"Delta drops some fees and surcharges

For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Extra fees on travel costs are often cooly slipped into the marketplace. When prices go over a certain threshold, travelers back off and either eliminate the trip or cut back on other costs such as a lower quality hotel room or a smaller less fancy rental car.
But recently one hometown airline has had to ‘cave’ on certain extra charges due to a backlash of its best and most loyal customers. This is the case with a number of fee-based services with Delta Air Lines. Although the dropping of some fees is due in part to Delta’s recent merge with Northwest Airlines and its intent to have cohesive policies.

Here’s an update on the recent changes:

• As of December 1, Delta will no longer charge a $3 fee to check bags at its nationwide curbside locations.

• Delta passengers traveling internationally can now use curbside check-in and baggage drop at all domestic Delta curbside locations.

• Delta is ditching is fee-based program for passengers wishing to choose a prime exit row seat or up-front window and aisle seats with a bit more legroom. The program previously cost a passenger from $5 to as much as $25 extra. Delta’s most frequent flyers cried foul when they were forced to compete for these same seats with paying coach passengers. SkyMiles Medallion members, WorldPerks Elite members, SkyTeam Elite members and passengers holding full-coach fares (Y or B class) may select a “Coach Choice” seat at no additional charge 24 hours in advance with online check-in or at an airport kiosk.

• Delta has reduced its fee to book award mile tickets by phone from $25 to $20. The carrier doesn’t charge a fee for customers booking award tickets online at Delta.com.

• Delta will no longer be collecting fuel surcharges on SkyMiles and WorldPerks award travel. When fuel prices were much higher than today’s prices, all airlines tacked on fees ranging from $25 to $100. Most airline loyalty mileage programs no longer charge the fee. But customers buying regular tickets must still pay the high surcharges, where applicable (typical round-trip tickets to Europe are surcharged about $320 in addition to taxes).

• Delta has improved its check-in kiosks that reduce the number of clicks to just one - from start to finish - for passengers traveling without checked luggage. Other passengers can expect to be on their way to security lanes and the departure gate after just a 30-second kiosk check-in. Delta has over 1,300 kiosks in 195 cities in the U.S. Passengers can also print out a boarding pass from the home or office when checking-in at Delta.com.

• Here’s the scoop on checked bags: On domestic trips started on or after December 5 on Delta/Northwest, passengers will be charged $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second checked bag. Customers who purchased Delta tickets on or before November 5, and who are traveling on or after December 5, will be charged $50 for a second bag, but will be permitted to check their first bag without charge (keeping with Delta’s previous policy). First or Business Class passengers, including SkyMiles Medallion members and WorldPerks Elite members, can check up to three bags (up to 70 pounds each) free. Those same customers traveling in Coach can check up to two bags free. Full-fare Coach travelers (ticketed in Y class) can check up to two bags free with each weighing no more than 50 pounds. Exceptions apply for U.S. military personnel (check Web sites for details).

• New family security lanes have been opened at airports across the country. The TSA planned these new lanes to accommodate families needing to have a little more time to present their carry-on items for x-ray and hand-check. These new lanes can be used by anyone wishing to go a bit slower while avoiding lines with other rushed and frantic travelers. They are designed for travelers with special needs or traveling in wheelchairs. Screeners will direct willing families into these specially marked lanes where parents can pass through at their own pace. Also, the special family lanes located at 45 of the nation’s largest airports will be equipped with special scanners to screen larger bottles of medical liquids (more than the currently permitted three ounces) such as contact-lens solution and infant formula. The TSA say these lanes are permanent.

• Remember that any liquids you plan to drink onboard your flight must be purchased after you have passed through the airport security lanes. Savvy budget travelers wishing to save up to $3 on a bottled water carry an empty sturdy plastic bottle to refill at drinking fountains. Hey, you worked hard to find that low-fare ticket, so why spend the savings it at the airport?"