Between the costs, packing, getting to the airport on time and clearing security, flying can be stressful. Any surprises, particularly surprises in costs, can add to that stress.
VERIFY reader Julie asked if airlines are allowed to charge fees for any assistance you need from an airport agent. She said she was reaching out after receiving a confirmation email for a Frontier Airlines flight that warned her of a $25 fee for assistance at the airport.
Can airlines charge a fee to help you at the airport?
- U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Frontier Airlines
- Other budget airlines, including Spirit, Allegiant and Breeze
Yes, airlines can charge a fee to help you at the airport.
WHAT WE FOUND
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) allows airlines to create plane tickets with different amenities, and does not forbid airlines from charging an agent assistance fee. Several low-cost airlines, including Frontier, charge these fees for optional assistance at the airport for things customers can otherwise do at home or on their own.
The DOT says airlines are allowed to create different ticket types that include varying types of services. Some tickets may offer certain amenities, while others might only cover a bare-bones non-refundable flight. Airlines must clearly display the total price of a ticket after fees, surcharges and taxes are added in, the DOT says.
“It is important that you understand the type of ticket you are purchasing and what types of restrictions apply,” the DOT says.
The exception to this is that airlines cannot charge a disabled person a fee for airport assistance.
Frontier Airlines lists many different add-on services customers can purchase on its website. One of these is an “Airport Agent Assistance Charge” that customers can either pre-pay for or pay for at the airport for up to $25.
This airport agent can assist customers in printing their boarding pass, purchasing products and services, checking in to their flight and tagging and checking their bags. Frontier says customers can avoid paying this fee by checking in on the website or mobile app, bringing a printed or digital boarding pass, pre-purchasing all products and self-tagging their bags.
Not all passengers who need assistance from an airport agent are charged Frontier’s fee. Frontier says customers with disabilities, active duty U.S. military and people checking special bag items can forgo paying the airport agent assistance fee. Certain customers, like those who have paid for a pet in the cabin or for an extra seat for cabin baggage, or customers with a lap infant, can also avoid the fee.
Similar fees also exist for other, low-cost airlines. Spirit charges a $25 fee to print customers’ boarding passes at the airport's check-in counter, but does give customers the option to print their passes for free at a self-serve kiosk. Allegiant charges $5 to print a boarding pass at the airport and Breeze Airways charges customers $3 to do the same.
Correction (4/12/23): This story has been updated to clarify that Spirit's $25 fee only applies to the customers who print their boarding pass at the check-in counter at the airport, and not to customers who print their boarding pass at the airport's self-serve kiosk.