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Airline fees have you reaching for the sick bag? Vote with your wallet.

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By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, April 18, 2010

"MADtv" wasn't so mad after all.

When the writers on the comedy show penned a 2008 skit about a no-frills airline that charges multiple fees, who knew they were predicting the future? The airline industry now has more add-on fees than the number of peanuts in the miniature bag still given to some lucky passengers.

You can view the skit on YouTube by searching for "MADtv No Frills Airline."

Want a seat belt?

That will cost you $5. Want the part that releases the seat belt? That's another $7. Although many passengers don't bother to read the safety pamphlet, on the fictitious no-frills airline, if you do want to read what to do if there is an emergency, you'll have to cough up $3. For reading the pamphlet and then quickly putting it back after hearing about the $3 fee, you'll have to pay $4.

Oxygen masks are free. But to start the flow of air, you'd better have $75.63. "Exact change is appreciated."

Silly skit, right?

Not so much anymore.

In the spirit of price-unbundling run amok, Florida-based Spirit Airlines has said that beginning in August, it will charge passengers as much as $45 for a carry-on bag. The fee will be $30 if paid in advance.

This isn't just about Spirit. In a fee-copycat industry, it's possible that other airlines might follow Spirit, some members of Congress have asserted. That certainly happened with checked bags. What's next, charging to use the toilet?

Don't laugh. Ryanair, an Irish budget airline, is proposing just that. Passengers could use the onboard lavatory for about $1.55.

In an interview with the BBC, Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive, said charging for the loo could help lower fares.


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