7 ON YOUR SIDE

How to avoid annoying airline surcharges

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(WJLA) - If you're planning on flying anytime soon, get ready for The Battle with the Bin.

If it fits, it'll fly; if not, the airline may cash in on your carry-on, to the tune of up to $100.

Several airlines are starting to strictly enforce size limits on carry-on baggage.

Air traveler Laura Strutzel tried to make hers fit recently, but lost her suitcase struggle. So, the airline made her check her bag -- and slapped her with a bill.

"I didn't know I'd be charged to bring this through check-in, it was expensive!" she said.

However, there are a few avenues for savvy fliers looking to avoid some of the fees, says frequent flier George Hobica, who founded the website AirfareWatchdog.org. He says the most egregious and annoying fees are avoidable.

"Baggage fees are avoidable; you can fly on Southwest Airlines, which gives you two bags free, or JetBlue that gives you the first bag free, or you can get one of those airline credit cards," he explained.

"The change fee on the three major airlines went up to $200," Hobica pointed out. "I don't see the reason for that. I don't think it costs the airlines $50 or more to change your ticket."

Southwest Airlines does not have a change fee, he said.

Another way airlines get you to pay more -- charging to pick your seat assignment.

"Don't fall for it," Hobica said. "You will get a seat -- the problem is, it just may not be the best seat in the airplane."

These days, airlines tack on up to $50 for a checked bag that's 50 pounds or more, which almost cost traveler Jena Greene big. So, she repacked her bag at the ticket counter, and left a few things behind.

"It's a pet peeve; its embarrassing," she said. "Thank God I put my underwear and private things in a compartment, because I might run into this," Greene said.

"Sometimes, it's cheaper to pay the fee. For example, several airlines now waive fees for checked bags and ticket change fees if you buy a more expensive ticket. If you do the math, you could save.

The Moseley family swears by Spirit Air, an airline known for super-cheap fares, but lots of fees -- even most carry-ons cost you money.

"It's a lot cheaper than the regular airlines," said Kristy Moseley. "We got four tickets round-trip to Dallas for $497, and it's a direct flight."

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