From the morning e-mail ... AAA Carolinas offers this update on the latest annoyances facing air travelers:
Airline Regulation Update From AAA Vacations -- The Latest on Fees, Checked Baggage, Passports
News from the airlines has not been overly consumer friendly of late with additional fees, including checked bags. The only way to make the best of the new world of air travel is to stay abreast of the ever changing regulations. AAA Vacations, the Carolinas' largest travel agency, offers the following inside information for your air travel plans:
*New Fees Rapidly escalating fuel costs have caused the airlines to seek out additional revenue sources. American Airlines led the way with a $15 fee for the first checked bag, which encouraged other airlines to jump on board with baggage fees.
Look for the continuing addition of fees over and above the cost of a ticket, including surcharges for premium seats such as exit rows and fees up to $100 each way for unaccompanied minors.
JetBlue Airways is charging customers for pillows and blankets. The carrier has done away with recycled blankets and pillows used on flights, and has started offering
eco-friendly travel blankets and pillows that can be purchased for $7 on flights longer than two hours. The pair comes in a kit with a $5 coupon to home furnishings retailer Bed Bath & Beyond.
Currently, Southwest Airlines is the sole major carrier resisting fees in various categories.
Other miscellaneous fees to remember include:
*Airlines charge between $25 and $50 for bags from 51 to 70 pounds and up to $150 for bags exceeding 70 pounds.
*Ticket change fees are running between $75 (AirTran) and $150 (American, Continental, United, US Airways) for domestic flights.
*Security clearance: Seasoned travelers have learned the 3-1-1 rule for clearing security travel-size toiletries of three (3) ounces or less that fit comfortably into one (1) quart-sized, clear plastic zip-top bag and one (1) bag per passenger placed in the screening bin.
AAA travel consultants recommend that you take greater care in packing bags that will go through screening. Decluttering your bag allows the Transportation Security officer to obtain a clear, uncomplicated X-ray image of your carry-on, which will speed the process and help avoid manual checks.
Are you ready to ship bags ahead? The hassle of clearing airport security has given rise to new service providers who will ship your bags ahead for you. On the plus side, these services eliminate airport security clearance and your bags (including golf clubs) are at your destination when you arrive. On the other hand, some services require shipping three days in advance of your departure and fees, particularly international, add to your travel costs. AAA members receive an automatic discount with the Luggage Club online.
*Passports: Finally, a word on passports. While it may go without saying, don't travel with a passport that will expire while you are traveling. It can take up to four weeks to obtain a new passport, which could be very expensive if you are stranded in a foreign country.
While U.S. citizens need a passport for all international air travel, they can still use the ID method to travel by land or sea from Mexico or Canada into the U.S. until June 1, 2009. AAA Members can receive all of the necessary paperwork and passport photos at their local AAA office.
As new policies emerge and new fees are instituted, it would be wise for travelers to form a working relationship with a professional travel agent. Agents have the latest information on continual changes, and their advice can help you avoid common pitfalls and inconveniences and potentially save you money.