Is $100 too much for Global Entry? Get Mobile Passport Control for free

If you’re willing to part with $100, undergo a background check and submit to a brief interview, you can get a card that entitles you to five years of streamlined movement through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection system.

Global Entry allows you to bypass what are frequently long lines at Customs upon arrival in the United States. The pass does not exempt holders from standard regulations, and you could still be spot-checked. But for most situations, the move through these lines is much faster with Global Entry.

Global Entry costs $15 when you consider that five years of membership in TSA’s Pre-Check program is $85, and  you get both with the Global Entry fee. But some budget travelers might say that since they don’t travel internationally all that often (and maybe only take one or two domestic flights per year), these products are a waste of money.

Ready for a free U.S. Customs loophole?

In the interest of keeping those lines moving, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol offers a free program called Mobile Passport Control. This system, which started in 2016, allows U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors to go to the coveted express lane at 24 of the nation’s busiest customs facilities.

All you’ll need is a mobile phone and the ability to download the Mobile Passport app from either Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Once installed, you simply fill out and store your profile (including a selfie you take with your phone’s camera) and then complete an entry form for each individual trip. The app produces a Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code that is presented to a customs officer along with a valid passport.

If you travel with other family members, the account created in the app can accommodate up to 12 additional profiles. All information is transmitted between your phone and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol via secure encryption protocols.

Although you don’t push “submit the form” until after landing in the United States, it’s possible to fill out much of the information while still en-route or even before departure.

In addition to saving money on the Global Entry membership, Mobile Passport Control might be more convenient in some facilities. On several occasions, I’ve had trouble using the frequently used and abused machines in the so-called express line. On one re-entry, it took four or five tries to get the machine to function properly.

Your mobile phone signal is the only limiting factor with MPC, and travelers such as The Points Guy have been pleased with the efficiency.

I still like the convenience of TSA Pre-Check, but when my Global Entry card expires in a few years, I might save the $15 and use MPC.

Don’t Be So Afraid of Spirit Airlines

(c)Mark D. Kahler

Despite the friendly “HOWDY” that appears on the wingtips of Spirit Airlines planes, lots of travelers approach the budget carrier with fear and trepidation.

With Spirit and all budget carriers, there are indeed reasons for budgetary caution. Spirit, for example, requires fees not only for checked baggage, but also for cabin stowing of carry-ons.

Yet there’s no reason to automatically reject a low Spirit airfare without at least making a few calculations and considerations. I present an example from my recent travels.

I had reason to make a brief (one night) trip from Chicago O’Hare to Greenville, South Carolina. Round-trip fares five weeks prior to the trip were consistently priced at more than $400. That’s before renting a car or booking a hotel.

Knowing that alternative airports can save money, my next airfare search was for Atlanta, about 160 miles away. Spirit offered nonstop service for $140 round-trip, including a one-day intermediate car rental with unlimited mileage through Dollar. Bundled as a so-called “vacation package,” the car rental amounted to less than $15!

Remember, that $125 airfare figure transports only my flesh and bones between Chicago and Atlanta. Each flight segment on Spirit requires a $35 fee per carry-on item, or $30 for each checked bag. It’s important to snag nonstop flights when available and make the annoying baggage arrangements early to avoid much higher fees later.

A man with a rolling carry-on in front of me apparently neglected to do so. He was pulled out of line and informed that he would need to cough up $65 for the privilege of continuing the trip with bag in tow.

Good travelers don’t make those mistakes. But they can still pay dearly for previously routine privileges under the budget airline model.

My $140 flight was going to be $210 if I brought a carry-on bag. Other add-ons include choosing a seat ($9-$35 per flight segment), early boarding privileges ($6 per flight) or skipping a boarding pass printing at home in favor of airport check-in ($10).

All the fees are clearly displayed at alongside vague threats of added expense if the baggage options are ignored at booking.

Take note, however, of one baggage freebie: each passenger is allowed one “personal item” no larger than 18″ x 12″ x 8″ (roughly the size of a puffed up laptop bag). This must fit under the seat in front of you.

For my one-day trip, I needed to bring a business suit, a change of clothing, some toiletries and a few random documents. I wore the suit on the flight, meaning the rest of what I needed fit comfortably into a laptop bag. There was also room to squeeze in a book to read on the plane.

Sorry Spirit, but your revenue on bags for this passenger is $0.

Not too practical for a multi-day trip, I know. But two people with strong packing skills, flying together for a few days, could split a checked bag and cut costs significantly.  One more advantage: if I don’t have to worry about carry-on space, there’s really no need for me to book priority boarding. That’s $6 saved per flight segment.

I printed my boarding passes at home for the outbound flight and in my hotel’s business center for the trip home. At this point, I’ve short-circuited any reason to be afraid of booking on Spirit.

Now, I can enjoy that nice round-trip airfare and inexplicable car rental rate. Confession: to aid in my enjoyment, I did spend $9 each way for reserving a window seat. That’s $18 for four hours worth of loading, taxiing, and flying.

The thought of spending four hours in a middle seat scares me a lot more than Spirit’s fee structure.

Strategies for Fighting Jet Lag

(c)Mark D. Kahler

Jet lag is one of those conditions that can extract value from your travel investment. If you’re not managing it properly, you can lose multiple days from your itinerary.

It is not possible to completely eliminate jet lag symptoms, especially on longer flights that cross five or more time zones. These symptoms include malaise, headache, drowsiness and perhaps bowel irregularity. To be sure, jet lag hits travelers in a variety of ways. None of those ways is welcomed.

Take a look at eight simple strategies for fighting jet lag.

Schedule Arrival as Closely to Local Bedtime as Possible

The longest air trip I’ve ever taken was a 14-hour flight from Detroit to Beijing. Daunting though it may sound, this schedule had one built-in advantage: the time of arrival.

We touched down in Beijing at about 9:30 p.m. local time. By the time we got to the hotel, it was probably 10:30. Exhausted and groggy from the long trip, we simply went to sleep. Millions of others were doing the same thing all across the city.

The next day, we woke at about 7 a.m. to bright sunshine. It wasn’t quite the same feeling as a typical wake-up at home, but I don’t remember jet lag posing any difficulty as we explored the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

If you can find a flight that arrives late in the destination day, you’ll be one step ahead.

Mentally Adjust to New Time Zone before Departure

In the days prior to departure, some budget travelers try to adjust their bedtimes gradually in the direction of destination time. It’s a great idea. Yet for many of us, it’s simply not practical.

But there’s one pre-flight adjustment anyone can make.

Whether crossing one time zone or 12, it’s good practice to reset your watch to destination time as the plane is leaving the gate.

Don’t do it on the way to the airport. Don’t make the switch after your arrival. Take advantage of a moment in time when your trip is just about to start, and make the mental adjustment.

Don’t let someone tell you it’s 3 a.m. back home as you’re within an hour of your destination. Show them your watch and say “as far as I’m concerned, this is the time.”

Use your new time reference to decide if you really need to eat that heavy meal the airline is serving at 4:20 a.m. destination time. What you really should be doing at that hour is sleeping.

Sleep on the Plane

This is the simplest of advice, and yet sleep is so elusive on an airplane. There are scores of noises and distractions. Even in business class or first class, it’s tough for many of us to put together several hours of quality REM sleep.

But even a few minutes of sleep can be helpful as you fight jet lag. It helps reset the body’s circadian rhythms — the quicker your reset, the fewer problems you’ll have with jet lag.

Some airlines will give you slippers and an eye mask, and some travelers find a way to pipe “white noise” into their ears with headphones to minimize outside distractions. Naturally, not all of these techniques work for every traveler.

Another approach is to ask the flight attendant not to disturb you for a period of time. That means no duty-free offers and no food or drink service. Of course, if you’re in the middle seat, you might be awakened by a passenger who needs to get by you to use the restroom. Sleep is best achieved in window seats if you can’t afford to upgrade to first class.

Remain Hydrated

The air is dry in a pressurized cabin that’s 38,000 ft. above sea level. When those conditions are maintained for five or more hours, it’s easy to become dehydrated.

Flight attendants are usually careful to offer water to their guests, and you should take advantage of these opportunities. Hydration is helpful as you fight jet lag symptoms.

Use Drugs and Supplements with Caution

Travelers sometimes fight jet lag with sedatives (to promote sleeping in the airplane seat), or dietary supplements.

The most common supplement for this purpose is melatonin, a hormone that occurs in nature and is used by some doctors to treat sleep disorders.

Travelers frequently disagree on how much melatonin to take before a flight, and some say it’s best avoided altogether.

There are also other packaged herbal supplements promoted for use against jet lag symptoms that can be ordered online or purchased in stores selling travel products. Some people have great success with these supplements. Personally, I have not found them all that helpful.

Another caveat: alcohol consumption can further disrupt natural sleep cycles. Avoid that glass of wine to “calm down” during the flight.

Whatever you decide, please consult your physician for advice before making any final decisions.

Stay Awake and Active on Day One

Do yourself a favor and wage the jet lag fight on day one.

If you arrive in the morning, it is best to stay awake all day and go to bed in the evening (at least 8-9 p.m.) local time. The best way to reset your body’s 24-hour clock is to stay in sunlight, walk, and experience the destination city.

This does not mean you have to run a 5K race shortly after arrival. Nothing strenuous is necessary. But taking a four-hour nap is likely to push the effects of jet lag into the next day, and cause you to wake up at times when the new schedule dictates sleep.

You might still feel a bit groggy or wake up at an odd hour on day two, but for many people these effects are greatly minimized if they’ve confronted jet lag head-on in day one.

Schedule Light Itineraries after Arrival

While it’s important to take naps very sparingly (if at all) during the first day, it’s equally advantageous to start slowly after crossing a number of time zones. This means saving the most anticipated moments of your trip for several days after arrival if at all possible.

Day one might be a good time to take a bus tour of the city. Make windshield observations of the places you’ll want to explore more closely when your senses are sharper. Try to avoid complicated purchases or money exchanges. Take it easy and relax — just don’t go to sleep until evening!

Airline Bumping: Good News and Bad News

(c)Mark D. Kahler

Almost a year ago, a Kentucky doctor was dragged down the aisle of a United commuter flight scheduled to depart Chicago O’Hare for Louisville. He had refused to surrender his seat during an involuntary bump, and the confrontation attracted international attention.

Airlines routinely bump booked passengers from flights when too many people show up at the gate with boarding passes. These oversold flights, we have been told, are a necessary evil because a struggling industry can’t afford empty seats.

Business travelers, for example, often purchase extremely expensive but fully refundable airline tickets. If these reservations are canceled just before the flight, filling the empty seats with another paying customer often is difficult.

Each airlines has a mathematical formula designed to oversell a flight just enough to compensate for last-minute no-shows. Note the word “designed.” It’s far from an exact science, which is why people are asked to volunteer to be bumped.

In the absense of volunteers, an involuntary bump occurs. That’s what happened in Chicago.

The scene last April was ugly. David Dao, the 69-year-old doctor who insisted he must return to his practice the next day, was the focus of smartphone cameras as he was forcibly dislodged from his booked seat, bleeding and shouting as passengers — some of whom were children — watched in horror.

The public relations firestorm that followed prompted United to make a media-documented promise to improve customer service. One specific goal was to reduce the number of bumped passengers from the airline’s departures. Soon, other airlines were joining in on that pledge.

It appears that effort to cut down on bumping is quite successful.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation, bumping cases in 2017 reached their lowest level since such statistics first were kept in 1995.

The release says U.S. carriers “posted a bumping rate of 0.34 per 10,000 passengers,” wiping out the previous low mark of 0.62 in 2016.

The release continues: “These carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.18 per 10,000 passengers for the fourth quarter of 2017, an improvement over the 0.55 rate for the fourth quarter of 2016.”

From October through December 2017, Delta reported 24,793 passengers were bumped voluntarily from their flights. This means these travelers agreed to give up a booked seat, most likely in exchange for compensation.

An involuntary bump occurs when the airline cannot recruit any ticketed passengers to give up seats. Delta only reported 10 involuntary bumps in that time frame.

One year earlier, those numbers for Delta were 36,471 and 326.

United’s decline in bumping was even more dramatic. Voluntary bumps for those same months in 2017 are reported at 8,483, down from 15,696 during the same period in 2016. Involuntary bumps at United dropped from 891 to 44. Other major carriers showed similar results. Indeed, United claims in its fourth quarter report to have decreased involuntary bookings 92 percent from April-December 2017.

All of this is good news for travelers who don’t want unexpected travel delays, and the airlines certainly are to be commended for taking better control of the overbooking issue.

But there are some travelers who are bound to be a bit disappointed.

Some budget-minded fliers show up at the airport actually hoping to be bumped in exchange for vouchers that cut the costs of future trips. In some cases, vouchers worth $500 or more in future travel could be secured for a few hours of inconvenience.

We show up early to the gate, and ask the attendant if the flight is overbooked. If so, we announce that we might be willing to volunteer for a bump in return for free future travel. This usually comes as welcome news to the gate attendants, who don’t look forward to recruiting volunteers or, worse, involuntarily bumping a booked passenger.

After the Dao incident, both United and Delta announced they’d be willing to offer up to $10,000 in compensation to bumped passengers. The maximum amount offered for that fateful United flight was $800.

It still doesn’t hurt to quietly ask about oversold flights upon arrival at the gate. Overbooking probably won’t disappear in the near future. But if you’re thinking a nice fat travel voucher will pay for next year’s vacation, it might be time to formulate a backup plan.


Do You Get Ready for Airport Security?

You get ready to go out to dinner. You make preparations for places you’ll visit on your trip.

But do you actually make yourself ready to pass through airport security?

Step one should take place before you ever leave home.

Check Luggage for Surprises

Imagine this: you’re in the TSA security line with a family member, and you get a tap on the shoulder. This family member covertly reveals a large pocket knife and a worried glance.

Explanation? A few months earlier, he had used the suitcase during a move to transport some small items, including the knife. He had forgotten about that move until noticing the outline of the knife in an outer compartment.

At this point, you can explain yourself to security, and they might let you through without being detained. But the knife will be confiscated. In our case, there was a trash barrel prior to the screening point for bottled water. The knife wound up in the trash.

Make it common practice to check all the compartments of your luggage for potential contraband before you leave home.

Put the Phone Away

In almost every such line I’ve ever entered in recent years, I’ll see multiple people using mobile phones. This might be a part of your daily routine, but it’s also a fairly common example of what not to do in a security line.

That phone should be stashed in your carry-on baggage by the time you enter the screening area. Your ticket and boarding pass are all that should be in your hands.

Find a waiting area just outside the entrance to security and stow these other items as well: wristwatch, metal belt, wallet, keys, jewelry, pocket change, and of course, the phone.

There are two important reasons for making this adjustment. One involves keeping the line moving. When you stop to slowly remove these items one-by-one in the security line, you take time away from everyone behind you.

The second reason is rooted in security. There are bandits who work in teams and remove wallets and jewelry from the conveyor belt before the owner becomes aware of the problem. It’s a risky crime, and your chances of being a victim are slim. Why take a chance? No one is going to palm your carry-on. But your wallet is easy to snatch and pass.

Dress for Success

Do you really want to wear that outfit with all the metal zippers on it? You’ll almost certainly be pulled out of line for an additional “wanding” with a hand-held metal detector.

If you don’t have TSA Pre✓™, you’ll be removing your shoes during this process. Wear loafers or some other kind of footwear that can be removed and restored quickly.

That jacket you’re wearing will have to come off, too. Be prepared to place it on the conveyor belt if you didn’t remove it and stow it prior to getting in line.

Get Behind a Competent Traveler

At larger airport security areas, you’ll often have line choices as you approach the scanning checkpoint. Your long line will break into several shorter lines. This is an important moment in your security journey.

By now, it’s possible you’ve spotted a frequent flier. He or she appears to have done this many times. They’re not talking on the phone. They aren’t wearing metal.

You should follow this person whenever possible. They will pass through the checkpoint quickly.

Someone who looks confused or has several children in tow is less likely to breeze through the area.

Take Out Laptops and Tablets

If you choose to travel with a laptop or a tablet, realize that in a standard security line at U.S. airports, it must come out of your luggage and go through the scanner in its own bin.

Some travelers believe they can save time by simply keeping it in the carry-on bag. Others think that when personnel see what is obviously a laptop bag, they’ll simply let it go through the scanner.

This is an important exception to the previous advice about stowing expensive items. You will frequently buy yourself delay and scrutiny if you fail to follow this rule.

The examination of laptops is almost universal, but the rule on unpacking tablets can vary between countries or even between checkpoints within a country.

In London, I failed to take out a tablet and it cost me about 30 minutes at the security checkpoint. Thinking it was not necessary proved to be incorrect, and the personnel proceeded to unpack and inspect every item in my luggage.

This lengthy, intrusive process doesn’t begin immediately at many checkpoints. You’ll wait in line behind others who made the same mistake. Security personnel usually are not all that sympathetic about final boarding call concerns.

Assume all laptops and tablets need inspection and put them in plain sight. If there is someone else in your party, have them go ahead of you so they can keep an eye on your valuable electronics at the other end of the scanner.

Know the Restrictions on Liquids

As with laptops and tablets, any liquids, aerosols or gels in your carry-on luggage will receive attention at airport security checkpoints.

The best advice is to leave all such items at home, but that’s not always practical. The next best approach is to stow all such liquids in a see-through plastic freezer bag.

In the U.S., you can bring liquids on a plane, but only in certain quantities.

The best way to remember the rule is to think of it as the 3-1-1 Regulation: bottles must be 3.4 fl. oz. or less (100 ml), one quart transparent plastic bag hermetically sealed, and one bag per passenger placed in the inspection container.

Any quantity larger than 3.4 fl. oz. will not make it on the flight, and you’ll be asked to discard it.

So as you work on preparing lightweight baggage prior to leaving for the airport, make the 3-1-1 routine part of your packing process.

If Randomly Selected, Keep Words to a Minimum

One moment you’re waiting patiently in line, and the next moment someone says “You need to come with me.”

It’s a shocking development. You fear you’ve been mistaken for a terrorist. The natural inclination is demand justice and a full explanation.

But a better approach is to simply follow the instruction. Chances are good that you’ve been selected for “enhanced screening.” Such screenings are supposed to occur at random.

This process can also surface if you trigger an alert — perhaps you forgot to remove some change from your pocket.

The more you express your discomfort or disapproval, the more likely you’ll be seen as a person of interest. This is a moment when it pays to be uninteresting. Follow directions.

If it becomes clear this is more than a random enhanced screening, you’ll need to speak up and politely ask some questions. But chances are excellent that you’ll be on your way in a few seconds.

Practice One-Bag Travel

If you’ve ever tried to keep track of three or four bags while passing through airport security, you know it’s slow and stressful business.

Maybe you had small children with you. Perhaps you were unaware that most airlines only allow one carry-on and one small bag.

Excess baggage devalues your trip in many ways. Start with ever-increasing airline baggage fees, especially among budget carriers. Then consider how a bunch of bags will limit opportunities for cheap ground transportation. You’ll be less nimble, and finding storage lockers in the post-9/11 world is not easy. Finally, you’ll appear less competent as a traveler. Thieves and scam artists look for people who lack know-how.

Limit yourself to one bag. This checkpoint is the first of many places where you’ll benefit by keeping baggage to a minimum.

The people in line behind you will be grateful, too.

Allow Extra Time to Clear Security

Much of the advice here might seem rather obvious. It is. But you’d be surprised how many people violate these very basic tenets of good airport etiquette and efficiency.

Even if you follow all of this advice, it’s a mistake to assume quick passage through airport security. Showing up late at the airport is a common and costly mistake.

In large airports, security lines tend to be long. Outbound business travelers can make Monday mornings slow and difficult, even in medium-sized airports. Holiday travel periods bring out lots of novice travelers who move slowly through security.

In these situations, allow 90 minutes or more to get through airport security. You might not need that much time, but on occasion, the time cushion could save you the expense of a missed flight.

Pack a good book. Relax in the waiting area and read it. Let others scramble and stress about making it to the gate on time.




United’s Customer Service Fiasco

One of my all-time favorite television programs is The Andy Griffith Show.

Don Knotts brilliantly portrayed the nervous, by-the-book Deputy Barney Fife. A number of plots in the show’s early years went like this: Deputy Barney used his authority to enforce the letter of the law, creating sticky and frequently hilarious situations. Sheriff Andy Taylor would intervene, to Barney’s initial dismay, counteracting his deputy’s orders for the benefit of those caught up in the mishap.

If I had my way, these plots would be required viewing for United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz.

United needed to clear four seats on a flight to Louisville, Ky. from Chicago O’Hare. The seats were needed to transfer a new United crew for a Louisville-based flight.

This is an ugly task: replace four paying customers with four of your own employees, and make these changes on the plane where everyone already had been boarded.

This situation has trouble written all over it, and one would think the airline proceeds with extreme caution and understanding. Instead, here’s what happened: The next flight to Louisville was nearly 24 hours in the future, so United offered $400 and a free hotel room in exchange for vacating the seat. No takers. They upped the dollar value of this offer to $800. Still no one interested.

Thus began the dreaded involuntary bumping. Three of the four passengers left the plane without incident, but the fourth, a Kentucky physician, refused to budge.

69-year-old David Dao insisted he had patients to see the next day, and getting home was a priority. His refusal led to a call from the United crew to airport security. The result was a violent, ugly scene captured on a passenger’s smartphone video that has gone viral. Video shows Dao’s face bloodied, and it shows security dragging him down the aisle and out of the plane as men, women and children watched.

Millions of outraged social media users vowed never to fly United again. Comedians such as Jimmy Kimmel had a field day. An online contest popped up, soliciting new United Airlines slogans.

As some laughed, many others saw this as a sad, completely avoidable event.  These observers were infuriated by the way United forged ahead with such heavy-handed tactics.

What many did not understand is that everything United did was within the letter of the law.

Airlines are allowed to overbook flights and bump paying passengers. If they wind up with too few seats, they must ask for volunteers who are willing to be bumped to another flight. After that, they are permitted to involuntarily bump passengers, even those who have been ticketed and seated in the cabin.

Airline crews also have the power to determine who will fly and who will leave the plane. They work with airport security to remove passengers who could pose an annoyance or threat in a confined space. I have no quarrel with this policy. In fact, if it is ever reversed, I’ll trade airline tickets for a cabin on a ship or train.

The problem is that United, like fictional Barney Fife, fails miserably at finding solutions rooted in customer service, adhering instead to a rigid legalism.

The latest J.D Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study puts United at the bottom of the rankings for traditional carriers, the same position it ranked the previous year.

Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik poses the hypothesis that United employees who deal directly with travelers might not have the authority to resolve problems. These employees, often at the bottom of the corporate food chain, might fear losing their jobs far more than the loss of a customer or the threat of a public relations disaster. In light of that fear, they will cite chapter and verse from the contract of carriage, no matter the costs.

Hiltzik points to Muñoz’s initial internal memo on the Dao matter. It wasn’t a pledge to serve the flying public and an outright apology. Instead, Muñoz observed that the airline agents “were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight.”

Perhaps under the airline’s culture, they indeed had “no choice.”

It took a third statement from the CEO to finally produce something resembling an appropriate apology — a statement crafted (finally) with the paying public in mind.

The impending investigation and litigation will uncover the details of this ill-fated, involuntary bump of a paying passenger. In retrospect, an offer of $2,000 to take that next-day flight might have saved the airline millions.

But who has the authority to authorize that kind of incentive?

United and other airlines would do well to change their corporate cultures and empower people who deal directly with the flying public. Give them the latitude to put an end to these situations quickly and, if necessary, outside of the letter of the contract of carriage.

This would allow airlines in potentially damaging moments to, as Barney Fife would say, “nip it in the bud” and end the threat. Sheriff Andy Taylor would grin and nod his approval.

In an industry heavily dependent on repeat customers, it also would make good business sense.

Just How Expensive is Your Flight?


The U.S. Department of Transportation wants airlines to be more transparent about fees that impact the cost of air travel.

Secretary Anthony Foxx wants a new rule that would require airlines to prominently display their added fees at ticketing time.

Here’s an excerpt of the DOT news release on May 21: “Currently, fees for additional services are often difficult to determine when searching for airfares and as a result, many consumers are unable to understand the true cost of travel before purchasing a ticket.”

Airlines are not happy about the proposed rule, and management claims adding this burden will result in higher costs that will be passed along to consumers.

However you might feel about government intervention in private enterprise, there is one good point to be made here: it’s often difficult to comparison shop, because the fee structures vary greatly from airline to airline. An airline with the lowest airfare but sky-high fees might not offer the cheapest ride.

Patrick Surry of published a study of how fees impact the true costs of flying. Surry found making changes in variables such as change fees and wi-fi availability “can significantly increase the true cost of flying.”

The analysis, for some reason, doesn’t include Southwest Airlines. But it is an interesting look at what it really costs to fly these days, and it should make us all think about what amenities we’re willing to pay for at time of ticket purchase, and which we gladly can forgo.