Road Warrior

When it comes to airline fees, Delta, United collect the most

A Delta airline's aircraft takes off from the Ronald Reagan National airport as the sun rises in Washington, DC.
Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images

When it comes to collecting airline fees, Delta is the leader of the pack, according to numbers released Monday by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

In the first quarter of 2014, Delta collected $191 million in baggage revenues and $220 million in reservation cancellation or change fees. Delta was followed by United, which collected $147 million in bag fees and $194 million in change fees.

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Other fees, such as seat assignments and on-board purchases, are not tabulated separately by the bureau.

All told, the top 16 U.S. airlines collected $790 million in bag fees and $726 million in cancellation or change fees during the first quarter.Compared with the same period a year ago, that's a 1.4 percent drop in overall bag fees (from $801 million in the first quarter of 2013) and an almost 6 percent increase (from $685 million) in reservation cancellation and change fees.

Overall, the fees helped boost the profits of the 27 U.S. regularly scheduled service airlines to a combined $1.7 billion pre-tax operating profit for the first quarter of 2014.

That's up 188 percent compared with a profit of $589 million during the same time last year, according to the calculations of the BTS, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Airlines ranked by 2014 baggage fee revenue, dollars in thousands

Rank Airline 1Q
1Delta 190,640
3US Airways128,934
12Virgin America13,365
13Sun Country4,853
14Island Air Hawaii958
16American Eagle0
All 790,968

Source: Source: U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Airlines ranked by 2014 reservation cancellation/change fee revenue, dollars in thousands

Rank Airline 1Q
1Delta 220,251
2United 194,003
4US Airways84,600
7Virgin America9,238
11Allegiant 2,177
13Sun Country 575
14Island Air Hawaii148
All 725,798

Source: Source: U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics

During the first quarter of this year, the airlines collected $28.7 billion from fares, while operating expenses added up to $36.8 billion, including $10.2 billion for fuel costs (28 percent) and $9.7 billion for labor (26 percent.) Using year-over-year comparisons for the quarter, fuel costs were down 3.9 percent, while labor costs were up 5.3 percent.

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Despite additional fees and higher costs, travel spending is on the rise this year as the economy improves, according to several reports.

While the Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent in May, travelers got hit especially hard, according to an analyst note from Michael Montgomery, the U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

"The worst of the worst in core services were accommodations (2.5 percent) and airfares (5.8 percent,)" Montgomery wrote in a note last week analyzing the CPI segments.

Consumer spending on airlines is forecast to continue on an upward trend through the summer, with Hotwire travel booking site reporting the average booked ticket price for the July 4 holiday weekend is pegged at $435 roundtrip, a 7 percent increase over last year. For that same holiday weekend, the average hotel booking is $102 per night, up 4 percent from 2013, according to numbers provided to CNBC by Hotwire, a subsidiary of Expedia.

Globally, passenger travel also continues to climb, according to the International Air Transport Association's April report, the most recent numbers available. For April, total revenue passenger kilometers was up 7.5 percent compared with April 2013, according to the IATA, the trade association for the world's airlines.

Forces driving gas to $4
Forces driving gas to $4

Hotel prices and occupancy rates are also trending higher, according to STR, a company that collects and analyzes data from hotels globally. For May, the average daily rate for a U.S. hotel was $115.35, up 4.8 percent from the year prior. Occupancy was up 4.9 percent to 67 while revenue per room increased 10.0 percent to $77.27, according to STR.

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—By CNBC's Amy Langfield. Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.