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Airline Reservation and Bag Fees Soar Above $1 Billion

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U.S. airlines cashed-in on the combination of packed planes and charging more to change reservations in the first quarter. The Department of Transportation says U.S. airlines collected $685 million in reservation change fees in the first quarter, an increase of nearly 8 percent from the same period a year ago.

Airlines also boosted how much they collected in baggage fees by nearly 2 percent, with revenue topping $800 million.

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The increase in revenue from those fees are the main reason most U.S.-based airlines reported a rare profit in the first quarter, typically the slowest three months of the year for the industry. In fact, seven of the nine largest airlines posted an operating profit in the first quarter and the industry as a whole reported a profit of $438 million.

Packed Planes Driving Fees

Ask any of 172.9 million people who flew on a U.S. airline in the first quarter and there is a good chance they will tell you how their flight was packed. As airlines have trimmed their schedules or converted some routes to smaller, regional jets, the result has been a higher percentage of seats filled on every flight. That change has not only helped the carriers charge more for tickets, but also charge more to re-book passengers.

Industry executives also realize passengers have few options when they want or need to change their reservations. As a result, they have raised the amount they charge to change your flight.(Read More: All-You-Can-Fly Airline Takes Off in California)

Change Reservation Revenue in 1 Q

Rank
Airline
1Q (in millions)
1 Delta $198.5
2 United $176.9
3 American $132.0
4 US Airways $83.5
5 JetBlue $36.7
6 Alaska $21.8
7 Southwest $9.2
8 Spirit $7.9
9 Virgin America $7.7
10 Hawaiian $4.6
11 Frontier $3.0
12 Allegiant $2.2
13 Sun Country $.46
All $685.176
Source: U.S. Department Of Transportation

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By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter: @Lebeaucarnews

Baggage Fee Revenue in 1Q

Rank
Airline
1Q (in millions)
1 Delta $191.9
2 United $143.2
3 US Airways $130.4
4 American $123.1
5 Spirit $47.7
6 Southwest $42.7
7 Allegiant $33.5
8 Alaska $20.6
9 JetBlue $17.8
10 Hawaiian $16.5
11 Frontier $14.2
12 Virgin America $12.2
13 Sun Country $4.9
14 Mesa $1.0
15 American Eagle $.39
All $800.370
Source: U.S. Department Of Transportation

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