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Costly Travel

Overall customer satisfaction with airlines is up compared with last year, according to a new J.D. Power & Associates study. But there are two notable areas where customers aren't happy with the service: fares, and fees. Both are getting more expensive. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com has advice on what to watch out for.


Second-bag fees are going up. While you're packing for that extended trip to Europe or a Caribbean getaway, keep in mind that the days of two free checked bags on international flights is gone. Delta, United, American and JetBlue have all increased fees this year; now, you'll pay as much as $75 to check a second bag on one of those flights.

It's getting easier to have an overweight bag, too. The reason is weight limits are going down. Spirit dropped its bag limit earlier this year from 50 pounds to 40 pounds, and other major airlines have capped bags at 50 pounds on international flights, instead of 70. Think you'll just pay the fee? Some routes won't take any bags weighing more than that, requiring even more expensive cargo fees.

Nonstop flight upgrades may be on the way. And this is one fee that might work in your favor. Consumers often book connecting flights instead of the more expensive nonstop, but we've heard a few cases where they got calls after booking with an offer to upgrade to the nonstop for just a few bucks more. You get a shorter flight, and the airline gets to resell seats on both legs for more money. Keep your phone nearby.

Watch out for fake fees. An American Eagle gate agent was arrested this week after allegedly charging two fictitious change fees to passengers and pocketing the money. The two missed connecting flights because the airline was late, and so shouldn't have been charged the fee. This is a pretty isolated incident, but still, consumers should be reading the airline's site for a fee rundown, and questioning charges they aren't sure about.

More than half of fares are still sold through travel agents, who haven't been as big on pushing add-ons like extra legroom. But that's starting to change as new computer systems make their way to agents' offices. Keep that in mind the next time you book.

For more information on airline fees and other consumer tips click here.