How Much Is Your True Cost of Flying? - Hopper Research

How Much Is Your True Cost of Flying?

Patrick
By Patrick Surry
Posted Feb 21, 2017

Summary

  • Airlines are increasingly "unbundling" their offerings, so that they can offer a low base ticket price and allow consumers to "customize" their flight with additional services.
  • The Transportation Department wants airlines to be transparent about baggage fees. However, airlines and online travel agencies aren't currently required to list those "ancillary" fees upfront.
  • We found that cancellations are almost never allowed (99%) for domestic trips, but tickets can almost always (98.8%) be changed for a fee, which will cost you $191 on average.
  • Bags are no longer included and it'll cost an average of $25 to bring one piece of luggage, or $59 for two pieces. As more airlines roll out basic fares, you'll be expected to pay for your carry-on too. Frontier and Spirit both charge an average of $35 for carry-ons.
  • International travel is slightly more lenient, with about 10% of itineraries offering cancellation for a fee which will cost you about $300. And, almost all (97.5%) international itineraries offer changes for about $250.
  • About two-thirds of international flights included at least one free bag, so that a trip with one piece of luggage adds only $9 with two pieces coming it at $55.
  • To help travelers figure out their true cost of flying, Hopper is releasing a new feature called Fair Bear. Fair Bear will give you an overview of all the fees and restrictions associated with your flight. If you select a basic fare, it will even recommend similar flights that offer less restrictions.

Analysis of Airline Fees

Airlines are increasingly "unbundling" their offerings, so that they can offer a low base ticket price and allow consumers to "customize" their flight with additional services. This has driven rapid growth in so-called "ancillary" fees for services like ticket changes or cancellation, seat assignment, baggage, in-flight food, beverage & entertainment. Ancillary revenue now accounts for about 10% of total airline revenues.

Although unbundling arguably allows travelers to avoid paying for services they don't use, it's also a major cause of dissatisfaction since consumers are often confused about what's included and what isn't.

We looked at more than 4,000 trips currently being watched by Hopper users originating in the US. For each trip, we checked an average of 180 available itineraries --- about 800,000 in total --- to analyze the median change, cancellation and baggage fees. Table 1 summarizes our findings.

For domestic trips, cancellations are almost never allowed (99%), but tickets can almost always (98.8%) be changed for a fee, which will cost you about $200 on average. Bags are no longer included(*) and it'll cost an average of $25 to bring one piece of luggage, or $60 for two pieces.

International travel is slightly more lenient, with about 10% of itineraries offering cancellation for a fee, of near $300, and almost all (97.5%) itineraries offering changes for about $250. About two-thirds of international flights included at least one free bag, so that a trip with one piece of luggage adds only $9 with two pieces coming it at $55.

Tables 2 & 3 provide break down domestic and international trips by airline. The domestic charges are very similar across airlines, with Spirit charging slightly more. The international picture is much more varied, including some airlines that regularly include cancellation options, and a wide range of change fees. Most, but not all, airlines include at least one piece of free baggage for international flights, with some offering two free pieces.


Table 1: Summary of cancel, change and baggage fees for domestic and international flights.

* Note Hopper data currently excludes Delta and Southwest


Table 2: Domestic airline change and baggage fees


Table 3: Cancel, change and baggage fees for airlines originating in the US.


Know Before You Book


The Transportation Department wants airlines to be transparent about baggage fees. However, airlines and online travel agencies aren't currently required to list those "ancillary" fees upfront. As a traveler, this can lead to a lot of confusion and frustration.

In order to bring more transparency to the flight purchasing process, Hopper just released a new feature called Fair Bear. When you're booking a flight on Hopper, you'll see the Fair Bear in the flight details. You'll see an overview of all the important stuff in the fine print including the policies and fees related to cancellations, changes, checked and carry-on baggage, and seat selection. To be fair, the Fair Bear will warn you if you select a cheap base ticket that has a lot of restrictions such as a basic economy ticket. If you're not a no-frills flyer, it will also recommend similar itineraries that have less restrictions and fees.

To find out more about the Fair Bear, check out our announcement.