Take flight: 7 tips to save on airline travel

Would it be easier to flap your arms and hope for lift-off?

While airline deals are there to be had, the fees tacked on are climbing faster than a plane through clouds. This week, Delta Air Lines announced it is adding a $5 surcharge for paying for checked baggage fees at the airport instead of online. It goes into effect Aug. 4, and follows moves made by others like US Airways and United Airlines.

Fees are tacked on at many airlines for any checked bags, some charge for non-alcoholic beverages, others add on if you select your own seat, and at least two charge a fee for bookings made online.

It takes some savvy shopping to ensure a real flight deal, piecing together the array of extras that add to the overall tab. Just because a ticket is a steal at first-glance, one would be wise to look further before heading to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Southwest Airlines has avoided many of the extra fees, but since they don’t fly into Atlanta, you’d have to drive to Birmingham, Ala. to take off.

To help you navigate the process before you take to the friendly skies, check out these tips. These won’t make the fees disappear. But the more you save on the front-end, the less painful all the extras will seem.

Keep in mind:

1. Be flexible: Don’t back yourself into a box by an unwillingness to fly at different times or on off-peak days.

2. Be patient: Sometimes the least expensive flights might require you to have a lay-over or change planes. Decide how quickly you have to get to your destination.

3. Pack light: Extra bags more often than not will cost you extra money. So will heavy bags.

4. Shop around: Comparison shopping is important; Be prepared to make the purchase when you see a can’t-miss deal, though.

5. Use your calculator: Make sure you’re checking out the fees and taxes that apply to the flight. It could add up.

6. Airline site: We use aggregators so much, we sometimes forget that some of the best prices are actually on the airline’s website.

7. E-alerts: Sign up for email alerts to be quickly notified when an airline has a special.

For more on saving on airplane tickets, check out Clark Howard’s tips.

And for daily travel deals, near and far, as well as trip advise and destination stories, click here for ajc.com coverage.

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