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With planning, you can get around some airline fees; Look at loyalty clubs, policies to save money

In their earnings conference call last month, Allegiant Air executives fielded an interesting question from analysts.

Would the company consider initiating a fee for passengers to have a seat that reclines when the airline initiates its six-hour flights between Las Vegas and Honolulu?

The executives said no, they wouldn't, because none of the seats on the airline's Boeing 757 jets recline.

That surprised me, not so much because the company would turn down a potential revenue source but because it never occurred to me that an airline would have seats that didn't recline.

A representative of the company explained that seats on all Allegiant planes are at a fixed pitch about halfway between upright and fully reclined. One reason is that reclining seats can be damaged when passengers move the seat backs, and it's an expensive proposition to pull a plane from service just because one seat is damaged.

Most readers are likely more surprised that Allegiant doesn't consider reclining seats as a fee option since the company is one of the most aggressive in developing ancillary fees.

Allegiant flies out of Niagara Falls International Airport.

The company does that because it offers extremely low base fees and counts on customers to choose what they want to add to their experience -- and their cost.

But most consumers hate the fees. While I'm not sure they really mean it, many say they would rather see the cost of a ticket to go up than to be nickeled-and-dimed with fees.

If your game is to dodge airline fees and pay the lowest possible price for a ticket, here are some tips for you:

*Enroll in an airline's loyalty club. Different airline clubs offer different perks. Many clubs waive the $15 to $35 baggage fee imposed on most passengers. On some, you have to reach a certain level of flying before you get fees knocked off.

Research card award levels and qualifications before booking a flight to see what will be waived before you travel. Spirit Airlines' $9 Fare Club gives travelers access to deals the same way a Costco card gets you into the store to get reduced prices.

*Cancellation and change fees are killers. Of the major carriers, only Southwest offers a reasonably good cancellation and change option. Most airlines will ding you with fees of $50, $75 or $100 if you change your mind on a flight.

Southwest keeps your money but lets you use what you paid as a credit for future travel. If you're an infrequent traveler, it won't do you much good because the credit expires after a year. And Southwest's deal isn't as sweet as it once was. It used to be that you could apply the credit to another passenger on another flight. Now, the credit can only be used by the original passenger.

Allegiant offers Trip Flex, an $11.50 "insurance policy" that allows passengers to change or cancel flights for no extra charge.

*We've all heard the ads: On Southwest Airlines, bags fly free. By the way, the first bag on JetBlue also flies free. But if you're not flying either of those carriers, consider sending the items you put in your suitcase and carry-on bags ahead by UPS or FedEx. Depending on the destination, this might or might not be a savings.

But with companies like Allegiant charging $15 to $35 for a single suitcase or carry-on, it may make sense to spend $40 on a FedEx bill. And if transporting suitcases, always look for the prepaid prices. It costs more to make the transaction once you've arrived at the airport.

*Food and drinks cost north of $2 each on most flights. You can bring some food items aboard in carry-on luggage. But don't forget, you can't take drinks through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. Drinks at the airport usually are more expensive than what they cost on the plane.

*Seriously consider whether you really need seat selection or priority boarding. If it's a long flight, to Hawaii or to the West Coast, it may be worth it. But probably not for flights under two hours. On some carriers, that can save up to $80.

*Allegiant charges $25 per segment to book tickets through its call center or on its website. How do you dodge the fee? Buy your ticket at the airport. But there's a catch: You can only do that during times when the ticket counter is manned.