Omaha. “Heroism to this level should be rewarded. There are a lot of people out there who would ignore a dangerous rescue mission such at the Berry rescue in fear of getting sued or even death. Maybe heroism would increase if there was the possibility of a hefty paycheck attached to it. It’s honorable that Mr. Ramsey is donating the rewards and donations to the families, but I think he should at least keep some for himself.”

Diane M. Lauletta of Sunland, Calif., agrees. “Yes! He deserves it! He gave these women their freedom, what a precious gift. He is not perfect, but what a wonderful thing he did. Reward him, so he has hope and something for his own future.”

From my Facebook friends:

Tommye Grant: “He should collect and earmark for any good works he wishes, the victims, a foundation, program of prevention in schools, etc.”

Troy Sampson “Should he profit?? That’s his choice.”

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested. Follow me on Twitter at @SingletaryM, or connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com.

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@washpost.
com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.

 
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