Airlines Cash In on Baggage Fees

Aer Lingus airbus A330-200

a bag of luggage sitting on the tarmac of an airport runway: Unclaimed baggage

Baggage fees—the airlines’ version of sliced bread (as in ‘the greatest thing since…’)—continue to drive more and more revenue for U.S. airlines.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics has reported that U.S. airlines brought in $4.9 billion in baggage fees in 2018, up from $4.6 billion in 2017 for a 7 percent increase.

But that’s also more than quadruple the $1.1 billion collected in 2009, an almost 80 percent increase.

American Airlines brought in $1.2 billion in baggage fees last year, the highest among the 11 U.S. carriers. United was next at $888.7 million and Delta was third at $788.5 million.

Baggage fees have been a constant and lucrative stream of revenue for airlines since 2008 when American Airlines became the first legacy carrier to introduce the concept of baggage fees. Other U.S carrier quickly followed.

For the average traveler, there are ways to avoid such fees, but they can be pricey. You can join an airline’s frequent flyer program and attain a certain status to receive a free bag benefit, but that obviously means paying for more flights.

You could also sign up for an airline credit card, but some cards come with high annual fees. And, of course, when flying you could always purchase a premium, business or first class ticket, which often come with a free checked bag.

Here’s a look at the five major U.S. carriers and what their baggage fees are:

American Airlines

First Bag: $30

Second Bag: $40

Third Bag: $150

Over 71 pounds or 62 inches: $200

Delta Air Lines

First Bag: $30

Second Bag: $40

Third Bag: $150

Over 71 pounds or 62 inches: $200

United Airlines

First Bag: $30

Second Bag: $40

Third Bag: $150

Over 71 pounds or 62 inches: $200

Southwest Airlines

First Bag: $0

Second Bag: $0

Third Bag: $75

Over 71 pounds or 62 inches: $75

JetBlue

First Bag: $30

Second Bag: $40

Third Bag: $150

Over 71 pounds or 62 inches: $150

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