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2015 Travel Fee Survey: What are the most hated fees?

Wifi, checked bag, and cell phone roaming are among the most hated fees by travelers who paid them.

74% of travelers who paid an airport or hotel Wifi fee in the last year felt it was very unreasonable, followed by 65% who paid a checked bag fee, and 63% who paid a cell phone roaming charge.

These are among the findings of a national online survey of 804 U.S. travelers who have taken a trip involving a flight, hotel, or rental car in the last year using Google Consumer Surveys on November 13 and 14, 2015, commissioned by MileCards.com.

U.S. airlines racked up $6 billion in baggage and change fees in 2014 alone, and that number is expected to rise again this year. The trend has only picked up steam this fall, illustrated by these recent announcements:

  • Spirit and Frontier airlines plan to raise checked bag fees during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
  • KLM announced it will charge 20 Euros for Economy Class seat reservations in 2016.
  • Delta Air Lines is making its extra legroom Comfort+ seats an entirely different fare class for flights beginning in May, 2016.

Other key findings

Checked bag, ATM, and Wifi fees are among the most commonly paid. 41% of travelers report paying a bag fee at least once in the last year, while 33% report paying an out of network ATM fee, and 24% a Wifi fee.

Airlines have the most unreasonable fees. 41% of travelers think airlines have the most unreasonable fees, well ahead of banks at 10%, rental car companies at 10%, phone carriers at 9%, and hotel chains at 9%. 15% of travelers think none of them have very unreasonable fees.

Having no choice is the biggest complaint about fees. 33% of travelers say having no alternative is what bothers them most about travel fees. Just 19% think a fee that isn’t clear upfront is the biggest problem with fees.

Rental car fees are among the least hated. Less than 40% of travelers who paid rental car insurance or refueling fees felt they were very unreasonable. This could be they are among the longest standing travel fees, and well ingrained in habits, or because consumers have more options to avoid paying them via credit card or other coverage. Paying feels more like a choice than a requirement.

For questions about the survey – please contact Kellie Pelletier – kellienpelletier@gmail.com or visit MileCards.com/press/.

travelfeesgraphic

 

Tips for avoiding fees

Wifi: It’s getting easier to avoid paying Wifi fees at hotels, though it’s still harder than it should be. Hilton, Starwood, and Marriott offer free Wifi to loyalty program members, but only if they book directly through them, not if you use a comparison site like Kayak or Trivago. Hyatt offers free Wifi to all guests, regardless of booking channel. Smaller chains like Omni and Kimpton offer free wifi to loyalty program members regardless of booking channel.

Bag fees: United, Delta, and American have credit cards that waive the first checked bag fee. They also waive the annual fee the first year. So it’s possible to get the card as you’re booking a flight for the free bag, then if you’re diligent and careful, make a decision about whether the card is worth keeping afterward. Southwest remains committed to no bag fees. And if you’re checking 2 bags, you might find buying up to a cheap first class fare on the first leg of your trip gets you 2 free bags on most airlines. With some fares on short hops only $50-$100 more than coach, your upgrade could end up being almost free, and all you need is to sit in first class on your first segment to qualify for free bags all the way to your destination.

Methodology

Conducted by Google Consumer Surveys, November 13-14, 2015, based on 804 online responses. The sample is of people from the national adult Internet population who answered “Yes, in the last year” to the question “Have you taken a trip that involved a flight, hotel stay, or rental car?” Respondents were presented with 12 common travel fees and asked which they felt were very unreasonable, and which they have paid in the last year. Multiple selections were allowed, and the rank order of fees was randomized to eliminate bias.

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