¨With the price of life these days, you’ve got to get everything for free you can.¨
Here are some of the most common consumer-related, ancillary fees, and services that travel industry providers charge:
- Cruise lines make the bulk of their profits through ancillary fees including:
- alcoholic beverages,
- specialty restaurants,
- shore excursions,
- gambling casinos,
- art auctions,
- on-board stores,
- internet, and
- phone services.
- Gratuities for the staff. (Cruise lines add 15-18% gratuities onto most on-board services. They also charge $12-$18 a day for waiter and maid services. Gratuities are not part of the initial price of the cruise).
Note: Unless you go on an expensive luxury cruise where there are very few additional charges.
Airlines have added many fees in recent years for such ¨amenities¨ as:
- meals and alcoholic beverages,
- selecting your seats,
- check-in baggage.
- Some airlines even charge now for cabin baggage.
- A couple of airlines also charge you for printing out a boarding pass (Easy Jet in Europe).
- Spirit Airlines even tried several years ago, charging for using the bathroom!
- Airlines (and some cruise ships) in the mid-2000s until the mid-2010s added a fuel surcharge to address their loss of income from higher fuel costs. (Thankfully, fuel surcharges are rare nowadays).
- Perhaps the most consumer-unfriendly airline fees involve fees for changing tickets. (In 2012, change fees alone accounted for almost half of many airlines’ profit margin).
Consumer advocates say the penalty is excessive (usually, the change fee is between $200 and $500). Airlines argue that these fees help avoid traveler no-shows and limits customer changes. Consumer advocates counter this argument by saying that when passengers change flights far in advance, airlines usually resell these seats and still collect change penalties. Some suggest airlines should charge smaller fees for switches long before departure.
Though most mid-range hotels do not charge a lot of ancillary fees. Some hotels, particularly more high-end properties, charge some of the following additional fees:
- resort fees
- drinks and snacks from in-room mini-fridges;
- pay-per-view movies;
- fees for early and late check-in
- wi-fi access and use of in-room phones
- airport shuttles;
- a service charge or fee for gratuities for bellhops and housekeeping staff;
- cancellation fees; (fortunately these are less common than with airlines)
- energy surcharge;
- groundskeeping fee;
- in-room safe;
- luggage holding;
- fees for holding packages at the front desk; and
Rental Car Companies
- To me, rental car companies are the worst offenders in the ancillary fee game. They are notorious for both gauging customers and adding undisclosed fees. Here are some of the more common fees that rental car companies charge:
- early and late return fees. (I was once charged $40 for dropping off a car two hours before I indicated when I picked up the car);
- refueling fee;
- additional authorized driver fee;
- frequent traveler program fee;
- lost key;
- cancellation fees;
- fees (often high) for dropping off a car anywhere other than where you picked it up;
- fees for GPS and baby seats;
- airport concession fees; and
- miscellaneous car-related fees such as vehicle licensing and tire recycling fees.
Tour companies, cruises, travel agents, and airlines make a lot of their income from selling travel insurance. They get massive commissions (often up to 50%), and it is an easy sell. That said, it is worth purchasing sometimes.
A Final Note
It is not just ancillary, consumer fees that help the travel industry stay profitable. Airlines, for example, receive about 60 percent of their revenue from consumers directly and the other 40 percent from by:
- Selling frequent-flier miles to credit card companies (which the credit card companies, in turn, award to clients as an incentive to use airline-branded credit cards);
- Repairing aircraft; and
- Cargo (particularly profitable on some routes)