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5 most fee-hungry airlines

(MoneyWatch) When all the world was grousing about the gall of Spirit Airlines to charge $10 to print a boarding pass or charge for carry-on bags, a host of other domestic airlines have quietly imposed far more costly levies on their passengers, according to a new airline fee chart published by AirfareWatchdog.

Indeed, of the five most fee-hungry domestic airlines, Spirit ranks a distant fifth in a MoneyWatch review -- and only because of the number of fees it charges. The size of Spirit's fees are relatively puny, at least on a comparative basis.

From ticket change fees to those imposed when you make a reservation on the phone, the airline fee-for-all helps carriers collect some $27 billion in "ancillary" revenue each year. That's up more than ten-fold since 2008, according to IdeaWorks, which tracks non-flight revenue for everything from the nagging fees we're familiar with to the amount airlines make in kick-backs from car rental companies and by selling frequent flier miles.

What are the nation's five most fee-hungry airlines? MoneyWatch compiled this list of five most fee-hungry airlines based on AirfareWatchdog's new fee chart, weighing the fees that ordinary passengers -- rather than frequent fliers -- would pay. You can find AirfareWatchdog's full listing here.

1. US Airways

What makes US Airways the most fee-hungry airline? Start with the fact that if you need the change a non-refundable ticket, you'll get hit with a one-time fee ranging from $200 to $450 -- a change fee that's only rivaled in size by Delta Air Lines, which makes the #2 spot on this list.

If you manage to arrive at the airport early enough to catch an earlier open flight to your same destination, some airlines will allow you to hop on for no charge or a marginal $25 fee. Not US Airways: If you want to get home that extra hour early, you'll pay a "same-day change fee" ranging between $75 and $150.

Make a reservation with a real person (rather than a web site) and you'll pay $25 for the privilege.

If your minor child needs to travel alone, add $100 to his or her ticket cost.

Pet traveling with you? It's $125 to keep them in the cabin.

Baggage fees? One carry-on is free. But the first checked bag costs $25; the second is $35.

If any of those bags are overly large, you'll pay an additional $175.

The airline's frequent flier program has a host of additional fees for "last-minute booking" -- any reservation made less than 21 days prior to departure; ticket changes and "redeposit" of miles. You can read all about those at AirfareWatchdog. Personally, I'd say build up those frequent flier points with a more consumer-friendly carrier.

2. Delta Air Lines

-- Non-refundable ticket change fee: $200 to $450

-- Same-day change fee: $50

-- Reservation by phone/ticket office: $25 - $35

-- Unaccompanied minor: $100

-- In-cabin pet: $125

-- Carry-on bag: Free

-- Checked-bags: $25 for first (except on international flights, where it's free); $35 for the second; $125 for the third; $200 for additional bags.

-- Overweight/oversized bags: varies from $90 to $300

3. United Airlines

-- Non-refundable ticket change: $200

-- Same-day change: $75

-- Reservation by phone: $25

-- Unaccompanied minor: $150

-- In-cabin pet: $125-$250

-- Carry-on bag: Free

-- Checked bags: $25 for the first; $35 for the second: $100 for each additional

-- Overweight/oversized bags: $100 - $400

4. American Airlines

-- Non-refundable ticket change: $200

-- Same-day change: $75

-- Reservation by phone: $20

-- Unaccompanied minor: $100

-- In-cabin pet: $125 - $175

-- Carry-on bag: Free

-- Checked bags: $25 for first (free international); $35 for second; $150 for each additional bag.

-- Overweight/oversized bags: $100 - $200

5. Spirit Airlines

--Non-refundable ticket change: $115 - $125

-- Same-day change: $25

-- Reservation by phone: $10

-- Unaccompanied minor: $100

-- In-cabin pet: $100

-- Carry-on bag: $25 to $50, but $100 if you pay at the gate

-- Checked bags: $20 - $45 for the first; $30 - $55 for the second; additional bags, $75 to $100 each

-- Overweight/oversized bags: $25 to $150

-- Seat selection: $1 - $50

-- Airport-printed boarding pass: $10

Wondering what airline charges the fewest fees? The hands-down winner is Southwest, which charges nothing to change a flight or make a reservation by phone and levies just a $50 fee on unaccompanied minors. You'll pay $75 to keep your pet in the cabin. Your carry-on and two checked bags are free. Additional bags cost $50 to $110; overweight and oversized bags get nicked with a $75 fee.