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Soaring Fuel Costs Spark New Airline Fees

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Feel like you’ve been nickled and dimed to death by the airlines? If so, get ready for even more new fees.

“I don’t think that there’s anything that’s off the table in the airline industry,” said Rick Seaney, CEO of the travel website

“The major new one that’s out there is actually charging for your seat assignment,” Seaney said.  “I think families of four will start paying anywhere from $10 to $16 to start picking their seats.”

Only elite or business and first-class passengers would be exempt from the airlines’ proposed seat assignment fee.  “What they’ll do probably is allow you to have it for free only if you want to book it in the last 24 hours.  But if you want to have it pre-confirmed you’ll have to pay a fee.”

Sky-high fuel costs are behind the latest round of added fees.  The soaring price of oil is burning through the industry’s profit margins.  American Airlines, United Continental and Delta are among the carriers considering various new fees that include charging for customized travel experiences.  In future, you may be able to get fancy food and champagne in economy class – if you pay extra. Access to priority security lines and travel concierge services are also being considered.

Airlines prefer complex fees to additional fare hikes.  Already the industry has announced six domestic fare increases this year.

JetBlue and Southwest don’t charge an extra fee for checked bags.  But other airlines do.  If more fees are added by some airlines, but not others, it makes it harder for consumers to make comparisons.  

Seaney says when you book a trip, make sure to understand the total cost, which includes all fees and taxes – and be flexible.

“Airlines love people who have to go on a certain day at a certain time,” Seaney said.

Those passengers will always pay more than bargain hunters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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