Air travel is one of the beacons of modern technology. The ability to visit—or move to—another part of the world in a matter of hours is something that should inspire awe and wonder, but the only thing most people wonder about when it comes to air travel is how much is it going to ultimately cost.
Airfare has gone up again this year—at least 8 percent—but even though ticket prices are hard to handle, the increase in price is not the source of the biggest improvement for passenger air carriers over the past few years.
Checked baggage fees, actually, are a major source of revenue for airlines—which collected a total of $889.5 million in baggage fees as an industry in the second quarter of 2014 alone. And even that is only a three percent increase from the same time period last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Ticket prices are neither the second highest source of revenue for airlines. That coveted honor goes to reservation change fees, which generated $753 million during the second quarter of this year.
Including ticket prices (which were up at least eight percent in the second quarter compared to last year), airline revenue for the second quarter alone was a collective $3.6 billion.
George Hobica, president and founder of Airfarewatchdog.com—a site that continuously updates lists of airline fares and fees—confirms that “Bag fees seem to be the biggest headache [for consumers]; especially on shorter routes since charges are by the mile whereas airlines charge the same on a short flight versus a long one”. He reminds customers that some airlines do not charge baggage fees while others have credit cards that waive fees if you used their card to buy your tickets.
Delta and United earn the most revenue from bag and reservation change fees, but Spirit seems to make the most money per passenger. Period.