With all the buzz surrounding Spirit’s $100 carry-on bag fee announcement last week, it is due time to publish a simple baggage fees reference chart. Gone are the days of all-in pricing, now travelers need to be aware of all the additional fees that can run up the bill on their next vacation.
Domestic Airlines Baggage Fees
The below chart includes most major domestic carriers. All fees are for domestic flights only, including U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Fees for international flights will vary, though most carriers offer the first checked bag for free (as it’s pretty difficult to travel without clothing and personal belongings on longer trips).
|Airline||1st Checked Bag||2nd Checked Bag||Carry-On
|Delta Air Lines||$25||$35||FREE|
|Sun Country Airlines||
Keep in mind, the fees change pretty often, so we will update this as best we can. We already know that Spirit fees will be going up starting Nov. 6, 2012.
The above chart does not take oversize or overweight bags into consideration. Just about every airline charges for bags that exceed weight (usually 50 lbs) and size limits (varies by carrier). More information is available by clicking on any of the airline links above, which will take you directly into the baggage policy section of their respective websites. For more than two bags consult the airline, but prices usually skyrocket, so avoid it if possible.
Also, larger items like strollers, skis or golf clubs may also face an additional fee, so again check with the airline directly. Delta and United accept golf clubs and skis as regular checked baggage as long as its in a suitable case (this means no oversize baggage fees will be assessed, though overweight charges may still apply).
How To Save on Baggage Fees
Best bet for travelers in terms of saving on baggage fees would be JetBlue and Southwest. I am a little leery in recommending Southwest because fares are only bookable at Southwest.com, which makes comparison shopping kind of tricky. I prefer to have prices from several different carriers simultaneously, so I can choose the best option. And, as several Wall Street Journal readers point out, the fares aren’t always the lowest anyways. That leaves only JetBlue, which I am definitely partial to since I can watch live sports from 30,000 feet.
To compare baggage fees side-by-side, just conduct a Fly.com flight search as you normally would. In search results, click on the suitcase icon to see airline and route-specific baggage fee information. This information is customized based on your travel search, so you can avoid the confusing airline policy pages.
Alternatively, only bring a carry-on bag (except on Spirit) and remember to pack light (consult our packing tips for help). Keep in mind, many travelers employ the same strategy as a means to save money, so overhead bin space will likely be extremely limited. Here are a few tips to make the process easier:
- Consult the airlines’ carry-on size policies before heading to the airport. Make sure you are clearly below the limits. Gate attendants will rarely measure your carry-on luggage, but if it looks too big, you will be forced to check it. This is usually based on their discretion, which can vary quite a bit from airport to airport, airline to airline and even person to person.
- Make sure you are prepared to board the aircraft as soon as your zone or row number is called.
- If you see that space is already an issue while boarding, place your carry-on in any overhead bin in front of your seat, which makes for an easy grab on the way out. Just try to step back a few rows while tired, grumpy passengers are deplaning! Not going to happen.
- If all else fails and no space is available, the flight attendant will “gate check” your bag. This simply means it will go with all the other checked luggage, but you will not be charged a checked baggage fee. Pretty nifty trick!
Why Baggage Fees May Not be Such a Bad Thing
All in all, these make it appear as though we are paying more for a service that should be included with our ticket. However, as I explained in my post called Lost Baggage Stats and Tips at the end of March, airlines are improving when it comes to the handling of luggage:
“Since the Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) started keeping statistics on mishandled baggage reports, 2011 marked the lowest total at 3.39 reports per 1,000 U.S. domestic passengers. That is nearly 40,000 less mishandled baggage reports filed than in 2010, when the average was 3.51 reports per 1,000 passengers.”
I’d like to think the improvement is partly due to airlines investing some of the revenue generated from baggage fees directly into their luggage handling departments. There are also a few clear examples of this including Delta’s Baggage Track Status website and Alaska Airlines’ program that offers passengers compensation if their bag does not arrive on the carousel within 20 minutes. These programs are just some of what the airlines are doing to improve service and make that $20-$30 fee worth something. Although, the former TSA administrator suggests that eliminating baggage fees can improve airport security, by doing away with the “checkpoint nightmare.”