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U.S. airlines earned 3.5 billion dollars in fees for checked luggage and another $2.6 billion in fees charged for changing a reservation, according to a release of preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Delta was in the top spot, bringing in 865.9 million in baggage fees, and another 778.4 million in ticket-change fees.
The airlines began charging to check bags in 2008 to deal with rising fuel costs, but since then, a host of extra charges, for food, the chance to be first on the plane and extra leg room, have boosted the bottom line of an industry that barely ekes out a profit even in the best of times.
Those fees keep coming, and rising. Frontier Airlines recently announced that fliers will have to pay 25 to 100 dollars to carry on a bag if you book your trip anywhere but its website. Last month, United and US Airways raised their fees for changing a non-refundable ticket by 50 to 200 dollars. American and Delta have imposed similar increases.
Southwest, which doesn't charge for the first two checked bags, is the only big U.S. airline that doesn't charge customers for changing their flight plans, but even it now requires fliers to forfeit their fares if they've booked the least-expensive Wanna Get Away or Ding fares, then don't show for the flight.
Change fees have often been the extra price customers have to accept to purchase the cheapest tickets. They also are meant to spur corporate trekkers to pay premium fares that offer more leeway if you have to change your trip at the last minute.
U.S. airlines brought in 159.5 billion in revenue last year.
Source: USA Today