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Canadian Airfares Are Down, But There’s A Pretty Big Catch

You might think a lower airfare means more money in your pocket, but airlines are making up the cost in other ways.

Oftentimes, the ticket price doesn’t include everything you need for your flight, with added fees seemingly sneaking out of nowhere to the surprise of travellers once they reach the check-in, then the airplane.

As highlighted in a recent CBC article, the latest figures from Statistics Canada – based on flights offered by Air Transat, Air Canada and WestJet – revealed that domestic and international base fares combined averaged $248.70 in the third quarter of 2015. That figure is down 1.7 per cent from the same period in 2014.

This marks the second year in a row of a year-over-year decline in airline fares.

But don’t get too excited: the airlines make up for it with fees on everything from baggage and pillows to food.

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Gone are the days of the first free bag.

All major airlines now charge at least $25 for the first checked bag for economy fares on domestic and U.S. flights. As the CBC points out, Air Canada also requires a fee for sunny vacation destinations like the Caribbean, and AirTransat will add the charge in November.

At Porter, it now costs even more to check your bag than it did last year. A checked bag will now set you back at least $27.50, as opposed to the former fee of $25.00. If you leave the transaction for the airport, the airline will charge an additional $10.00 on top of this. That’s right: $37.50 before tax for your bag.

It was actually Porter who was the first Canadian airline to introduce the $25 checked bag fee for domestic flights back in May 2014.

It didn’t take long for the other major airlines to follow suit.

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The free meal is also becoming a thing of the past. WestJet doesn’t even offer free meals on international flights. With that said, we can collectively agree that the quality of airplane food across the board and the number of options available seems to be better than ever, even if we have to pay for it.

Yesterday, we told you about the new discount Canadian airline NewLeaf Travel, which just hit the scene with ultra low airline prices and even the option for travellers to bid on unsold seats.

The thing is, a carry-on bag on NewLeaf will set you back anywhere from $31.50 to $92.00 (yes, a carry-on). “NewLeaf would prefer if passengers checked their bags,” said spokeswoman Julie Rempel in an email to CBC News. The idea behind it is a speedier boarding time and “greater efficiency at the gate allows us to maintain our low fares.”

The thing is, NewLeaf passengers also have to pay up for checked luggage — from $26.25 online to as high as $80.50 at the gate.

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With these fees, your cheap flight isn’t so cheap anymore.

As we told you back in the spring, you may soon even have to pay to avoid the dreaded middle seat on flights on American airlines.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like the fees are going anywhere either: a new report reveals that the 10 biggest airlines in the world pulled in a record-breaking $26 billion in ancillary fees last year.

It’s interesting to note that the addition of added fees comes at a time when many airplane seats are smaller than ever (no, it’s not just in your head).

If things like baggage fees are giving you anxiety, don’t even think about changing a flight once it’s been booked – most of the time, it will literally set you back hundreds (and yes, I learned the hard way).

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