Direct Flight

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So, what's the real cost of flying these days?

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(Credit: AP)

I just returned from two weeks touring the wild west (photos to come). I've been to a lot of places, but this was the most visually interesting trip I've ever taken (details forthcoming, too).

I shelled out an additional $40 apiece for "Extra Space" seats in rows 2 and 3 for each of my 4 family members, which came with "Extra Speed" access to a priority security line. This was well worth the cost, considering I have a bum leg and we got to board the plane first and got first dibs on overhead compartments. It also came with a full-body scan, for which only I was singled out on the return flight from Las Vegas-McCarran. (It's not as bad as some people report. In fact, I didn't even realize what was going on until it was over; I thought I was just standing in a big metal detector, and nobody informed me otherwise or even asked permission. Of course, I'm glowing now, but that's another story.)

I paid $6 each for my daughters to watch the seventh "Harry Potter" movie because, naturally, the 37 free Direct TV channels were not good enough for their dear, unspoiled hearts. I got to watch the Casey Anthony verdict announced live on Fox News for free. Then there was the food. JetBlue is great for providing unlimited snacks and soft beverages, and so I made a lunch of Quaker multigrain fiber crisps, Linden chocolate chip cookies, Dunkin' Donuts tea and Aquarius spring water. Boxed "meals" also were available for purchase for $6 each, which seemed steep for what appeared to be freakishly small boxes of Hickory Farms-type sausage and cheese numbers (other boxes contained fruit, cheese, Cheez-its, hummus, crackers, etc.).

Pillow and blanket sets were being hawked for $7 and promoted as "drool-free" by the flight attendant, who also was selling headphones for $2. I passed on both, as well as the $6 cocktails.

JetBlue is one of the few airlines that still allow you to check in one bag for free, which I did, but some other airlines charge even for the first piece of luggage.

So what was the true cost of my flight? I flew on TrueBlue miles, but redeeming them set me back $5. Add that to my onboard expenses, and I paid $192 for the 4 of us, not counting the decadent grab-and-go turkey-and-pesto sandwiches at the airport, which neither of my daughters finished (too salty, they contended) and drinks that set me back another $45 in total. So that's $237 for 4 free one-way trips. (If you're wondering how I scored 4 one-way trips, it's not because I fly constantly; I don't. But I charge nearly all my bills (insurance, utilities, cable TV, Internet access, etc.) to my JetBlue-branded American Express card. Not only do I earn at least one point for every dollar charged, but I only have to write one check at the end of the month. Win-win.

I totally get that my purchases were optional, but it got me thinking: What's the real cost of flying these days? Ticket prices aren't indicative, especially with all the taxes and FAA fees tacked on these days. So I poked around a bit and found this very handy chart by the folks at CreditDonkey.com: 

Infographics: Real Cost of Flying
CreditDonkey image

Tags: airlines , Jet Blue , flying

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