Remember when you bought a plane ticket and that was it — no additional airport or flight charges? Now airlines have “unbundled” services that were once included in the ticket price, and the resulting fees have made comparison shopping much trickier.

But like them or not, these fees for flying are here to stay. So instead of being broadsided by unexpected charges, do a little research beforehand and follow our tips on how to avoid the most ridiculous charges.


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1. Surcharges for Human Contact

Don’t laugh, but some airlines charge a fee (anywhere from $15 to $35) if you buy your ticket over the phone and speak to a human being. The charge can go up if you buy your ticket at the counter in an airport.

How to avoid: Buy your ticket online. If your itinerary is complicated and you do prefer to speak to an airline representative, ask up front if there’s a fee. Then try to negotiate — sometimes the price of the ticket is not fixed. Also, ask about discounts for children, seniors or students when appropriate. And ask for an e-ticket to avoid surcharges sometimes associated with paper tickets. Make sure you’ll be able to check in online to save yourself time.

2. Carry-on Charges

Spirit Airlines led the pack when it started charging for carry-on bags: $26 to $35 at the time of online booking, $36 to $45 at online check-in, or $50 to $100 per bag at counter or gate check-in.

How to avoid: For now, under-the-seat carry-ons are still free on many airlines. So use one that fits below the seat in front of you. (Dimensions vary, but for most planes, a bag that is 19 inches wide by 17 inches deep by 9.5 or 10 inches tall will work.)