Earlier this month, PNC Bank released its 2012 Christmas Price Index documenting how much it would cost to buy the characters and objects from the song, "The 12 Days of Christmas." Last year, the number crested the $100,000 mark. This year, it grew 6.1 percent to $107,300.
At Airline Tariff Publishing Company, or ATPCO, where we work with airfares and ancillary fees instead of partridges and pear trees, we thought it’d be interesting to find out how much it would cost to fly with “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Specifically, how much would it set you back to bring those items as checked or carry-on baggage?
Well, it depends on which airline you fly, where you're going and in what class you’re traveling — you’re usually allowed one or two free bags on overseas flights and in business and first class — and how light you can pack.
In the spirit of the holidays, we decided to fly “The 12 Days of Christmas” from New York City to Paris in economy on a couple different airlines. Now, we realize that not everything could really fly with you — the European Union, for instance, prohibits bringing milk products with you from territories outside the EU) — but we decided to stretch a few of those rules.
To find out the fees and whether items like a partridge would even be allowed on the flight, we used our own Baggage Calculator. Travel agents and airlines can simply plug the details into the online tool and find out how much it costs to check (or carry on) any standard, oversized, overweight and specialty items.
Here’s a complete breakdown of the baggage fees for "The 12 Days of Christmas."
• 12 drummers drumming
Each of our 12 drummers has a personal suitcase and his or her drum, which is packed in a separate case. Unfortunately, their economy class flight offers only one free checked bag. So what’s the fee for an additional piece of luggage? $96.10
Baggage fees for 12 drummers drumming: $1,153.20
• 11 pipers piping
The pipers are in luck: their fifes are small enough to pack in a carry-on bag, and they are allowed one free bag on their international flight.
Baggage fees for 11 pipers piping: $0
• 10 lords a-leaping
The Lord Jeffs pole-vaulting team from Amherst College has to check their suitcases, as well as their pole vaults (one each). The pole vaults are collapsible and fit into a suitcase, but the leaping lords have two other bags — their personal clothes and their team uniforms — as well, putting them one bag over their two-bag allowance.
Baggage fees for 10 lords a-leaping: $1,922
• Nine ladies dancing
The Kenyon College Ladies dance team is going on a European tour and is carrying several garment bags full of dance costumes. The ladies knew they were going to have several bags each — at least two suitcases and a garment bag for their costumes — so they were savvy airfare shoppers. They selected a flight that permitted two free checked bags and purchased the option to bring another bag through the airline website, which secured them a discount on the standard excess bag fee.
Baggage fees for nine ladies dancing: $1,071
• Eight maids a-milking
Our maids are leaving the farm with four gallons of fresh milk each — a little less than 40 pounds of milk a maid. They’ve packed their milk in crates with dry ice following all airline and government requirements — only five pounds of dry ice are included in each crate and they are clearly marked as containing “dry ice” and include official veterinary documentation. However, with a suitcase filled with clean clothes, the maids have one more bag to check than allowed for free. The cost for this extra container is normally $100 each, but the maids checked their bags online and received a 20-percent discount.
Baggage fees for eight maids a-milking: $640
• Seven swans a-swimming
Our swans couldn’t swim without an inflatable pool, so each of our passengers checks a swan (pet in hold), a blow-up pool packaged in a box, and a suitcase. We’re flying with an airline that allows passengers to check larger animals — generally dogs, but household birds, which we’re considering our swans to be, are allowed — but it only allows one free checked bag. Since we’re checking the pool, suitcase, and swan, we’ll have to pay for two extra items. Our suitcase meets standard weight and size requirements, so it’s selected as our free bag. Our pool is also a standard size, which will cost $100 to check. The swan, though, is an extra $200.
Baggage fees for seven swans a-swimming: $2,100
• Six geese a-laying
Like the swans a-swimming, our female geese are classified as pets in hold. We’re flying a different airline with our geese, though, and they will cost $271 each to check. Since the handlers of the geese are farm vets, they’re carrying along some medical equipment they’ll need at their destination. Total baggage fees per vet: one goose ($271), one bag of medical equipment (free), and one carry-on suitcase (free).
Baggage fees for six geese a-laying: $1,626
• Five golden rings
As any frequent flyer will tell you, your checked baggage should never include valuable jewelry. Following this sound advice, our five golden rings are being brought in carry-on luggage, so there’s no cost to travel with them.
Baggage fees for five golden rings: free
• Four calling birds
No, we’re not talking about the calling bird of the 21st century — Twitter. We’re going to bring along four birds, each of which is calling a small bird carrier home for the time being. That carrier is small enough to fit under our airplane seat, but there’s a fee to bring the pet in the cabin: $200 for each bird.
Baggage fees for four calling birds: $800
• Three French hens
Unfortunately, our French hens are being served for holiday dinner, so they’ve been flash frozen and packaged in a hard container with dry ice, following all airline requirements. Once the hens are prepped for a meal, they weigh less than 20 pounds total, so they’ve been packed together in one container. Our Christmas traveler is bringing a suitcase of clothes, as well as the container of French hens, so he has one bag more than allowed. Technically, our traveler wouldn’t be allowed to bring his hens into the EU, but we’re going to let it fly this time.
Baggage fees for three frozen French hens: $100
• Two turtle doves
Our turtle doves are small enough to bring in the cabin — in a small pet carrier, of course — so they don’t add any excess checked baggage. As carry-on items, the birds will cost $200 each.
Baggage fees for two turtle doves: $400
• And a partridge and a pear tree
Our traveler is returning home to Paris with a lovely piece of art he purchased in New York City — a painting of a partridge in a pear tree. To ensure the safety of his painting, our holiday traveler packaged the work of art in a sturdy cardboard box, measuring about 48 linear inches. His box and his suitcase both meet requirements, but he has one more checked piece than allowed. He’ll have to pay to fly his partridge and pear tree.
Baggage fees for a partridge and a pear tree: $60
TOTAL COST TO FLY "THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS:" $9,872.20
So what have we learned from flying the 12 Days of Christmas? Planning ahead can save you cash and cut the confusion at check-in. Now that several federal regulations are in effect, airline websites clearly display their baggage policies, providing direct links to their policies from their home pages.
Before you get ready for your holiday travel — or before you even book a trip — check airline sites to find out what you’re allowed to bring for free and how much extra bags might cost you.
Don’t have time to search the lists? Ask your reservations or travel agent to help you. Many already use the ATPCO Baggage Calculator, which provides not only applicable charges, but also a list of allowances and specialty items that can be brought on board.
No matter where you’re traveling this holiday season, may your days be merry in flight!
* Contributed to Patch by ATPCO/Jackie Allder