2018 US Travelers Will Spend $7 BILLION on Airline Fees That Can Be Avoided Just by Flying Southwest

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Let me preface this by saying Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags, reservation changes, or ticket cancellations.  Now be amazed at these statistics.

According to the US Department of Transportation, US airlines have charged travelers more than $3.6 billion in baggage fees between January and September 2018.  That’s like… $400 million per month.  If that trend continues, we’ll have paid a record $4.8 billion in checked bags this year.  Though it will probably surpass $5 billion, seeing as we’re just starting the busiest travel season of the year.

Additionally, airlines have collected another $2 billion for cancellation and reservation change fees during the first 3 quarters of 2018.  That means we as travelers will have squandered $7 billion in airline fees this year!

The takeaway:   Patronize Southwest so they’ll grow and expand their service, and their customer-friendly policies can become more of a rule instead of an exception.  Even Southwest’s reward program is stellar, if you don’t believe check out our guide on how to earn a Southwest Companion Pass and get nearly 2-for-1 travel for up to 2 years.  No other airline has a perk that comes even close to that.

These ridiculous fees are something we all hate.  But many of us continue to use our wallets to reassure the airlines that fees are a good idea.

The US Spent $3.6 Billion in Bag Fees the first 9 Months of This Year!  But Not Southwest Passengers

Southwest Thrives Even Without Charging Unfriendly Fees

Travelers are being charged $21 million per day in ancillary airline fees.  That’s frustrating and inconvenient, but clearly a lucrative tactic for the airlines.  There are plenty of credit cards that waive the biggest offender, checked bag fees, but apparently nobody knows about them (tell your loved ones!!).

This multi-billion dollar market of nickel-and-diming is something Southwest pretty much doesn’t touch.  Somehow, Southwest can afford to offer crazy low prices and buy one get one free airfare with the Southwest Companion Pass while still giving each passenger 2 free checked bags, free changes, and free cancellations.

It’s possible that part of the reason more folks don’t fly Southwest is that they don’t show up through online travel agencies.  Their prices aren’t even visible on Google Flights!  If you want to know how much Southwest charges for your route, you’ll need to go to the Southwest website.

In other words, if you’re searching for flights on Expedia, Orbitz, or Hotwire, the lowest-priced search results may NOT actually be the lowest price.  Because Southwest flights aren’t included!

And even if Southwest flights aren’t the cheapest option, many folks are likely to pay a little extra just for the ability to change or cancel flights up to 10 minutes before takeoff.

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Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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