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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

The November book is finally over and now you can concentrate on your holiday travel plans. If you’re flying this holiday season hopefully you’ve made your reservations by now. If not you’ll be subjected to the airline Gods and their thirst for money and that’s if you can get a flight at all.

Making airline reservations at the last minute is hazardous to your wallet regardless of the time of year. But this holiday travel season might just be the worst on record. Seating capacity is down nine to 15 percent from last year depending on whom you ask. Remember, last year we were recovering from 9/11 and seating capacity was already down 20 percent or more from the previous year. Translation; crowded flights and higher ticket prices.

Making matters worse is a weak economy and an airline industry hemorrhaging in red ink. To ensure their survival the airlines are tacking on new fees and enforcing old rules that might take a big bite out of your pocketbook. Here are a few of the more significant charges you should be on the lookout for.

* Passengers with nonrefundable tickets who need to change their plans must notify the airline in advance and pay a $100 fee.

* Starting in January flying standby or space available will cost you $100 on most carriers.

* The fees for paper tickets went from $10 last year to as much as $25 this year.

* If you over-pack you should expect to pay and pay dearly. Most carriers allow a single passenger two checked bags and one carry-on. Violate that rule and expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $100.

* If your bag is too big or too heavy, $100. If it’s both to big and too heavy you could be hit for $300.

* Want to send the kids alone, the charge for unaccompanied minors can range anywhere from $40 to $60 one-way.

* Can’t leave home without Fluffy or Fido. Pet transportation cost $75 to $80 each way.

The fees listed above are the ones the airlines can actually control. Taxes, security costs and transportation charges are imposed by the government add to the price of your ticket. These fees can never be waived.

Most people pay discounted or bargain prices for their tickets. Purchasing this way saves money. But when it comes to waiving the extra fees listed above forget about it. The airlines have a pecking order with first class, business class, customers who pay full price and frequent flyers getting all the perks. The airlines won’t risk losing a good customer and will waive many of the excess charges. If you’re a bargain shopper and paid a discounted price for your ticket then avoid the fees by following the rules to the letter.

I realize flying during the holidays can test your patience. A crowded airport along with cranky passengers and flight attendants isn’t my idea of fun. Make sure you direct your anger at someone other than the clerk at the reservations desk when you check-in. These people hold more power than you think and can actually waive some of those fees just by being nice to them. A smile or a friendly greeting just might work even for those who purchased a discounted ticket.

To avoid extra baggage charges try shipping those gifts in advance. The fees you pay to Fed-Ex or UPS will be a lot cheaper than those tacked on by the airline.

And finally, I can’t say this enough get to the airport early. Most carriers are starting to get up to speed with the new federal security requirements. If you don’t give yourself two or three hours at the airport, you might find yourself paying some of those extra fees to find a new flight.