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How to avoid surprise airline fees How to avoid surprise airline fees
When I first got introduced to the wonderful world of air transportation, things were pretty friendly. A kind word or genuine smile would easily... How to avoid surprise airline fees

When I first got introduced to the wonderful world of air transportation, things were pretty friendly. A kind word or genuine smile would easily get an overweight suitcase past the scale and on board of the plane, without paying any extra fees. It does seem that mentality has changed. Nowadays I’m having issues getting any sort of luggage on board without paying, regardless of whether it’s overweight or not. It appears that most airlines have adopted a model where I pay for even my first bag that is well within their weight and size restrictions.

The amount of stuff I pay for on a ticket is overwhelming – it varies from “fuel surcharges” to “noise cancellation fees” because some city planner decided to build an airport right next to a densely populated area, or vice versa. After a while they forgot whether the chicken came first, or the egg. Given the amount of fees already added to the base fare, I’m not too excited when I have to swipe my credit card again to simply get my belongings that I more or less need on my trip, from A to B. I already paid for the ticket, and in my humble opinion bringing some luggage when you’re traveling for more then a few nights is just common sense.

A lot of people appear to silently agree with me on this topic, and as a result everyone is reverting back to hauling as much stuff as humanly possible with them into the aircraft cabin. From my perspective this does appear to slow down the boarding process quite a bit. Most flights I take are delayed by at least 15-30 minutes compared to the scheduled push back time. My guess is the time it takes to get the cabin organized with all this added carry-on luggage might have something to do with it at the very least.

I, albeit politely, protest every time an airline makes me pay for a first checked-in bag that’s within the normal weight and size limits. To not upset anyone waiting in line behind me I usually don’t make a big deal out of it, and simply pay the fee. I do mention I’m not too happy about being charged. If more people were to politely, and calmly, state when they’re unhappy about something, it might eventually lead to change. I’m not always this positive though. When one check in agent was about to charge me a hundred dollar fee for a bag that was less than a pound over the limit, I was about to repack and hold up the line for as long as needed. Luckily the good man came to his senses and “waived” the fee (thanks, again).

Here’s a few of my personal tips to avoid surprise airline fees. If you have any more please share them with your fellow travelers in the comments below!

  • I try to be aware of any and all fees, if possible. While airlines never fail to surprise me with new “surprise” fees and charges, awareness does help.
  • I bought a simple luggage scale that I now take with me everywhere I travel. The twenty dollar investment paid off on the first trip.
  • Overweight fees are typically higher than fees charged for a second bag. So as a backup plan, I take an empty, folded bag with me in my suitcase that I can fill up if needed on the journey home. Checking in a second bag allows me to take much more with me, for typically a lower fee.
  • On shorter trips I haul as much as I can into the cabin. Not only do I save on luggage fees, it also gets me out of the airport on arrival much faster as I don’t have to wait by the luggage carrousel. It also reduces the risk of the airline losing, or damaging my bag. Even when crew offers to checkin my bag “for free” at the gate, I decline.


This post contains excerpts from my #1 best seller “The Freedom Project” – The Secrets to Traveling the World and Flying for Free. Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and finer book retailers worldwide. Get your copy today!

Wilko van de Kamp Author

WILKO VAN DE KAMP is the author of #1 international best seller The Freedom Project and several other books and e-books. He's also an award-winning photographic artist, and professional world traveler. His inspiration comes from traveling all over the world. He calls the Canadian Rocky Mountains his home, and the rest of the world his office. He has been capturing our wonderful planet, and it's beautiful inhabitants, for more than half his life. Wilko has spent his life traveling the world to capture awe-inspiring images for those who wouldn't see them otherwise, and to inspire others to embark on their journey of a lifetime. Through his art, writing and appearances as a keynote speaker he enjoys sharing his colorful experiences with the world. Visit him online at