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Monday, June 30, 2008

Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum II

Nearly every day, American airline companies seem to be adding fees, cutting flights, firing staff, and generally making things unpleasant for their employees and for the innocent traveler. We are all now too familiar with the baggage fee that nearly every domestic carrier (except Southwest) is charging. But did you hear the one about the frequent flyer fee? Yep, on Delta and US Airways, there's no such thing as a free ticket, anymore. Redeem your frequent flyer miles on Delta and you'll pay $25 for domestic flights and $50 for international journeys. Delta is calling the fee a fuel surcharge, but whatever. The move follows on the heels of US Airways, which was first to announce a $25 fee on U.S. and Canadian frequent flyer flights. Free flights to Mexico and the Caribbean now cost $35 on that airline, and international tickets frequent flyer tickets cost $50.

In setting up their frequent flyer fee structures, these airlines are proving to be a bit geographically challenged. Delta includes Canada on its list of domestic destinations, which would make any Canuck say "Oh, Canada?" On the other hand, Delta considers Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to be international destinations. Last time I checked, both were still U.S. territories. They do, after all, get to vote for president. But Delta would have the islands seceding from the Union, which, I guess, isn't extraordinary considering the airline is based in Atlanta.

But I digress. US Airways, in its infinite wisdom, counts Hawaii as an international destination. That's lei-ing it on a bit thick, don't you think?

Interestingly, while Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii count as international destinations when it comes to frequent flyer fees, when it comes to baggage fees, they do not. This is relevant, because Americans flying to international destinations are not charged for their first two bags. In other words, a passenger who redeems frequent flyer points for a trip to Hawaii will pay $50 for the "international" ticket, but will also have to pay $15 to check the first bag and $25 for the second, per US Airways' domestic baggage policy. Got that?

By the way, American Airlines, our friends who came up with the brilliant idea of charging for the first bag checked, is currently only charging a $5 processing fee for folks redeeming frequent flyer miles. But stayed tuned--that's likely to change any day now.

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