Gotcha! 5 new airline fees and how to avoid paying them

The airline industry is profitable again, thanks in no small part to the billions of dollars in fees it collects from passengers every year. And it’s not just reservation change fees ($2.3 billion), checked baggage ($2.7 billion) and “miscellaneous” fees (almost $3 billion) that air travelers shelled out in 2009; now carriers are getting even more creative with their charges, imposing them for everything from redeeming frequent flier miles to carrying a bag on the plane.

Worse, the extras often come as a complete surprise, revealed only at the end of the purchase — and in some cases, not until a passenger arrives at the airport.

You want to check a bag? That’ll be $25. Need a confirmed seat reservation? Twenty bucks, please. An in-flight meal? Here’s the menu — we only take credit cards.

A new survey of air travelers found that two-thirds of respondents said they had been broadsided at the airport by unexpected charges. “Airlines have become addicted to fees,” says Charles Leocha, president of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a Washington-based organization that conducted the poll. So his organization has teamed up with a coalition of other travel groups, including the American Society of Travel Agents and Business Travel Coalition, to do something about it. They’ve launched a site, Mad As Hell About Hidden Fees and are pushing the government to tighten rules about fee disclosure.

But why wait for a law to be passed? Here are some of the newest, and most egregious, airline fees and how to escape them on your next flight.