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Don’t Let The Basic Economy Gate-Service Fee Catch You By Surprise

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This year, airlines have introduced a new kind of fare, the “Basic Economy” ticket. Passengers with this ticket type board last and, on some airlines, only get to bring one carry-on item on board, paying the same fees as Economy travelers to check other luggage. Some passengers on United or American who didn’t read the fine print are getting hit with fees for bringing extra carry-on bags in addition to the fees for gate-checking those bags.

“This fee is not at all fair”

The Wall Street Journal reports that some passengers who have chosen to save money by booking a basic economy ticket (or who booked one without raelizing it) lose the money they saved when they have to pay to gate-check their carry-ons, in addition to paying a fee for forgetting their lowly status and bringing two carry-ons in the first place.

One traveler described paying $25 for his own carry-on suitcase and $35 for his wife’s, since she had already checked another bag. On top of that, they had to pay an extra $25 fee for each bag for bringing them to the gate.

“Whatever I saved with Basic Economy, I had to pay more, he told the WSJ. “This fee is not at all fair.”

A fee for forgetting

United and American have different names for the same type of fee, calling it a “gate-handling charge” or a “gate service fee.” They mean the same thing, though: It’s the fee that airlines charge you for forgetting that you aren’t allowed to have any space in the overhead bin.

“The whole guiding principle here is that it’s important for Basic Economy passengers to check all bags larger than a personal item,” a spokesman for American told the WSJ.

“We do everything we can to make sure customers do not reach the gate with a bag that needs to be gate-checked,” a United spokeswoman said when asked the same question.

It’s easier for agents at check-in to accept the bags and credit-card transactions, rather than having gate agents taking bags and processing payments closer to takeoff.

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