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Are "low" airline fares actually still a ripoff?

Are "low" airline fares actually still a ripoff?
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Frontier, Allegiant, Delta and United Airlines - what do these companies all have in common? They're fighting for your business each time you travel, trying to get you to board their airplanes.

To do this, these companies come up with different pricing brackets to fill more seats. First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy, Economy standard, and even Basic Economy - all of these different price points make the process of booking confusing. But what you might not realize is that no matter which bracket you choose, there are extra fees that can come back to bite you.

Last-minute ticket sales

You've probably heard that waiting until the last-minute can save you big money on flights. But that's not the case. In fact, the opposite is true. Airlines make more money by selling even 20 percent of the remaining seats at a higher cost than they do by selling each ticket at a discounted rate.

Tip within a tip: Wondering if you've overpaid on your ticket price? Click here for a secret formula airlines don't want you to know about airfares

Carry-on bags

Late last year, United Airlines announced it would begin charging Basic Economy ticket holders if they wanted to put their carry-on bags up in the overhead bin.

Basic Economy, which is only available for select routes, is meant to attract travelers who want to save money. However, there are little to no perks that come with it. You can't choose your seat or change your ticket after it's been purchased. If you cancel your trip, you won't get a refund. And, checked bags still cost $25. If the bag you've planned to carry on board with you can't fit under your seat or on your lap, you'll be charged an additional $25 gate handling fee to check your bag into the plane's luggage compartment.

Spirit and Allegiant airlines also charge passengers for carry-on luggage.

Checked bags & heavy bags

Have you heard Southwest Airlines' recent slogan, "Bags fly free?" There's a reason the company is making such a big push to let customers know about these extra savings.

The vast majority of airlines now charge for each bag you're checking into the underneath compartment. These fees typically begin around $25 and can wind up close to $150, depending on the number of bags you're bringing with you.

How much your bags weigh can be another factor that raises the cost of your overall trip. If your bag weighs between 51-70 lbs, you could be looking at a $100 fee. For bags 71 lbs and over, that fee can skyrocket to over $200.

So, rule of thumb: Pack light so the airlines can't nickel and dime you.

Traveling with pets

If Fido goes everywhere you go, it's going to cost you. Taking your pets with you in the plane's cabin can cost anywhere from $70 - $150.

To check your pet and its crate into the underneath compartment, you could easily be looking to spend between $100 - $200 (each way).

Seat preferences

Want to sit by the window? Or how about the aisle? Choosing your seat could cost you. Small fees (around $25 to $50) are often tacked onto your ticket price if you'd like your preference.

Sometimes these fees aren't even noticeable. They're not tacked on separately. The airlines simply just charge higher rates for seats they believe are more desirable.

Google Flights: A better way to book airfare

If you'd really like to save money whenever you travel, we recommend using Google Flights to book your airfare. Google Flights takes all of this into consideration and even shows you which days the prices drop so you can get the lowest price possible. And, the best part is, it's easy to use. Did you know you can even use voice commands on Google Home to book your next vacation?

Right on the front page, Google Flights gives you some popular destinations and the best deals available for them. That means it works much better for people who aren't quite sure where or when they want to travel.

Instead of entering a specific airport as a destination, for example, you can just type in "Europe" for an instant look at the best deals on flights to major European cities.

Go ahead and pick a city. Then, instead of typing in specific travel dates, just click the date area to bring up a calendar. It will show you the daily prices for the next few months of tickets so you can see at a glance the cheapest days to fly.

You can filter the information to look for a number of stops, price range, airline, preferred flight times and more. As an example, I looked up Phoenix to London and found that for a four-day stay, March 9 and 29 had flights $500 less than the prices on any other day.

Once you make your selection, you'll get the list of airlines making the trip. At the top is a box that lists what Google thinks are the best flights. These are ones that combine low cost with reasonable departure times and the fewest stops.

There's so much you can do with Google Flights we even created a whole new article with five expert tips that help you save even more. Trust us, you don't want to miss it! Click here and learn how to find the cheapest days to fly, get notified of price drops and even find new destinations. 

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