The nickel and dime airlines shuffle — CURT YEOMANS

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com. 

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com. 

“Charge ‘em for the lice, extra for the mice

Two percent for looking in the mirror twice

Here a little slice, there a little cut

Three percent for sleeping with the window shut

When it comes to fixing prices

There are a lot of tricks he knows

How it all increases, all them bits and pieces

... It’s amazing how it grows!”

— Thenardier, “Master of the House” from “Les Miserables”

Can we just get a break from all of the fees charged on flights nowadays?

News broke this week that U.S. air carriers made what could probably be considered a windfall off the backs of its passengers in 2012. At least it was a windfall in the eyes of USA Today, which was one of the many news outlets who reported the statistics put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics Wednesday.

It was a $6.1 billion windfall from checked bag fees and ticket change fees, according to the bureau. Delta and United were number 1 and number 2, respectively, in each category.

Essentially, the airlines nickel and dime passengers for services that would have been free, or at least cost very little, 30 to 40 years ago.

First it’s the checked bag fees. Then it’s the change fee if you need to change your flight. If you’re flying domestically, you’re hit for the food and entertainment.

All you get for the ticket you paid hundreds of dollars for is a seat to sit in. God help you if that seat is next to a 300-pound behemoth.

The sad part is the checked bag fees and reservation change fees were just one set of statistics in a report that said U.S. carriers reported a net loss of $145 million in the last quarter of 2012.

Yup, that’s right. The airlines that are charging their customers to death are losing money.

I shudder when I ponder whether this will mean more fee and ticket price increases in the future.

Travelers who want to know some of the fees they may get hit with by an airline can find a list compiled by Expedia.com to get links to each company’s fees information. The list can be found at www.expedia.com/p/info-other/airline-fees.htm.

Let’s say a person wants to travel economy class within the U.S. or to Canada.

On Delta, they would pay $25 for the first checked back and $35 for the second bag. Of course no bag can weigh more than 50 pounds and must not exceed 62 inches in total length, width and height.

Those fees netted Delta $865,879 last year.

Should you have to change flights, that will cost you $200. That generated a profit of $778,398 for the airline in 2012.

Interested in watching a film on that domestic flight? It’ll cost you $6 per movie.

Need food or a nice alcoholic beverage? A bag of peanut M&M’s will cost you $3, according to Delta’s EATS menu, while a wine, margarita or a mojito will cost $6 and a lunch or dinner meal will seat you back between $8.50 and $9.99.

Of course, in-flight entertainment and meals are free on overseas flights.

By comparison, United charges the same prices for checked bags and ticket changes. It also has the same luggage restrictions. They made $705,547 from baggage fees and $660,943 from reservation change fees.

The meals are a little cheaper, though. A lunch or dinner meal costs between $5.49 and $9.49 while a bag of M&M’s Almond Chocolate candies costs $2.69.

The costs to see movies on a United flight could not be readily accessed through their web site. Internet users have posted a couple of different prices for in-flight entertainment on United flights, but there’s no consistency or even anything reliable about those listings.

Here’s an idea for the airlines. Stop nickel and diming your customers to death, unless of course you want the financial bleeding to continue.

Curt Yeomans is the Senior Reporter for the Clayton News Daily and an avid traveler. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, via Email at cyeomans@news-daily.com or on Twitter at @CYeomansCND.