Breakdown of Fees Associated with Airline Tickets

In the past few years, airlines have implicated different types of airline fees in order to generate more revenue for the corporation. And of course, us being the clients have been on the negative end of this money grabbing service. In this post today, I will break down the type of airline fees we need to swallow today in order to get ourselves to our destination safely. I must warn that this is a fairly lengthy list.

Flight Taxes and Surcharges

Base Airfare

The base airfare is a ticket fare you would see anywhere minus the taxes and surcharge fees.

Let’s take a look at a sample flight from Ottawa to Vancouver. Here you can see that the outbound flight is $419.00 and the inbound flight is $322, making the total base fare at $741. But the final flight price is $900.43, almost two hundred dollars in taxes and surcharges.

Types of Airline Fees - ITA Matrix Breakdown

Carrier-Imposed Fee

This is what they used to call fuel surcharges. Airlines have stopped adding “fuel surcharges” to the final ticket price to avoid regulations which required airlines to connect fuel surcharges to the actual cost of fuel and having to explain to their passengers how this amount was calculated. Additionally, this surcharge is supposed to be calculated as a cost to fuel, but it is actually used to reduce commissions to travel agents.


This is the Travelers Security Charge which was implicated after the September 11, 2001 attack in New York. It used to be calculated in a flight segment cost; however, they have decided to change it into a flat rate per round-trip ticket that you purchase. As you can see above, Canadians are charged $14.25 for this section. For international travel, this fare will increase up to $25.92 CDN per passenger.

Harmonized Tax

For those who aren’t familiar with this term, it is the HST part of our flight ticket. Dependent on where we are purchasing the ticket, for Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland residents, this is 13% of the base fare, for Prince Edward Island, it is 14% and for Nova Scotia, it is 15%.

Quebec Sales Tax

Also known as QST, for all residents purchasing a flight ticket in Quebec, a 9.975% fee off the base fare will be applied on your final ticket price.

NavCanada Surcharge

This fee is use to fund NavCanada to operate terminal and enroute air navigation systems. For flights within Canada, this fare ranges from $9.00 to $20.00 CDN per one-way route and is based on the distance travelled. If you are travelling on a transborder flight, this fee becomes a flat rate of $7.50 CDN per one-way route.

Insurance Surcharge 

Some airlines charge an insurance coverage fee. This amount varies on which airline you are travelling with. Porter Airlines charges $3.00 CDN per one-way route for domestic flights. Similarly, WestJet Airlines also charges $3.00 CDN for this coverage. Some airline also combine this fare with the NavCanada surcharge.

Peak Travel Premium

If you are travelling during peak travel dates, depending on which route you decide to take, a Peak Travel Premium will be added to your final ticket total. Different airlines charge different amounts or this section.

Types of Airline Fees - Peak Travel Premium

If you take a look above, sometimes it may be hidden in a fine print section at the bottom of your flight ticket information. In this case, a surcharge of $200 CDN will be added to our fare due to the dates we have chosen.

Agriculture Fee

This is also called the APHIS fee which represents Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This fee is given to the Department of Agriculture to protect travelers from agricultural pests and diseases. This fee of $5.00 USD is charged on all in-bound passengers.

Airport Fees

This is also called the Airport Improvement Fee (AIF). It is an additional fee which is charged to departing or connecting travelers at an airport. The revenue generated from these fees are intended to fund major airport improvement projects and airport services. Airport Improvement Fees vary based on which airport you land in.

Types of Airline Fees - Airport Improvement Fee

As you can see above, airports in Canada charge different fees used for the same purpose.

Terminal Improvement Fee

This fee is applied to all passengers departing or connecting at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The proceeds were used to build the pedestrian tunnel which passes under the Western Gap and connects Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport on the Toronto Islands, with the mainland. This fare has been charged by Porter Airlines.

Passenger Facility Charge

This fee is used to fund FAA-approved projects which are meant to improve safety, security, increase noise, and increase air carrier competition. A fee will be applied to any passenger who departs from an airport in the US. This amount can be up to $4.50 per passenger. 

Immigration User Fee

This fee is applied to all transborder flights which arrive in the US. This means that a $7.00 USD fee will be applied to Canadian travelers crossing the Canada-US border by air or by sea.

Customs Processing Fee

In November 2011, a customs fee has been applied to Canadian travelers crossing the Canada-US border by air or by sea. The Customs Processing Fee will amount to $5.50 USD.

Segment Tax

A US segment tax will be applied to US Citizens flying on Canadian domestic flights if travel occurs in the US buffer zone which is near the border between the two countries.

Transportation Tax

For all transborder flights, there will be a US Transportation Tax applied to Canadian citizens which amount to a flat rate of $17.70 USD per passenger.

Foreign Taxes, Fees and Charges

If you are traveling to a foreign country, foreign governments may impose various fees, taxes and charges which may appear on your ticket. This fare is meant to offset costs which are related to security, customs, immigration, navigational services, environment and government facilitation matters.

Ticket and Baggage Service Fees

Voluntary Itinerary Change Fees

Depending on the type of flight ticket you originally purchased, if you wish to make changes to your travel itinerary, additional fees and fare upgrades may be applied. This varies on the type of changes you make.

Reservations Fee

Some airlines charge a fee for making flight reservations over the phone. This will be applied for every ticket purchased. Alaska Airlines charges $15 USD when you make a reservation by phone.

Last Minute Ticketing Fee

If you are purchasing a last minute ticket, sometimes there will be a fee applied to your final ticket price. For example, United Airlines charges $75 USD if your ticket was reserved within 21 days of your departure date.

Redeposit Miles Fee

If you book an award ticket and need to cancel it due to unforeseen reasons or an unexpected event, you may redeposit your award miles back into your loyalty account for a fee. Air Canada charges $90 CDN for this service, while Alaska Airlines charges $125 USD. Consequently, this fee is also varied on different airlines.

Same Day Change Fee

If you decide to change your flight reservation within 24 hours of booking, there may be a fee applied. WestJet Airlines charges each flight ticket $75 to $88.50 CDN for Econo Fares and $50 to $59 CDN for Flex Fares. This amount varies on different airlines.

Award Ticket Change Fee 

If you have purchased an award ticket, you may change the date and time of your flight ticket for a fee. Air Canada charges a $90 CDN change fee. Delta and United charge between $100 to $150 USD for this service.

Award Processing Fee

If you book your award ticket by phone, airline carriers will charge you a fee for that service as well as an issuing fee. The phone fee ranges from $15 to $40USD and the issuing fee is approximately $50 USD.

Seat Selection Fee

If you wish to choose your seat on a particular flight in advance, there may be a fee applied. Sometimes, airline carriers may even charge a fee for viewing the seat map days before departure. This fee ranges between $10 to $47.20 USD for WestJet flights and $20 to $80 CDN for Air Canada flights. This fare usually accounts for a round trip flight.

Close-In Booking Fee

If you are booking an award ticket, there is a window of time in which you will need to reserve your flight by. Most airline carriers require you approximately 21 days before departure in order to book an award ticket without any penalties. United Airlines charge $75 USD for this service.

Priority Boarding Fee

Some airlines will allow you to enter the aircraft earlier than other passengers. The purpose of this is to find space in the overhead cabinets. Unfortunately, priority boarding does not guarantee you a choice of seating. Both Delta Airlines and United Airlines charge $9 USD for this service.

Name Change Fee

When an event occurs and you need to transfer a ticket to another passenger, airline carriers may allow you to change the name of your ticket for a fee. In a majority of cases, this is not allowed; however, you may be able to under specific circumstances. This is considered a rebooking process. Frontier Airlines is one of the rare airlines which charge $50 to $100 USD for this service. Additionally, it is more likely that you can process a name change if it is due to a marriage or divorce.

Ancillary Services

First Checked Bag Fee

In recent years, airlines have converted to charging a fee for checking in your bag rather than making it complimentary when you book a flight with that particular carrier. Air Canada charges $25 CDN for every passenger who checks in their first baggage. WesJet Airlines also charges $25 USD for this service.

Second Checked Bag Fee

This is a fee applied to the passenger if they decide to check in two baggages. United Airlines charges $35 USD for the second bag.

Additional Bags Fee

This is a fee applied to the passenger if they need to check in more than two bags. Any additional bag after the second one will be charged a much higher fee. United Airlines charges $100 USD for any additional bag after the second one has been checked in.

Overweight Bags Fee

If your bag is over the specified weight, you will also be charged a fee. United Airlines charges $100 to $200 USD to the passenger for any bags overweight, depending how the amount you exceed. This could be up to $400 USD if you are travelling on an international flight.

Oversize Bags Fee

If your baggage is larger than the specified size, you will also be charged a fee. United Airlines charges the passenger $100 USD if your bag is oversized.

In-Cabin Pet Fee

If you wish to bring your pet on board with you, whether in the cabin or as a checked baggage, you will be charged a fee for this service. United Airlines charges $125 to $250 USD depending on different factors of your pet.

Checked Baggage Pet Fee

If you wish to bring your pet on board as a checked baggage, there will be a fee attached to this service. WestJet Airlines charges $75 to $88.50 USD for this service.

In-Flight Headphones Fee

When you’re on board the flight, there will be entertainment available and headphones for purchase. You can purchase Standard headphones on WestJet Airline flights for approximately $3.50 USD and noise cancelling ones for $30.00 USD.

In-Flight Meal Fee

While on board, you can also purchase in-flight meals. Food options ranges from snacks to hot meals and varies on different airline carriers. WestJet Airlines offers food options from $2 to $20 USD.

In-Flight Beverage Fee

Non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary on most flights, but if you wish to drink an alcoholic beverage in flight, you will need to purchase it (unless you are flying business or first class). WestJet Airlines charges $6.50 to $9 USD for their alcoholic drink options.

In-Flight Movies Pay-Per-View Fee

You can also purchase pay-per-view movies on board. WestJet Airlines charges each movie at approximately $6 USD.

In-Flight Blanket Fee

Some airline carriers offer this service for free, but if they do not, you have the option to purchase a blanket for your in-flight use. WestJet Airlines charges approximately $4.50 USD per blanket.

Unaccompanied Minor Fee

This is a fee applied to children travelling without a guardian, which varies depending on the airline carrier you choose to travel with. WestJet charges $100 to $118 for this section.

Lounge Fee

Every airport has a number of lounges offered by certain airline or credit card companies. Different travel will allow you to gain access to specific lounges in that particular airport. If you wish to visit a lounge, this fee usually ranges from $25 to $50 USD and accounts for a one-time access.

Travel Bank Credit Extension Fee

Offered by WestJet Airlines, Travel Bank is an account where you can “accumulate and save travel credits resulting from refundable ticket changes and cancellations”. This credit will expire in 12 months if you do not use them. However, you can extend this credit for an additional year at a fare of approximately $100 CDN.

Seafood Boxes Fee

If you are bringing home seafood, you do not need to purchase a seat for them, but you can purchase a seafood box. This service allows you to bring home seafood from your travels. Depending on the size of the box which you will need to fit your goods in, this fee ranges from $10 to $11.80 CDN.

Please note that not all the above fees will be added on your flight ticket, it will vary depending on what type of airline or type of flight you are taking. It seems that we may be scrutinizing the breakdown of airline fees but the same occurs in a cup of coffee at McDonald’s, it’s just that we may have not taken the time to consider this factor.

The bottom line is, there are many possible fees and surcharges attached to our final ticket price which can seem to get out of control as a passenger. If an airline carrier decides to charge an improvement fee for a particular airport and you are connecting or departing through that airport, you have no choice but to pay the fee.

However, there are some fees which can be waived depending on the situation and how you relay it to an agent. If you’re polite, there is a high chance you will get some airline fees waived as agents are facing different customers all day.


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