Flying Can Be a Financial Sinkhole

Airplane MoneyThere use to be a time, if you’re old enough to remember, when the total cost of a flight was in the ticket price.  Now, it seems that the airline and airport companies are trying to increase profits every way possible, which means bad news for consumers.

If you’ve ever thought about it, the total cost of a round-trip flight is considerably higher than just the ticket price.  With all of the add-on expenditures that an airline can charge for these days, every flyer needs to make sure they carry a little extra cash in their pocket when traveling.  Let’s take a look at how much a full flight can really cost, from start to finish.

Coach class round-trip ticket – $230

I just checked Travelocity.com and found a round-trip ticket, leaving Miami May 5th and arriving in New York May 12th for $230 on Continental Airlines.  On the surface, a pretty impressive find, but you and I both know there’s a lot more to it.

Two Bags and Bag Boy Tip – $110 ($55 Each Way)

Depending on the airline you fly, you will probably be charged for your first bag and most definitely for your second.  According to current rates, it would appear that Southwest Airlines is the only domestic airline that does not charge for either your first or second bag.  JetBlue is kind enough to allow for one free bag, but after that, it gets pricey.

For me, Continental charges $20 for your first bag and $30 for your second bag.  If I’m unlucky and find that my bag is overweight or too big according to their standards, I might be staring another $100+ fee in the face.  If you decide to use the curbside check-in instead of waiting in the long line inside, be prepared to tip your bag handler.  :)

Airport Gift Shops and Restaurants – $40 ($20 Each Way)

If you’re a good airline traveler, then you arrive at the airport well in advance to avoid missing your flight.  This also means that you have a lot of time on your hands when you’re waiting to board your plane.  You may be tempted to buy a bag of chips or sit down for a quick burger, but do your best to avoid these eats, as you’re paying a high premium for convenience.  Bring a snack with you if you think you might get hungry, but make sure it’s not liquid!

In Flight Entertainment – $16 ($8 Each Way)

I was absolutely shocked to learn that Continental was charging $2 for a headset and $6 to watch the in-flight entertainment.  I had always been accustomed to a PG rated film to occupy my flying time, however, those days seem to be long gone.  Again, depending on your airline, you may still be able to watch a movie for free, however, you can expect everyone to eventually charge a fee for it.  Jet Blue steps up to the plate again, offering each person free TV service, so they appear to be the airline of choice.

In Flight Food and Alcoholic Beverage – $20 ($10 Each Way)

If you are flying across country and you’re airliner does not offer an inflight meal, you might shell out for the one they are offering for a fee.  A small sandwich and dessert can run you over $10, and if you add alcohol to the list, you’re closer to $20.  If you’re a big spender and decide to buy their “snack pack,” then you better make sure to have a big limit on your credit card.

Transportation From and To the Airport – $100/Taxi – $100/Park your Car - $0/Free ride

If you have friends or family that can bring you to and from the airport, then you save yourself a great deal of cash.  Calling for taxi’s or parking your car at the airport while you are away are expensive and unnecessary if you plan a proper trip, however, sometimes it’s your only option.

So, let’s add these all up and see how much a true round trip flight can cost if you decide to buy a couple of things here or there:

  • Ticket – $230
  • Baggage – $110
  • Airport Time – $40
  • In Flight Entertainment – $16
  • In Flight Food – $20
  • Transportation To and From the Airport – $100

TOTAL COST – $516.00.  Certainly not the $230 good deal you thought you snagged a few months before your flight.  With all things considered though, most of the above costs can be avoided if you think ahead and avoid temptation.  Just like any investment or financial decision in your life, a flight needs to be well planned to avoid losing hard earned cash.

Published or Updated: March 15, 2013

Comments

  1. Ron says:

    I agree. I have to travel quite a lot with my job and have grown to loathe flying, If it takes less than 8 hours, I prefer to drive.

    A few other costs: some airports are stuck in 1995 and charge a wifi fee. Now that you’re at the airport 3 hours early with nothing to do (unless you brought a book or have an air card), plan to pony up. Also, there’s a better than even chance your flight will be delayed and after having to get there three hours early to go through the pseudo-security scans means flying costs even more. My time is worth a lot to me and my company, but the airports and airlines don’t really see it that way.

    I’m just waiting to see if someone will sue the airlines for their deep vein thrombosis problem from being cramped in a seat designed for a 9 year old child.

    No, flying isn’t what it used to be. Today it’s a pain in the neck.

  2. Flying costs so much money when it is all said and done. That is why you have to get your work to pay for it. If you can do that it is worth it. Even with frequent flyer miles it still adds up to too much sometimes.

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