Whoever thought that the airline industry would come to this? We’re charged fees for everything. The only thing that comes with a plane ticket these days is the plane and a bathroom. In fact, these fees have become so widespread that the total amount of fees paid by travelers in the 2nd quarter of 2011was $1.38 billion yet the airline industry still isn’t considered healthy by investors.

Although it’s difficult to avoid paying all of the airline fees, there must be a way to greatly reduce them. Here is how you can avoid paying airline fees.

Eat Before you Board

Remember the days when you boarded a plane on an empty stomach and ate peanuts and drank soft drinks? Some of the longest flights even gave you those hot meals and although the food wasn’t a gourmet delight, eating and relaxing at 30,000 feet was an experience not to forget. Those days are over.

Every carrier from the cheapest airlines to the name brand carriers have scaled back or completely eliminated free food and now the only way to get these amenities is to pay for them. The answer here is obvious: Pay the grossly inflated prices for food in the airport terminal instead of paying on the plane.

Avoid Baggage Fees by Heading to UPS

You might be thinking that shipping your luggage instead of putting it on the plane will cost a lot more than paying the fees to the airlines. In many cases you’re probably correct but not always. A small box holding enough clothes for a week long trip could cost as little as $8 even if it gets shipped across a country. Take enough clothes with you for the first couple of days and ship the rest to your hotel. They will hold it at the front desk, so you don’t have to worry about the delivery window. Once you do the math, it isn’t as laughable as you would think especially if you have to take a lot of luggage with you.

Changing Your Mind

Where did most of the fees go? $600 million of the $1.4 billion came from travelers changing their reservations. That’s $400 million more than in 2007. How do you beat this fee? The answer is that you don’t. The best way to avoid these fees is to not book too early if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to plan far in advance. It would be better to pay more for the ticket once you know your plans are finalized instead of buying discounted tickets that have to be changed later.

Find the Right Airline

The cheapest airlines aren’t always the most fee friendly but airlines like Southwest don’t currently charge baggage fees nor do they charge for everything that carriers like American Airlines do. American was the airline who collected the most fees at $197,971,000 in baggage fees alone.

Tired of it

Not only are consumers tired of the fees but the United States government is as well. In July the Department of Transportation drafted rules requiring airlines to be more forthcoming about the fees and how they’re charging for them.

You aren’t going to avoid airline fees but there are ways to mitigate those charges if you’re a savvy consumer.