For would-be holiday travelers still shopping, remember to factor in:
- Baggage fees: Even for those who normally carry-on their luggage, do not overlook the potential cost of baggage fees. Holiday travelers carry more luggage than normal, often carrying gifts and winter coats that fill-up overhead bin space. All travelers should factor in the potential cost of checking a bag and paying the baggage fee. Some carriers also charge baggage fees for carry-ons. Airlines must post those fees on their websites and online travel agencies like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity must provide links that list the baggage fees of the airlines that they sell.
- Seat assignment fees: During Thanksgiving week, domestic flights averaged 90 percent full and during the upcoming holidays travelers can expect the same. Many airlines have increased the number of "preferred" seats – seats toward the front of the plane, window and aisle seats – that are only available for an additional fee. This can create difficulties for families, particularly those with young children, who need to sit together on flights. To avoid this, be prepared to pay preferred seat fees in order to obtain contiguous seats.
- Make sure to get seat assignments ahead of time. Selecting seats online and printing boarding passes ahead of time will help avoid long check-in lines and fees for printing boarding passes at the airport. It is likely that guaranteeing seats together on very full holiday flights may require some combination of free and "preferred" seats with extra charges. Airlines typically open up the seat assignment map as the departure date approaches, but by then, there may be even fewer options.
- Check baggage fee information, and measure and weigh your bags. The FAA limits all passengers to one carry-on and a personal item such as a purse or backpack. But keep in mind that very full flights may result in even less room for carry-ons. Checked bags that exceed weight limits by even a few pounds may incur even higher fees.
Open Allies for Airfare Transparency is a coalition of nearly 400 independent distributors and sellers of air travel, corporate travel departments, travel trade associations and consumer organizations that believe air travelers should be able to see, compare and buy the complete air travel product. That is, that all airline fares and fees should be transparent to, and purchasable by, the traveling public, enabling consumers to comparison shop for their fares on an "all-in" (fares+taxes+fees) "apples-to-apples" basis across airlines.