Traveling with pets may cost you more than you think

Mihejevs/Shutterstock
Mihejevs/Shutterstock
A carry-on bag is included in Lana Joseph’s ticket price whenever she flies from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on United Airlines. But if that carry-on includes Molly, her six-pound Yorkshire terrier, Joseph has to cough up an additional $250 round-trip.

“That’s way too much for a bag that goes under the seat,” says Joseph, a retired hairstylist from Akron, Ohio, who spends her winters in South Florida. “I can see a small charge, but not an exorbitant fee.”

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of pet travel — a world that some say shouldn’t even exist. Americans spent an estimated $55.7 billion on pets last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, most of it on food and veterinary care. But an unknown portion of that amount also paid for plane tickets and accommodations for man’s best friends.
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You deserve a refund for those junk fees

Diego Cervo/Shutterstock
Diego Cervo/Shutterstock
What if they had to give it all back?

Imagine if someone forced airlines, hotels and car rental companies to return every penny they took from you under questionable circumstances. The checked-bag fee, often poorly disclosed. The resort fee billed to your room, whether you used the “free” wireless and unlimited local phone calls or not. The license recovery fees that pay for your rental car’s plates — as if that were optional.

These extras, which most travelers call junk fees, aren’t just expensive annoyances. Vast sectors of the travel industry have made them a cornerstone of their business operations, with airlines leading the way down this ethically troublesome path.

It’s a practice the industry delicately calls “unbundling,” or removing often essential components of a product from the base price to make it look deceptively cheaper.
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Airline fees are out of control — but who can stop them?

Portocalis/Shutterstock
Portocalis/Shutterstock
No two ways about it: The travel industry loves fees. Airlines in particular.

A few days ago, Canada’s Porter Airlines slapped a new $25 checked-baggage fee on all flights between the USA and Canada. The carrier, which promises to bring “dignity and refinement back to flying,” said it needed the extra money to stay “competitive.” And of course the US Department of Justice cited the rise of airline fees as a reason it sued to block the planned merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

Porter has a long way to go before its passengers storm away from the ticket counter in disgust. Other travel companies are light years ahead of the airline, whether it’s hotels that charge mandatory “resort” fees on top of their room rates, airlines that make you pay for your carry-on bag or car rental companies that add nuisance “tire disposal” fees to your bill.
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Is it time for airlines to draw the line on fees?

Jag_cz/Shutterstock
Jag_cz/Shutterstock
Here’s a troubling event witnessed by Stavros Katsas on a recent Spirit Airlines flight — a scene rendered even more disturbing in light of last weekend’s deadly crash-landing of a passenger jet in San Francisco. He was seated near an emergency exit row and saw an elderly passenger take a seat in that row.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires emergency exit rows to have a minimum amount of space between them in order to facilitate a quick evacuation of an aircraft. For the government, it means a safer plane. For passengers, it translates into more legroom.

But to an airline like Spirit, it’s yet another opportunity to charge passengers extra. Which it does. Katsas estimates that the slow-moving woman paid at least $50 to sit in a “premium” seat.
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