Finding the perfect airfare can be a challenging endeavor. We ve all scoured the internet for days, weeks or months looking for the best deal. Buying flights online is like gambling, sometimes we get lucky, other times we push it too far and the house wins.
What many of us don t know is there is more to buying an airline ticket than just getting the best base fare. Unfortunately, like many things in life, there is the fine print. Many of us have been stuck in this position before. You plan to visit the family for the holidays and think after several weeks of looking online you ve gotten a steal on airfare. Quickly you pull out the credit card, start filling in all the appropriate information and just before you click send you notice the taxes and fees make your wonderful deal seem like highway robbery.
Airline tickets, like many other items purchased, are subject to taxes and fees. A large percentage of these fees are imposed by the government, but many online travel services, like travel agents, also charge a processing fee. Many government fees are charged per flight segment. A flight segment consists of one take-off and one landing. For example, a flight with a layover consists of two flight segments. Whereas, the travel site s fees are per ticket.
This is a breakdown of the fees and taxes charged by airlines and online travel services.
Domestic Government Imposed Taxes and Fees
- September 11th Security Fee: A $2.50 USD charge per flight segment. Maximum charge per trip $5.00 USD one-way, $10.00 USD round trip.
- U.S Excuse Tax (U.S Domestic Transportation Tax or U.S. Ticket Tax): 7.5% of base fare added to ticket. This applies to flights within the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico with 225 mile buffer zone.
- Travel Facilities Tax (Alaska/Hawaii Ticket Tax): A $7.30 charge only applies to certain flight segments to or from Alaska or Hawaii.
- Federal Domestic Segment Fee: An additional $3.30 charge per flight segment. Only applicable to flights in the continental U.S.
- Passenger Facility Charge (PFC): An additional charge of $4.50 to $18.00 per itinerary to approved PFC airports for facilities improvement. Not all airports are PFC approved.
International Government Imposed Taxes and Fees
- September 11th Security Fee
- U.S. International Transportation Arrival and Departure Tax: $14.50 to $200 charge applies to all flights arriving in or departing from the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fee depends on chosen itinerary.
- U.S Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Fee (APHIS): A $5.00 charge applies to all flights originating abroad. This excludes Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Fee: $7.00 to international arrivals to the U.S., Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- International Taxes and Fees: Additional taxes and fees including foreign taxes, inspection fees and security charges approximately $250 depending on chosen itinerary. This price usually excludes airport departure fees.
Online Travel Site Fees
Many online travel sites are like travel agents, and have some kind of service or booking fee. The most popular sites like Expedia.com, Travelocity and Orbitz charge between $5.00 and $15.00 in booking fees. Whereas, some other sites can charge up to $40.
Remember many of these sites will find discounted fares not posted on individual airline websites; additionally, they will search fares from hundreds of airlines saving you the time and trouble.
Always be wary of a fare that seems too good to be true. There are some online travel sites that do not display the total cost of the ticket in the search. Some will only show you the base fare for the ticket and tack on the fees and taxes in the checkout process. Additionally, always double-check what the travel services charges for booking fees before filling out your credit card information.
Paper Ticket Fees
Most airlines and online travel sites prefer to use etickets. Paper tickets are rarely issued, unless an eticket option is not available or the passenger requests a paper ticket. Often if a paper ticket is required or requested, there is an additional charge. Airlines and online travel sites charge between $10 and $50 for paper tickets.
Itinerary Change Fees
Many airline tickets are non-refundable, especially tickets bought on online travel sites; however, often because of emergencies and such, certain aspects of a ticket can be changed, like dates, times and flight numbers. Most airlines will charge about $100 plus the difference in ticket price to change a ticket. Sometimes it s more or less depending on the airline and how far in advance the ticket is changed.
Online travel sites will also charge an additional fee if you change your ticket itinerary with them. This fee typically is $25 to $100. This is strictly the travel service s fee; this does not include what the airline will charge.
Telephone Booking Fee
Some airlines like American, Northwest, Continental and more, charge a small fee if you decide to book your tickets over the phone. This fee is usually between $5 and $10. Online travel services will typically charge about $15 to $30 to book flights over the phone.
No one likes doing homework; however, in order to get the best deal available you need to do a little digging. Most airlines and travel services are not trying to deceive you with hidden costs and fees. Most of these are just the requirements and formalities associated with the travel business. They know none of us like reading the fine print. Often you won t even notice these fees being added to your plane ticket, or care what they are for, because most large and popular online travel sites already include all taxes and fees in the price presented to you in your search. Often no matter which site you decide to book on, the price will be about the same.