How to find hidden fees: 3 secrets no company wants you to know

Aaaron Amat/Shutterstock
Aaaron Amat/Shutterstock
“Gotcha” fees are everywhere, waiting for the right moment to pounce. Don’t believe me? Just ask Rich Grabowski, who recently tried to book an airline ticket for his Mediterranean cruise — a seemingly simple task.

But not really. The airline he chose, American, didn’t actually fly to Barcelona, but instead offered flights through a deceptive arrangement known as “codesharing.” That’s where an airline gets to pretend its flights are its own, but they actually belong to a different carrier.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group. Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

And that someone else — the airline’s codesharing “partner” British Airways — had a little surprise for Grabowski and his wife: If they wanted to sit together, they’d have to shell out an extra $98 per ticket for his transatlantic flight. Or he could take his chances, and get a random seat assignment — the choice was entirely his.

“That’s a hidden fee,” he says. “It’s unearned money.”

Indeed, it is.

Hardest hit by fees like this are families with young children, who believe they have no choice but to pay up — or sit far away from their offspring. If it sounds like extortion to you, then you’re in good company. Sounds that way to me, too.

Government regulators take a dim view of these practices. They refer to this as “drip” pricing, or the process of a price increasing as you go through the purchase process. As a consumer advocate, I call it something else: bait and switch. A company baits you with a low price and then says, “Oh, you want a seat reservation with that — well, that’ll cost you extra.”

And to Grabowski’s point — does it really cost $98 for an airline to reserve your seat? Of course not! If it did, then they would have started charging for that “convenience” a long, long time ago. But they didn’t, because it makes sense that a confirmation would come with your airline seat.

So where, exactly, do the fees hide?

In plain view. Companies are awfully clever about their “restrictions” and they often don’t bother concealing them because they know customers don’t take the time to read. As a result, you can have full disclosure on the front page of a company’s website, and it won’t make any difference — customers will still feel surprised. Wireless carriers are notorious for this, and they feel so confident that they even allegedly bamboozle lawmakers. Are we that stupid?

After the purchase begins. This is the classic bait-and-switch Grabowski encountered when he booked his airline tickets. Travel companies are notorious for engaging in “drip” pricing. If you’ve ever booked a room with a mandatory “resort” fee, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The FTC recently cracked down on hotels which engage in these practices, but more needs to be done. If you find the price of your product rising after you start the booking process, pull out before you press the “buy” button. It’s the only way to send a message to companies that these practices won’t be tolerated.

In the fine print. Traditionally, this is where most companies disclose their fees — hidden in tiny type at the bottom of a contract nobody reads. Look, even the best companies have some fine print, but it’s what’s in the print, and how it’s applied, that makes a difference. A customer-friendly company includes fine print in order to protect both the buyer and seller, which makes perfect sense. Truly customer-hostile companies like to add fine print to their contracts in order to earn more money from you, and they enforce the fine print ruthlessly. You’ve been duped when a cable company offers you a “free” service and then charges you $39 a month for it in the fine print. Want a refund? Sorry, that’s not allowed — check the fine print.

Whatever happened to Grabowski? He paid to sit next to his wife, but he wasn’t happy about it. After all, he’d booked seats in business class, which is supposed to include everything.

Well, almost everything.

Who benefits more from airline codesharing alliances?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

136 thoughts on “How to find hidden fees: 3 secrets no company wants you to know

  1. Advance Seating Reservation (ASR) is not a right. The airline may assign you any seat it wants in your purchased cabin. Elite passengers may be given the priviledge to chose their seats early. Others may have to wait till check in. Airline staff will usually do whatever they can to seat y’all together. Just come to the airport early if you have a big group. It’s that simple. Also, ASR is not common in Europe and they seem to have a happy life.

    1. And even if you select the seat you want there is no guarantee that it will be the one you get when you actually get your boarding pass!

      Some higher ranking Elite frequent flyer just has to pout and whine loud enough and they get your seat.

      1. Even when I was a high ranking elite frequent flyer, I got bumped out of my reserved seat all the time, and was always told an assigned seat is never guaranteed. Typically it was for an employee, or just some whiny anybody.

        1. This discussion brings up bad memories of when I was on a flight and an old lady wanted to sit next to her husband and the FA asked me if I would move and I said and…. and I got bumped to a real bad seat. I was SOOL (dirty acronym.)

          And that situation reminds me of a guy who posts in an elite blog who almost always get a business class seat and a woman approached him and asked if he would switch with her so she could sit next to her boyfriend. He was about to get up and noticed… she was in economy class. In the far back. He backed out and she was MAD!

          Perhaps it’s kind of like life in that if someone is asking you to make a trade with them, they usually are looking to benefit more from the transaction than you are. When someone approaches me to give up their business class seat so they can sit next to their spouse in economy, I’ll change my mind.

          1. I was on a flight once where I was in an aisle seat, and an elderly gentleman was in the middle seat next to me. He kindly asked me if I would mind trading seats so taht he could sit next to his wife who is across the aisle, and said they are both quite afraid of flying. It was a 2.5 hour flight, and I normally refuse to trade unless its like for like, but I decided to give the old man a break and traded. After I moved into the middle he sat for a while, then he got up and traded my aisle seat with someone else. I felt quite bamboozled.

            On my final flight home when I had been traveling weekly for many years, I paid to upgrade, and paid far enough in advance that I got my favorite seat 1B on a 757. An aisle seat with a cut-out for extra leg room, no one to recline into me, easy TV viewing, and first meal choice. After boarding some teenager asked me if I could trade seats so he could sit next to his girl friend, he said his seat is much better because it’s a window seat. I told him sorry, no, and he started yelling at me about how he and his girl fiend got split up and it’s not fare and he was originally in my seat and now she is sitting next to me and I have no right to sit next to her. I told him I booked this seat moths in advance, I never took it from him, and I picked this very seat for a reason. He started screaming about how I am ruining his life and the FA came and told him to return to economy and if he wanted to trade, he should trade his girlfriends first class seat for whomever was sitting next to him in economy and she was sure they would trade. I never even realized he was in economy. He did end up trading and someone from economy cam an sat next to me and were very appreciative.

          2. Regarding the old man, I was suspicious immediately when you said the wife was in the aisle seat across. Wouldn’t it have been just as easy for you to switch aisle seats with her?

            About the girlfriend I’m dying to know:

            Was she pretty?

          3. I actually did ask the old man that, and as part of the “we are scared to fly” bit he said they both wanted aisle seats. And there was an elderly lady next to me across the aisle, just not his wife.

            As far as the girl friend, not really my type, also she was way too young. So much make up, glued to her phone, lots of jewelry, never said a word the whole time but seemed to like that he was fighting for her. I am totally judging based on appearance alone, but I am guessing her parents paid for her to fly First Class, and didn’t want the boyfriend around her.

          4. Yelling and sceaming at you! Hey, where is the TSA or those air marshals when you need them?
            And that kid, wonder what school he attended? His folks need a refund.
            If moses were alive today he would have scribbled in an 11th commandment – thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s seat.

          5. Love it!!

            I have seen passengers yell even worse at flight attendants and still no one calls TSA or the police to meet the plane. It’s quite sad how badly people act when traveling.

          6. I recently flew from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. I sat next to an older man whom I’d seen in the gate area w/ his wife and he asked if I’d be willing to trade my middle for her aisle so they could sit together. As she came up the aisle toward us, I told her I’d be happy to trade if she’d like, but that if after 42 years married to him she was ready to sit by someone else, I was okay with that too! I got an aisle seat out of it, but I’d have traded even if it were middle for middle. They were adorable and at 5’1, all the seats are pretty much the same to me. Sadly my aisle seat was next to a Mom with a 2 or 3 year old who wanted to SPEAK LOUDLY demanding attention, food and entertainment nonstop ’til she fell asleep (the child, not the mother…Mom just sat quietly and drank a lot of wine).

          1. Did you ever fly United? 🙂

            Maybe “All the time” implies too much, but out of 100-12 flights a year, it happened about 5 or so times a year. Immediately after the merger, it happened on almost every flight for a while, but then scaled back.

        2. Very True. Every airline will tell you over and over, clearly that a seat assignment is not an assured thing. It is subject to change. How is that not clear?

        3. I will agree with that, but with the caveat that if you pay a fee for a certain seat (isle seat, for example) and the airline bumps you to a middle seat, the airline should be REQUIRED to IMMEDIATELY refund whatever fee you paid for that seat.

      2. From 2006 to 2012, I’d make four to six trips by commercial airlines per year. Tickets always purchased online; sometimes Orbitz or Travelocity, sometimes directly from the airlines (Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian and Southwest). I would select my seat at the time of purchase (except SWA), and always got it. Was I just lucky, or doing something others hadn’t?

        1. Depends on which seat you pick, what time of day you are flying, how full the plane is, and the mood of the airline. 🙂

          I have also been fairly lucky in getting the seats I pre selected for most of my flights on most airlines over the past 10 years. I have only had my seats switched when I got an upgrade to business (still in business, just the seat next to the toilet or some other less enjoyable seats). Sometimes I have been asked to swap seats after getting on the plane so that a group can sit together, but even that is rare.

        2. Well that’s easy because you probably only need ONE seat.
          Now try that for 2 or more passengers traveling together.
          Have fun.

    2. Good point. Maybe just do away with ASR all together. It works for Southwest and I don’t ever recall anyone writing Chris that they couldn’t end up seating with the rest of their party on a Southwest flight.

      1. I kinda sorta think there was one – person and kiddos showed up very late to the airport etc. etc. Consensus was to show up early, since even the Early Bird or whatever Southwest calls it won’t save you a seat.

        1. That is how Southwest is able to schedule flights with 20 or 25 minutes of gate time. Passengers known that they have to be at the gate when their boarding group is called to get the best possible seat.

          Most other airlines allow 45 minutes to an hour for turnaround. Southwest’s greater amount of aircraft utilization translates into greater revenue and higher profits.

      2. Agreed. Just bought WN tickets to visit the South for that very reason (and of course free bags). Actually, we had to buy different tickets first for my wife to pick up her Mom and come back for son’s graduation. And then the whole gang flies back with mother-in-law to visit that side of the family. So my wife bought UA, DL, and AA one way tickets first. The process of selecting seats was kinda brutal (to say the least) since her Mom has had knee/hip replacement surgery and needed an aisle seat. I told her to just call the airline and tell them she was handicapped and needed a wheelchair. I will report here later which airlines will treat the old lady best.

        1. MIL just flew Southwest for the better schedule. (The cost of a second bag on jetBlue would have made the totals the same anyway, convenient schedule won.)

          Requested a wheelchair and had no problem for my wife to get a gate pass and escort her through. She ended up pushing the wheelchair, so I think they prefer that!)

          Not sure what seat she ended up with, she was going back and forth about if she wanted a window or an aisle when we were driving to the airport.

        2. I have a left leg that doesn’t always comply. In order not to annoy others I ask for and have always received an aisle seat on the right side of the plane. All US airlines (or so I’ve been told) have one or two rows in the front that they don’t offer until close to the flight. After I book the flight I call the airline’s special services number and merely explain my problem. I’ve yet to be denied on the basis of the phone call only. With Southwest I ask for a blue pass when arriving at the gate. In fact, I also go through the handicap line at TSA with only an explanation (I don’t look disabled unless I use my scooter). Only MIA told me no, unless I could show them my handicap car tag. Whoops, I have a permanent HC plate so now I show a picture of my plate along with a close up of the plate so my DL’s number is clear. Haven’t had a problem since including multiple airports in Europe and Asia. Your MIL shouldn’t have a problem.

      3. Southwest wants you to believe it works! 🙂

        Not having an actual assigned seat is my only real complaint about Southwest. And not only do they not do ASR they don’t do any seat reservations. This means you might be the first on your flight and still have to struggle to find seats together because the through passengers from the previous segment have all the aisle and window seats taken leaving only middles. Or if your connecting flight is running late by the time you get to your flight you are the last to board once again having no seats to choose except middles.

        1. I think the reason it “works” is that people have low expectations of what to expect. They are aware they have no seat assignment and it’s a crapshoot what they may get.

          If you set the bar low to begin with, it’s much easier to meet expectations.

          1. That and it so happens their flights are rather short. So getting stuck in hell for an hour or so might just give you a tan.
            Unfortunately, the anxiety one gets going through the seat selection online (considering all the upselling that you need to go through) might be a worse experience.
            I observed my wife using the UA, DL and AA sites. The longest part was looking for 2 seats together and one had to be an aisle seat. Also that is the part that made her upset. Entering the credit card was the easiest part 🙂

            Added: For the UA/DL/AA tickets, I already searched the best options using GDS and gave her a print out. All she did was book them herself on the airline’s own websites using her FFP logon.

          2. Not sure what’s so hard about seat selection, unless you’re shopping late. It’s a diagram that displays what’s available. Find what you like and book it.

          3. In this case, BA does not allow seats to be assigned complimentary until 24 hours prior to departure. Do you want to wait until 24 hours in advance to book your seat assignment on a long haul flight. You might have better luck winning the lottery than getting to sit with your traveling companion. Sometimes the fee is reasonable, for a international long haul flight, it probably starts about $120.00 per person, per segment. While American will let you book your seat at the time you reserve, unless you have preferred status, you’ll likely not get a more desirable seat unless you pay to upgrade to the seat assignment. It’s the airlines way of saying they have low fares, and maybe the initial come on look good. Until you find out you have to pay to get a decent seat assignment. In most business this is called “mark up”, or cost +++.

          4. Well just to be clear, my wife is not a travel agent and she is doing it by herself on the airline websites while she is buying a ticket.

          5. Oh my goodness! Your wife is a DIYer? Doesn’t she know any good TAs to book these flights for her? Does she know to buy travel insurance to cover her? 😀

            Thought I’d try to cover all the points people bring up when someone books their own flights and something goes wrong. Feel free to bring up any I may have missed.

          6. Yes, I am teaching her to DIY it.
            Showed her how to search for a fare (cheapest day to travel) and break the trip into separate outbound and inbound tickets and when booking Southwest was a better option than the classic airlines.
            Made sure she understood that most tickets are throwaways since the $200 change fee costs more than the ticket. So if she was not sure of her travel dates, then Southwest was the go-to option since that allowed banking of cancelled tickets.
            Travel insurance I usually only consider when we buy expensive international tickets that have onerous penalty provisions.
            I think the point is that actual booking of a ticket is quite irrelevant (whether self issued or airline dot com issued).
            It is the travel planning and search that really counts.
            I noticed that it still took her a lot of time to do the booking even when she had a print out of the flights (and autoprice) she needed to get (from my GDS).
            It was also quite stressful to buy multiple tickets for multiple itineraries at one sitting, she said.

          7. My sympathies to your wife! I just spent about 45 minutes doing upgrades online with UA. What a PITA as they won’t help you at the agency desk if it is booked at I think I figured it out for the next time, but I was sweating it as I needed the exact amount of seats that had just opened up, but had to divide records, go into each account to get the upgrades. Done, finished and I can still say that the GDS is the best booking tool out there! Online is the pits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          8. A serious question here: you don’t look for RT tickets, but look for separate tickets, is that what you said? If so, I have got to do that more often. Thanks!

          9. For domestic USA travel – most of the time, the fare is really one-way. So the first thing I display is whether a much cheaper RT actually even exists. If it does then I search it out first.

            Given that most fares are one-way anyway then you don’t have to fly the same airline both ways. So I choose the cheapest outbound and the cheapest inbound ticket that suits me. You do have to search each way separately.

            In addition, if I feel that there is a possibility we will need to make a change, I heavily weigh in favor for Southwest even if I have to drive to La Guardia (instead of using my local HPN White Plains airport). The reason is simple – the classic airlines have a $200 change fee. Southwest none and allows you to bank the cancelled fare and buy new tickets with it. Awesome.

            For international, I often choose Cathay, Korean or those Asian airlines that have a low change and cancellation penalty fee (i.e. $100-150). Same principle as choosing WN.

            It is a bit tougher picking an airline to Europe since they are mostly sharks (yes the Gov’t gave them immunity to screw us over). But if money is really tight then there is Norwegian (DY) and Iceland Air (FI) that can help sometimes. Finally, I know how to hack a fare so that also helps if I’m traveling alone (no risk to kids). We cannot discuss fare hacking here but that is another exciting topic 🙂

        2. Amtrak has the same system. However, on some trains Amtrak does set aside adjacent seats for “families” (though I am not pleased when traveling alone that I have to accept a lesser seat since I am not part of a “family”). But is it really that bad on WN? Their flights typically are as lengthy as a subway ride, for which it is rare to snare adjacent sears during rush hour. What’s so bad about being away from one’s spouse for an hour or two?

          1. Doesn’t bother me. I’m a grown person and I can sit by myself on a plane. 🙂

            A lot of people do seem to have separation issues when flying.

            The issue I should have been clearer on that I have with WN seating is that even if you pay for the early boarding and get boarding position A-1 it doesn’t guarantee you will be the first person on the plane especially if it is a continuing flight that is just stopping to board more passengers. Likewise, they don’t hold up boarding if all of the A group passengers are not waiting in line once they start boarding.

    3. I do NOT get the big deal over couples/whoever sitting together. I’ve been married 28 years. If we can’t go for up to 8 hours without SITTING together, that’s just weird. Are these people afraid their significant other will fall in love with their seat mate during the flight? Yeesh. Now for a family, I think the airlines should accommodate ONE parent sitting with ONE child (under 9/10 or so) but these women who insist they MUST sit with their child AND their hubby and their other child and their Chihuahua or whatever… Blargh. And I can’t believe that when making reservations (through whatever mechanism) that the airlines can’t see “Oh there’s a child under 10 on this itinerary” and somehow block in seats for that booking. I’m not a coder but… *shrug*.

      1. Tell you what, as a travel agent/consultant, I get requests for families who want to be (seat) together all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised that the airlines realized they can make money out of these kind of customers. Just like banks, the airlines are in the “FEE” business.

        1. True and I have no objections to a company making money. I’m willing to pay for what matters to me, and frankly, if a couple is that hot to sit together that it’s worth $50 or whatever to do it… no skin off my nose. But if they’re NOT willing to pay to make it happen, they have no business raising a stink on board because they NEED to sit together or they’ll just DIE and they sure as heck shouldn’t count on or demand that I or you, or Joe Traveler give up a seat (especially one I’ve paid extra for) to make it happen. “Thou shalt not be an ENTITLED ASS” should definitely be one of the 10 Travel Commandments thrown down from an Air Traffic Control tower somewhere….

          1. Sure, nothing on the fare or price of the ticket guarantees that travelers on the same PNR will be sitting together.
            But when an airline specifically charges extra so a passenger(s) can pick a (specific) seat(s), then I think they ought to deliver it or give the customer their money back immediately. Also they should not be allowed to re-assign that seat for flimsy reasons. It should be treated as bumping a passenger from a EXTRA PAID seating reservation.
            I could not care less WHY (the reason) people want to seat together or have a particular seat. But I do respect their wishes if they want to do so.

          2. Oh I agree… you should always get what you pay for! (Yeah yeah, call me a dreamer) So many aren’t willing to pay though, and then feel like someone should make something happen because they WANT IT SO MUCH. When I travel on biz, if I *have* to be in a meeting somewhere, I’ll almost always pay for a reserved seat. If I got bumped from one, I’d be P*SSED. But on the way home, eh, I take my chances with the roulette wheel of “included in your low low fare” seats 😉

    4. Tell you what: next time I fly with a two-year-old, whom the airlines tell me requires his own seat, I’ll just decline the request for more money for assigned seating. And, hey, maybe that two-year-old will be sitting next to YOU. I’d love to help out when he starts screaming, but, you know, seating us together is a premium option, so you go ahead and deal with it. I’m being sarcastic, obviously, but my point is that having families seated together is optional is not always really true, nor is it only for the families’ comfort.

  2. Is this about the British Airways fee or American letting you use their site to book with BA? Pick a battle otherwise it makes both appear petty. The American site channeling you to BA is not apparently relevent to your point about the BA fee. If BA wouldn’t have charged the fee if they went there directly to book it, then be clear about that point. If the charge was to be incurred regardless then why pile on and dilute your true point?

    1. Yes this is one of those first world problems 🙂
      Most of the people I know and work with will just be happy they can afford to visit Barcelona.

    2. I think it is about a codeshare that has restrictions that the named airline doesn’t have. I’ve seen this several times – the carrier charges for a 2nd bag but the name on the codeshare doesn’t. The carrier won’t let you get assigned seating but the named airline does. If I book under a certain name then I think it is fair that I get the perks of that name. An unsophisticated traveler won’t know to go to the other airlines site to see the restrictions before they book the ticket. They’ll only be surprised and upset after they’ve paid their money.
      So the real issue is the inconsistency of rules between codeshare partners.

      1. Try booking each separately, which was the way BEFORE codeshares – not only MORE money, but VOILA! still have to follow each set of rules — codeshares are CLEARLY spelled out – if you question their rules, check them out yourself. (Or talk to an agent who is familiar with these terms and conditions).

        1. Wow excellent point you bring out. But, I hope you explain this more in detail so the doubters can follow 🙂

          Maybe I can try to add something.

          People need not be confused between booking and flying.

          In order for you to fly to a location beyond the service area of your airline, it needs to cooperate with other airlines. The fundamental way it does this is called interlining. At the minimum your favorite airline will be able to issue a ticket for some other airline and that other airline will take you and your baggage along to your destination.

          Codesharing – the ability of your airline to issue its own flight numbers of other airlines – makes it a lot easier for your airline to provide and display these (extended) flight options for you. They are not trying to cheat you, pretending they fly inside Africa or something like that (since they disclose the actual operating airline). It just is a lot easier for them to combine flights that are using by their own internal (2 letter) code. You can think of codesharing as a more simplified way to interline – that’s really all it is for YOU.

          When you actually begin flying your itinerary, all you need to do is read which airline is operating the flight and go to their terminal. It is printed on your itinerary. No one is trying to deceive you. You will get to your eventual destination whether you bought the interlined flight or the codeshared flight.

          At this point, please ignore the critics. They really have nothing better to offer to you. They are not gonna sell you cheaper or better tickets. They are not gonna help you create better itineraries. So what do you need them for?

          1. One other benefit of a code share vs booking separate flights is what happens to you when your first flight does not make it to your connection airport on time for you to make the second connection. When you book those as separate tickets it is completely on YOU to get to the connection airport on time, not the airline that is a “code share”.

          2. That’s not exactly what I meant. But your point is 100% valid.
            I did not mean SEPARATE tickets. What I meant is I have a choice between making the same itinerary – one with codeshare and one without codeshare. It would be much easier for the airline to display the itinerary with all codeshares and for the customer to search it. The reason is simple. If the flights were not codeshared then some other check needs to be done if combining the other airline’s flight(s) is within the fare rules.
            People have no clue how much easier SEARCHING for flights it has been since he have had codeshares.

          3. That was the point – codesharing was a boon to the traveler, not the bain of his existence.

          4. Indeed. I used AA award miles to fly all over Europe in Business class for, dare I say it …”free”

          5. My recollection is that in the old days, Pan American World Airways, for example, would interline with all the domestic carriers, and offer through fares. Everyone knew that they would take whatever domestic carrier they desired to the international gateway, then transfer to Pan Am. Codesharing now continues to offer through fares, but in a much more limiting fashion: the through fares are typically offered on only a few select connecting carriers in a network. Codesharing is a limitation, not an expansion, of connecting service.

          6. Codeshares limit nothing, in my opinion.
            It is the fare rules that dictate what route you can take and what flights you can take.

            Take for example a simple AA fare from LAX to BKK.
            AA does not have a specific routing restriction but has a Maximum Permitted Mileage of

            //MPM-PA 9907//MPM-AT 14215//

            This means for as long as the flight is no more than 9907 miles via the Pacific or 14215 miles over the Atlantic, this fare may apply.

            However, AA has FLIGHT restrictions.


            Note the operative word is OPERATED by.

            Alright so if you want to go to BKK via HNL on this fare, you must use AA metal, or AA codeshare that is not on JAL metal.

            And, presumably you cannot route via OAK-HNL if you like to be on this codeshared flight:

            1 #AA7138 OAKHNL- 945A1220P 737 0E

            The fare rules allow you to fly AS anyway but not across the Pacific and it must be in “K” booking code only:

            Even before codeshare, AA would not allow you to take JAL or AS to HNL anyway (for this type of cheap fare).
            So I really fail to see how codeshare is messing up fares today. I want to see some hard evidence.

        2. If I book separately I lose many benefits. I don’t get the protection of a single ticket if my first flight is delayed. I have to schedule extra time to check in with the 2nd airline since I’m now on a new and separate ticket.

          1. Plus they won’t check your bags all the way through, so you have to pick up the bags from the first flight, recheck them so they can get their fees. We use to issue separate tickets for Hawaii…over the water and interisland…and you would just tell the over the water carrier that you were connecting, show them the other ticket and your bags would be at your final destination.

          2. Wow, I remember that. When I was a kid, we booked flights from the Virgin Islands to North Carolina. The first leg was on a local carrier with no affiliation with the domestic carriers. We had to physically retrieve our bags in Puerto Rico and carry them to the US carrier, which was in another terminal. And this was before rollerbags.

      2. I’m not sure I follow your statement – inconsistency of rules between codeshare partners. Your example seems to be about baggage rules.

        It is not that codesharing makes rules inconsistent, it is that the rules themselves are inconsistent whether there is codesharing or not.

        1. If I book a flight on “American” then I expect to go by those rules. But if they code-share with Turkish Air then I have different rules depending on the metal. I have one carry-on allowance for American and a more restrictive one for Turkish air. That can cause problems for less sophisticated travelers.

          1. Do AA and TK codeshare? Can’t find a flight where they do.
            So is your problem theoretical or actual?

          2. This isn’t new. Even before codesharing, you need to check a lot of things. Hawaii is a big part of my sales. Carryon bags for the over the water flights don’t always fit in the overhead of the interisland planes. You have always had to check various details, it is just now that there are DIY’ers and the internet that a lot of this has become an issue.

          3. Where is the deception? Below is an example of the same exact flights – one using codeshare and the other simply interlined.
            Note regardless, you are only entitled to a 10KG carryon on the NRT-BKK leg.
            Are you telling us that JAL must allow the same carry-on that AA provides from LAX-NRT?

            No Codeshare, Pure Interline
            1 AA 169 02JUL WE LAXNRT 1240P 400P#1
            2 JL 707 03JUL TH NRTBKK 620P 1100P

            AA LAXBKK 2PC
            BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM
            BAG 2 – NO FEE UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM

            AA LAXNRT 2PC
            BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO45LI/115LCM
            BAG 2 – NO FEE UPTO36LI/92LCM
            JL NRTBKK 1PC
            BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO22LB/10KG AND UPTO45LI/115LCM

            AA Codeshares JAL from Tokyo to Bangkok

            1 AA 169 02JUL WE LAXNRT 1240P 400P#1
            2*AA8411 03JUL TH NRTBKK 620P 1100P

            AA LAXBKK 2PC
            BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM
            BAG 2 – NO FEE UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM

            AA LAXNRT 2PC
            BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO45LI/115LCM
            BAG 2 – NO FEE UPTO36LI/92LCM
            JL NRTBKK 1PC
            BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO22LB/10KG AND UPTO45LI/115LCM

      3. This is my question. Is the article about the fee or about the codeshare not disclosing a fee? I’m still not sure what the actual gripe is?

  3. Someday I hope Chris moves to somewhere other than a major hub / Orlando where he has a ton of airline choices. His views might change.

    Without paying a TA, I have two real choices to get to large number of places. Book a disconnected itinerary (Bad!) or take a codesharing flight. I choose option #2. Almost all regional flights are, in fact, codesharing flights. Eliminating them would be a mess and hurt customers as airlines try to determine if they can continue to profitably fly to certain airports with bigger aircraft on a reduced schedule.

    Now … I do think that the one major change to codesharing needs to be that the policies of the ticketing airline should follow the ticket and not be dependent on the first airline in the itinerary. If my bags are free on UA, they should be free on any UA ticket regardless of the airline I actually check in with.

    1. Same here, and I live in the second largest city in Arkansas. A person has to fly to either Dallas or Atlanta on American Eagle Airlines, or on Delta Connection (American Southeast Airlines) to get anywhere from our airport. Of course the ticket counters are American Airlines and Delta Airlines, but a person doesn’t actually fly out on either carrier.

    2. Agreed. I don’t think that codesharing is a bad thing. It gives many of us flying options that we wouldn’t otherwise have. The real problem, as you said, is the lack of transparency and consistency with fees between the airlines and a loss of accountability when something goes wrong (like lost luggage). I suspect if airlines used the suggestions in your final paragraph, Chris wouldn’t have an issue with codesharing.

  4. Okay, if CE can have a poll that doesn’t fit the story, I can bring up a topic that doesn’t fit.

    I noticed last night around 11 p.m. CDT that I can’t vote up or down on Disqus. Figured okay, site maintenance. Same thing this morning. If I use IE9, with no AdBlock, no Ghostery, the arrows and flags for moderators are back. If I use Chrome and pause AdBlock and allow the 35 ads on the page to show, then the additional functionality on Disqus comes back.

    Is this “drip pricing” – I have to pay (see the ads) – in order to get full functionality?

    Is it the airlines’ fault? 🙂

    1. Haven’t seen that problem. I use Safari at home and IE8 at work. Neither with any ad blocking, but work has some fairly strict filtering going on so I see a lot of question marks where the ads should appear.

    2. Well, there’s 30 minutes I’ll never get back again, but it’s an updated filter list on AdBlock that’s causing the problem. I’ve submitted the problem to the AdBlock folks, but am “enjoying” see some stuff that I would rather not have to see.

      An extreme problem with “code”-sharing!

      1. If you try using an Android tablet with its built in browser, the experience is worse. You’d think you are in some sex site. Pop ops galore asking you if you want to install some BS app. Only way out is to go to Task Manager and end the browser app. Horrible.

        1. Oh, Kindle is “fun” too, just like a mammogram is “fun”.

          Just for fun, I tried using my Android phone to browse elliott dot org while waiting for my appointment this morning. Wasn’t too sure what the ads featuring the over-endowed bikini-clad women were supposed to be selling. Maybe they lost their luggage with all of the rest of their clothes while taking a code-shared flight somewhere?

  5. Seems like two different arguments here: Code sharing and seat reservation fees. Not really related.

    Just went to the AA site to book a flight to BCN. Not seeing where AA is “pretending” the BA flights are its own. It is very clearly stated that the flights are operated by BA in fairly large and clear type. There are also flights offered by US that are still clearly identified as not being actual AA flights. Not seeing any problem here, as long as the customer reads the info presented. But I guess that is asking to much of the average traveller today.

    Now as far as the fee for a specific seat, that is something that BA does if you want to reserve a specific seat before check in time. They charge it even on fully refundable fares and the fee is not refundable if you cancel your flight (happened to me, I’m still working with insurance to get the fees refunded). I agree that AA does not disclose this very well (BA does if you book directly with them) and they don’t even show a message that additional fees may apply on code share flights. Their site states you get a “confirmed seat” in your section of the plane. It doesn’t say “seat assignment” just “seat.” Depending on how you read this, you might assume that you get to pick your own seat like most airlines let you do, not that you will be given a random seat assignment or have to pay extra to choose a seat. I think BA does a good job of keeping people together, especially if you have small children, even if you don’t pay the fee. After all, you can choose your seats for free (OK, no additional charge because nothing is free) when you check in and if you do that early online you have a fairly good chance you will get seats together you like. There is no real benefit to the airline to split up groups.

    “He paid to sit next to his wife, but he wasn’t happy about it. After all, he’d booked seats in business class, which is supposed to include everything.” Nope, FIRST Class includes everything. Business is just what everyone seems to think coach used to be back in the ’60s 🙂

      1. I had an old co-worker who once flew first class on Emirates, and the way he described it I thought they did include everything.

    1. Mark Kellen said – “Not seeing where AA is “pretending” the BA flights are its own. It is very clearly stated that the flights are operated by BA in fairly large and clear type.”
      And it better be! DOT has sting operations calling travel agencies about flights that they know to be code share and waiting for the agent to tell them – unprompted – that the flight is a codeshare, marketed as “XYZ Express” and owned by “ABC Airlines”. Failure to do so, whether a reservation is made or not, is a violation of 1999 rules that subject the agency to a $20,000 fine per infraction. I don’t have a problem with the regulation. The punishment for violation should fit the “crime” though.

  6. Confused over the point of the story. Is it because of codesharing that there is a seat fee? Are we being led to believe that had the OP booked direct with BA would he not have had to pay a fee?

  7. I was all ready to jump all over this story until I read that Rich had Business class. I only sell a dozen or so business class tickets a month, and few are code share out of Pittsburgh. I have never seen a seat surcharge for business class. Something is more than strange here. It is probably most important to kmow the fare:
    Business class full fare – you are the best and get what you want for seating
    Consolidator Business Class – should be the same
    Frequent flyer redeemed business class eith personal or gifted – your last in line
    Supersaver busines class where you pay for full coach and get upgrade free to business class – may be the way that they get the extra $$$ for the seats.
    I just booked an AA to BA ticket for August and got all of the seats assigned. This is strange that it happened.

    1. BA charges a fee to non-elites on discount fares to assign a seat before online check-in opens. They are free to not pay and get a seat at T-24. Not having a seat assignment does not have a meaningful effect on whether you may be bumped if oversold. In fact it’s the opposite – elites are likely to lose their free confirmed seat assignment in overbooking situations by being upgraded.

      1. When flying BA, I sat at my computer exactly at 24 hours before takeoff and online check in began to reserve seats. I didn’t have a problem getting a good seat. It was a hassle, but it appears others did the same. It’s kind of like festival seating for Southwest but on an electronic scale.

        About codeshares in general: They are usually very open about it. Simple trick: 4 character flight numbers are usually codeshares and 3 and under are the airline. I think the first airline you get on with dominates policy (so if you check in with lufthansa, then lufthansa polices are in effect.)

        I agree that codeshares benefit consumers as much as airlines. It allows passengers to make multiple stops to reach any destination on a single, bound itinerary. Otherwise, if you missed your connection due to a delay you’d be out of luck.

    2. BA does give you a pre assigned seat for no charge on all of its flights within Europe. If you are flying BA from the US, there is a charge even if you buy a seat in business if you want to reserve a specific seat before check in starts. What is strange is that BA does this and as far as I know no other airline does (yet).

  8. This is not a hidden or unfair fee. Passengers can select their seats on BA free of charge, at the latest 24 hours before departure. Certain passengers may choose to pay a fee to select a preferred seat earlier. There are no fees for lots of passengers, such as oneworld sapphire or emerald members or passengers choosing flexible fares, and families with kids get a guaranteed assignment together by 72 hours out.

    It will NOT give you a random seat and will almost NEVER split up parties on the same booking

    As for codeshares: they exist. The average passenger doesn’t care what airline they fly on as long as it’s cheap.

  9. BA is a sneaky airline, code share or not. They changed the schedule of my flight, but didn’t call it a change. No, they “cancelled” one flight and replaced it with another. I’d prepaid my luggage fees, giving me a lower rate. Surprise, that only applied to the cancelled flight. I had to pay the walk-up fee for the new flight AND wait for a credit back to my account for the prior fee. They wouldn’t even let me just pay the difference. They did, however, credit me for the prior fee within 2 days. That was the silver lining on the very black cloud.

    1. I’m surprised you didn’t fight that or ask Chris to intervene. You should have retained the lower rate.

      1. He said he had to pay a “walkup” fee – which means he did the checkin day of departure – otherwise, could have refunded the charge and just recharged all at once with them.

        1. Generally, you HAVE to do a checkin day of departure. That’s the point. Or at least within 24 hours (I always check in early).

          I’m surprised that BA didn’t budge on bag fees if he paid early. Regardless of rerouting, once he was checked in online then he should be set. I’d have complained to the airline and threatened to take it to the regulator.

          1. BUT if he had checked the reservation PRIOR to that, he would have known about the change – NEVER leave it to the last day!

          2. Hmmm, typically I have done online check in before and rarely checked my reservation until that point. I assume (and I know what that’s often joked to be) that the airline would contact me if they changed my flight or cancelled it. In the very least, I do online check in before I go to the airport to make sure my seat is held and the flight is still on.

            So this appears to be what happened: He didn’t do online check in and walked up and the flight was changed and the gal charged him different fees (perhaps because of a codeshare change with originating airline?) I think if it’s with the same airline, the advance fee should transfer and I would have held my ground and if necessary, called the 800 number and then argued with them then. It’s outrageous that they changed the flight, didn’t notify him, and then hit him with a walk up fee. But if it’s a different airline on a codeshare, I can appreciate that it’s hard to transfer the fee. Nonetheless, I think he could still argue to get them to waive it.

            Funny story about last minute change: My wife’s lufthansa flight was cancelled due to a strike and since she is not internet saavy, didn’t know. She gets there 2 hours before and the gate attendant is shocked and puts her on business class on BA. That filled up later so they bumped her to first. Sometimes things work out.

          3. It doesn’t – and neither do those pre-paid seats — ALWAYS keep an eye on your flights (unless you have an agent to do so for you!)

    2. Re: I had to pay the walk-up fee for the new flight. Why?
      Maybe you did not like the reaccommodation – the new flight?
      So you bought a NEW ticket, right?
      And you expect the prepaid baggage that was tagged to your old ticket and flights can be easily moved to your new ticket?
      Get real. Sorry.

      1. I believe NoraG is stating the BAGGAGE fee was at the walk up rate vs the discounted rate available on line when booking or checking in, not that the entire flight was re priced as a walk up rate.

        1. Oh I’m so sorry then. Forgive me please.
          Whenever I read the words walk-up I get very excited and agitated 🙂

          1. I noticed. 🙂

            I did have to read that post a couple times to make sure what NoraG was trying to say.

  10. I had to go with code-share benefiting passengers, with code share, I can travel all over the world, on one ticket, on one fare, have my baggage go with me, and be protected if things don’t go according to schedule. Without code share, I would be paying a lot more, and have to continually re-check my bags, and if a flight is late and I miss my next one, too bad.

    Also, comparing mandatory resort fees to advanced seat fees is comparing apples to beef (Apples and oranges are quite similar). I am not in favor of mandatory resort fees, when they advertise a low fee, and later you are forced to pay extra. However, an advanced seat fee is not mandatory, and you can still buy the product at the advertised price. Also, I have yet to see a CoC that says advanced seat assignments are guaranteed. Also, I have yet to see a European carrier that includes advanced seat assignments, they have always been assigned at the airport. So in the example above, they are charging an extra fee to provide an additional service. I have flown on many carriers that dont provide advanced seat assignments, and they have always been able to accommodate at check-in. It’s not guaranteed, but the employees sure as heck try.

    1. Last summer I flew Norwegian and SAS. They have a fee to reserve a seat ahead of time but it was extremely reasonable (about $7 if I recall, or 7 of whatever currency they used, but still no biggie).

    1. Well, for one thing this topic keeps on coming up again and again.
      Would it be refreshing if some travel expert gives some tips instead of hearing the same whine over and over again.
      Maybe on the sidebar Elliott can have some real stuff like a list of airlines that are more passenger friendly.
      We need to do something constructive – not just complain all the time.

  11. I just looked at the AA website and the codeshare information is very clearly displayed. Nothing deceptive about whose plane you will be on unless you are completely ignoring information in written in an easy to read font. And seems to be in full compliance with US law which requires this information to be clearly presented.
    Information about seat assignment fees should be clearly displayed.
    (And AA charges fees too for some seat assignments as well.) He chose these flights and then was given an option about seats. Since he was most probably doing that at reservation time he could have cancelled the tickets within the 24 hour limit. So he is complaining because he did not like the choices he made.
    And as to the rant about families with children. At least one parent should be seated with the children but that does not mean that two parents and all children must be seated together. That is a change for me–I used to think that all members of a family should be seated together. But then realized that only applied to people traveling with small children and not adults, like me, who often travel with an elderly parent who needs assistance.

  12. This is why I try to fly Southwest. And why I always pay for the early bird. So that I can guarantee myself an aisle seat. I am quite tall (6’3) and have claustrophobia. In the older planes the window and middle seats would make me tense up so much that I would start to have a panic attack and hyperventilate. (I have tried numerous times to sit there to see if I would be okay, and I am fine if no one is in the seat next to me, but as soon as someone does sit next to me I feel boxed in and start to panic)

    I just flew on one of Southwest’s new airplanes (which are pretty nice) and I would actually be fine in the middle seat as well since they sort of redid their overhead bins. It is hard to explain so I won’t try too.

    Other airlines I will usually pay for a premium seat (aisle). I have only been asked a handful of times to move for someone. I told them politely no that I am too tall and have claustrophobia that is why I paid more to sit where I am.

    1. Thanks and nice to know (confirmation) they reconfigured the bins.
      I still have to figure out how they will zip my mother-in-law (can’t walk well) in Midway (Chicago) for a rather tight connection. It’s the only flight to Little Rock and I noticed it is often late so I guess WN is waiting for connecting passengers. The $12.50 early bird is not too bad a price to pay for the rest of family.

      1. For short haul flights I do like WN, but with a tight connection, no seat assignments and multiple passengers, why pick WN? WN uses two concourses at MDW so it could be a race to get from one to the other. Hope they aren’t delayed out of NY!

        1. I looked at all the flights LGA-MDW and MDW-LIT for last month. They all (well the ones I saw) used the B concourse.
          Unfortunately this is the only route WN has for the time my kids can make it. It’s the MDW-LIT that shows delayed departures so that helps a bit. UA via ORD was not any better. The best option was DL via ATL with more something like 3 hours in ATL. But that would make my kids too antsy. So we will risk WN 🙂

  13. “It’s unearned money.”

    Ha! Who’s to judge? Is it unearned money to pay over $3 for a giant Coke when the ingredients cost pennies and it is mostly frozen water? Is it unearned money to leave time on a parking meter and not get a refund? Is it unearned money to pay tourist taxes at hotels and airport car rentals to support local education and other unrelated city services?

    This is simply bogus, the idea that each and every charge in one’s life should be evaluated on whether or not it is “earned.” Any businessman in a capitalist society knows the businesses must get sufficient revenues to reinvest in the business and reward the shareholders. How they get the revenues is dependent on customers willing to pay. If you pay, then it is “earned.”

    1. Pravda tovarisch!

      The best way to show that it’s earned money is that he was willing to voluntarily pay the premium for the seat assignment so it had value. Why does a front seat at a Bruce Springsteen concert cost more than one in the back?

      Heck, what worries me is that the airlines have let this go for far too long and are going to get wise and BA is setting a trend. Last minute business travelers who pay top dollar for tickets have long complained that it doesn’t make sense to charge them twice as much for a ticket as some super-saver who booked 6 months ago and then stick him in the middle seat in the back.

      About the tourist taxes for the local schoolkids: I personally think that’s unearned value and socialism but nothing I can do about it. But it may all even out in that the locals pay taxes for such things as improvements to the local infrastructure such as piers, visitor’s centers, etc. when a local wouldn’t use such things on a regular basis.

      I think tourist taxes are very very dumb. It reminds me of the $200 visa fee to go to Russia. Smart countries keep visa fees low to encourage tourism. When going abroad, I’m astounded at how well tourists are treated at airports and customs as to here. It’s usually fast and you’re out on the town to spend your money eating or buying kitsch.

  14. I agree with Tony, it’s absolutely not right to charge people to pick seats. Does the airline care? Good advice to get to the airport early … we forget that the actual people who work for an airline DO want to help their passengers.

    1. Yes, people who work for the airlines at the airport are not the ones who make the policies. But they are the ones on the front lines having to defend those policies.
      I don’t like the policy for paying for seats, just like I don’t care for paying to check a piece of luggage. But sadly, the airlines have dummied down travel thanks to the cheap traveler.

  15. Until very recently British Airways prechecked the ‘Offset your Carbon Cost’ box and charged you a carbon offset fee for your flights. . . that was always amusing too.

    Then there is the charge if you fly anything other than coach . . .

  16. As of when I’m posting this, 12% of the readers of this blog are honest airline employees. There’s no telling how many other airline employees are reading along with the rest of us.

      1. Sorry, I meant 12% of the blog readers are airline employees that stick to the story about codesharing being good for passengers. My bad. Got tripped up by my own sarcasm.

        1. That’s a very specific percentage. I’m not in the travel industry so maybe that’s a published number but without a source or any data I’m sticking with ‘huh’.

          1. I think the 12% came from the results of Chris’ survey, where 12% of responders said that they believe passengers benefit from codesharing.

          2. 12% is the number of respondents to the survey on this page who said that codesharing is most beneficial to passengers…

            Who benefits more from airline codesharing alliances?
            * Airlines. (88%, 1,290 Votes)
            * Passengers. (12%, 170 Votes)

            My point being that I feel only airline employees who stick to the airlines’ PR message about codesharing would tend to respond in this fashion. Call me a cynic, but I believe most readers of this blog who are not airline employees would tend to believe otherwise. Over and out.

          3. Ah, thanks. I don’t do the survey so I’d never be able figure that out on my own!

          4. Sorry, I believe my post was too obtuse and not as clear as I meant it to be, I do apologize for the confusion and my snarky attitude at the end of a long day.

          5. I wonder Charlie, next time you fly you will refuse to be on a code-shared flight? Is that so? Maybe you’ll never fly a regional airline flight in the USA because they are code-shared.

            I reckon that the flying public is not stupid. They vote with their wallets. And so far, tons of them are flying code-shared flights.

          6. Tony – I’m not saying that there aren’t benefits to passengers in terms of convenience and flexibility. And contrary to your hypothesis, I’m not going to curtail my travel just because codesharing is overwhelmingly the norm. But the question is “who benefits more” — and I (plus a majority of the respondents) believe it’s the airlines.

          7. With all due respect Charlie, but really the question of who benefits MORE is quite stupid. Who really cares about who benefits MORE? As long as consumers get something, then it’s better than nothing. This does not have to about class warfare all the time – pitting airlines vs. consumers. Code-share is still a choice. Consumers can still combine interlined flights on their itinerary if they want to. Anyway, who really knows who benefits MORE? 🙂

          8. I’m with ya, Tony. You are correct that it shouldn’t be an either/or situation. (Don’t get me started on the dismal state of civility and cooperation in our political system.) In this case, I was just going with the flow in response to Chris’ poll.

  17. I am a little surprised that in the extensive comments made on this post, no one has pointed out that the whole issue is moot. American Airlines flies their own planes daily to BCN, from both MIA and JFK. If the OP didn’t want a code share and felt like he was trapped with a “gotcha” for seat assignments, then simply fly AA metal.

  18. I understand your point about codesharing. But, I have always found that when I was looking at flights the codeshare flights were always marked as such. I travel quite a bit, but am still SUPER cautious when I book a flight about getting everything right when I’m booking. I realize not everyone is like that, but most people I know, who do not travel much, even they are super careful when booking. I’m not saying mistakes still don’t happen.

    But I often wonder about people who make mistakes, did they get vacation brain before they even booked their trip?

    As for paying for seat assignments, I could understand if an airline sectioned off some of the better seats for that purpose, and left the rest for everyone else to pick their seats. But this reminds me of their brilliant idea to charge for bagged – yes, they make more money but they also make much more inconvenience to their ground crews who have to help everyone get their bags in overheads and then gate check bags. They just end up splitting people up, creating all this drama and bad will. I’m often traveling alone and even if I’m traveling with someone I would be ok sitting by myself so I don’t feel the “need” to pay money for a seat very often. But, I would be really pissed off if I paid for a seat and then got bumped from it for any reason. If you want me to pay for the seat, then you better find a way to keep me in that seat or the airlines loses the integrity of the pay for a seat in advance program.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: