Travel Tuesday: An Overview of Airline Baggage Fees

Even before the current crisis sent the airline industry into upheaval, things were already evolving β€” for better or worse. There may be no better example of this than the way baggage fees have not only risen but also expanded and varied depending on the type of carrier you choose. Given this reality, the average flyer might not be aware of what expenses they’re in for when they go to book a flight. Sadly, this can lead to some very unwelcome surprises.

To help you plan ahead for when we can all fly again, I thought it worth taking a look at what the baggage fee policies are for some of the top domestic airlines. This includes some of the discount carriers where these fees can really add to your cost. Then, I’ll share a few ways you might be able to get around these charges and save money on your next flight. Let’s go!

Note: all of the information in this post was accurate as of June 16th, 2020 β€” the fees and policies discussed are subject to change

baggage sitting in an airport lounge

Baggage Fee Policies by Airline (Top 10 U.S. Airlines)

Because different airlines can have wildly different policies when it comes to baggage fees, we’ll be looking at how the top 10 domestic airlines (in no particular order) charge for regular checked bags, carry-ons, and oversized/overweight items. A few other notes before we get started:

  • The quoted checked luggage fee is per-way and assumes the item is under/at the weight limit
  • Each of these fees is for domestic flights β€” fees and restrictions for international itineraries can vary by destination
  • Some exceptions may exist for certain passengers, including active military members, elite status fliers, and those in premium cabins
  • Exceptions and/or alternate fees may also be made for certain items such as musical instruments, sporting equipment, etc.
  • Fees for additional, overweight, and oversized items may compound (e.g. $100 for a third bag + $100 for overweight + $200 for oversized = $400 to check)
  • In some cases, you may book with one airline but fly with one of their partners β€” in these cases, the baggage policies may be different
  • Check with your carrier to confirm your baggage fees as they are subject to change
American Airlines logo

American

Checked luggage fee(s):

  • $30 for the first checked bag
  • $40 for a second bag
  • $150 for a third checked bag
  • $200 each for every subsequent checked bag after three (up to 10)

Carry-on luggage fee: None (one carry-on and one personal item per passenger allowed β€” including Basic Economy passengers)

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-70lbs: Additional $100
  • 71-100lbs: Additional $200
  • Bags measuring 62″-126″: Additional $200
United Airlines logo

United

Checked luggage fee(s):

  • Standard: $35 for the first checked bag
  • Standard: $45 for a second bag
  • Discounted advance price (prepaid at least 24 hours before departure): $30 for the first checked bag
  • Discounted advance price (prepaid at least 24 hours before departure): $40 for a second bag
  • $150 each for a third checked bag and each subsequent checked bag

Carry-on luggage fee: None (one carry-on and one personal item per passenger allowed β€” except Basic Economy passengers who only get one personal item. Basic Economy passengers who bring full-sized carry-ons will have to check their bag and pay an additional $25 fee on top of the checked bag fee)

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-70lbs: Additional $100
  • 71-100lbs: Additional $200
  • Bags measuring 63″-115″: Additional $200
Delta Airlines logo

Delta

Checked luggage fee(s):

  • $30 for the first checked bag
  • $40 for a second bag
  • $150 for a third checked bag
  • $200 each for each subsequent checked bag after three (up to 10)

Carry-on luggage fee: None (one carry-on and one personal item per passenger allowed)

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-70lbs: Additional $100
  • 71-100lbs: Additional $200
  • Bags measuring 63″-80″: Additional $200
JetBlue logo

JetBlue

Checked luggage fee(s):

  • $35 for the first checked bag
  • $45 for a second bag
  • $150 each for a third checked bag and each subsequent bag

Carry-on luggage fee: None (one carry-on and one personal item per passenger allowed)

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-99lbs: Additional $150
  • Bags measuring 63″-80″: Additional $150
Southwest Airlines logo

Southwest

Checked luggage fee(s):

  • First two checked bags are free
  • $75 each for a third checked bag and each subsequent bag

Carry-on luggage fee: None (one carry-on and one personal item per passenger allowed)

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-100lbs: Additional $75
  • Bags measuring 62″-80″: Additional $75
Frontier - Low Fares Done Right logo

Frontier

Checked luggage fee(s): May vary by destination, flight, and time of payment. Below is an example flight from MCO to DEN:

  • First checked bag paid for at booking or before online check-in: $33
  • First checked bag paid for during web/mobile check-in: $39
  • First checked bag paid for at airport check-in counter: $55
  • First checked bag paid for at boarding gate: $60
  • Second checked bag paid for at booking, before online check-in, or during online check-in: $49
  • Second checked bag paid for at airport check-in counter: $55
  • Third (and each subsequent) checked bag paid at booking or before online check-in: $84
  • Third (and each subsequent) checked bag paid for during web/mobile check-in: $89
  • Third (and each subsequent) checked bag paid for at airport check-in counter: $95

Carry-on luggage fee: One personal item per passenger is free. Carry-on fees may vary by destination, flight, and time of payment. Below is an example flight from MCO to DEN:

  • Carry-on paid for at booking: $38
  • Carry-on paid for at before online check-in begins: $41
  • Carry-on paid for during web/mobile check-in: $42
  • Carry-on paid for at airport check-in counter: $55
  • Carry-on paid for at boarding gate: $60

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-100lbs: Additional $75
  • Bags measuring 63″-110″: Additional $75
Spirit - Less Money. More Go logo

Spirit

Checked luggage fee(s): May vary by destination, flight, and time of payment. Also, $9 Fare Club members save $9 on checked bags paid for before arriving at the airport. Below is an example flight from MCO to DEN:

  • First checked bag paid for at booking: $35
  • First checked bag paid for before or during online check-in: $45
  • First checked bag paid for at airport check-in counter: $50
  • First checked bag paid for at boarding gate: $65
  • Second checked bag paid for at booking: $45
  • Second checked bag paid for before or during online check-in: $55
  • Second checked bag paid for at airport check-in counter: $60
  • Third, fourth, and fifth checked bag paid at booking: $85 each
  • Third, fourth, and fifth checked bag paid for before or during online check-in: $95
  • Third, fourth, and fifth checked bag paid for at airport check-in counter: $100

Carry-on luggage fee: One personal item per passenger is free. May vary by destination, flight, and time of payment. Also, $9 Fare Club members save $9 on carry-ons paid for before arriving at the airport. Below is an example flight from MCO to DEN:

  • Carry-on paid for at booking: $40
  • Carry-on paid for before or during online check-in: $50
  • Carry-on paid for at airport check-in counter: $55
  • Carry-on paid for at boarding gate: $65

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 41-50lbs: Additional $30
  • 51-70lbs: Additional $55
  • 71-100lbs: Additional $100
  • 63″ to 80″: Additional $100
  • Special items over 80: Additional $150
Alaska Airlines logo

Alaska

Checked luggage fee(s):

  • $30 for the first checked bag
  • $40 for a second bag
  • $100 each for a third checked bag and each subsequent checked bag

Carry-on luggage fee: None (one carry-on and one personal item per passenger allowed)

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-100lbs: Additional $100
  • 63″-115″: Additional $100
Allegiant logo

Allegiant

Checked luggage fee(s): May vary by destination, flight, and time of payment. Below is an example flight from SGF to LAS:

  • First, second, third, and fourth checked bag paid for at booking: $30 each
  • First, second, third, and fourth checked bag paid for before arriving at the airport: $45 each
  • First, second, third, and fourth checked bag paid at the airport: $50 each

Carry-on luggage fee: One personal item per passenger is free.

Checked luggage fee(s): One personal May vary by destination, flight, and time of payment. Below is an example flight from SGF to LAS:

  • Carry-on paid for at booking: $25 each
  • Carry-on paid for before arriving at the airport: $45 each
  • Carry-on paid for before at the airport: $50 each

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 40-70lbs: Additional $50
  • 71-100lbs: Additional $75
  • Height + width + depth in excess of 80″: Additional $75
  • Oversized personal item (assessed at airport): $50 to $75
Hawaiian Airlines logo

Hawaiian

Checked luggage fee(s):

  • $25 for the first checked bag on flights within Hawaii
  • $30 for the first checked bag on flights to/from North America
  • $35 for the second checked bag on flights within Hawaii
  • $40 for the second checked bag on flights to/from North America
  • $50 each for a third checked bag and each subsequent checked bag on flights within Hawaii
  • $100 each for a third checked bag and each subsequent checked bag on flights to/from North America

Carry-on luggage fee: None (one carry-on and one personal item per passenger allowed)

Overweight luggage fees:

  • 51-70lbs on flights within Hawaii: Additional $35
  • 71-100lbs on flights within Hawaii: Additional $70
  • 51-70lbs on flights to/from North America: Additional $50
  • 71-100lbs on flights to/from North America: Additional $200
  • 62″-80″ on flights within Hawaii: Additional $35
  • 62″-80″ on flights to/from North America: Additional $100
a pile of luggage

5 Ways Around Airline Baggage Fees

Pack light (or get creative)

Obviously one of the most effective plans for avoiding baggage fees is to pack light so that you don’t need to check a bag. Moreover, even among airlines that charge for carry-ons, those who can fit their items under their seat instead of in the overhead bins can get around these charges. Therefore, if you can manage to fit what you need into a backpack, small duffle, or another under-seat-friendly item, you may just be rewarded.

It’s worth noting that this strategy may also be easier to pull off with two or more people traveling. While more people means more to pack, you also have a greater carry-on allowance, which could definitely help. Similarly, if you are allowed a full-sized carry-on, then you can also consider using your “personal item” to help spread out the load and save you from checking a bag.

By the way, if you prefer checking a bag but don’t want to pay for it, you may end up with the opportunity to gate check your bag for free. This is common when a flight is full and the crew anticipates that there won’t be enough room in the bins. In these cases, they may ask for volunteers, at which point you swoop in get your bag checked to your final destination gratis (and you may even get a “thank you” for doing so!). Keep in mind that you’ll still need to limit your suitcase to carry-on size in order to attempt this trick. Also, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be gate checking items on your flight, so be prepared to actually carry on your item.

Upgrade your travel class

In some cases, those flying in premium economy, business, or first class may have different luggage allowances than those in main cabin or basic economy. Because of this, depending on what deal you can find, the effective price of upgrading might not be as steep once the reduced or free baggage is considered. It may sound counterintuitive to spend more in order to save money β€” but, if you’re looking for a little extra comfort in your travels anyway, this may actually be a good option.

Earn status

Another way one might have their baggage fees waived is to obtain status with a certain airline. For example, as a Delta Silver Medallion member, I’m allotted one free checked bag on my domestic travels β€” as are up to eight other people traveling on my itinerary. Of course, this isn’t the only perk of elite status but it’s a notable one.

In most cases, obtaining status will require you to fly often and, perhaps more importantly, utilize the same carrier. That said, those who prefer long-haul flights may be surprised by how far toward status they can get after just a couple of trips in a year. So, if you’ve dreamed of joining the “elite,” consider choosing an airline, signing up for their frequent flyer program, and paying attention to what the requirements are.

American Express Delta Skymiles credit card

Branded credit cards

If you don’t fly enough to earn status but still remain relatively loyal to a certain carrier, it may make sense to look into their branded credit card options. Not only do these cards often payout in frequent flier miles you can redeem for free travel but may also offer perks when you fly β€” potentially including waived check bagged fees. That’s the case for Delta’s line of SkyMiles cards, starting with the SkyMiles Gold card ($99 annual fee, waived for the first year). It’s also true of the United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee, waived for the first year) and the American AAdvantage Platinum Select card ($99 annual fee, waived for the first year).

Of course, this is just a small sampling of the many airline credit cards out there, so I’d recommend checking out your preferred carrier’s website to explore what options they offer.

Other credit cards

Finally, even if a credit card isn’t branded with the airline you’re flying, it may still have some benefits related to baggage fees. Namely, the American Express Platinum Card includes an annual $200 airline incidentals fee credit. This means that, when you charge baggage fees to your Platinum card, you’ll receive a statement credit for the amount (up to a total of $200 for the year). However, it’s important to note that there are restrictions and quirks to this offer. For one, you’ll need to select your preferred airline ahead of time β€” and some airlines such as Allegiant aren’t an option. Because of this, this strategy may not be foolproof but may be worth looking into if you’re interested in the Platinum card’s other benefits.

When it comes to airline baggage fees, things can get a bit complicated these days β€” especially among discount carriers. As a result, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and look into these additional fees before booking your trip. On top of that, whether you’re a frequent or not-so-frequent flyer, it may be worth considering different options to help you avoid or minimize the fees you incur. Happy flying!

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Author

Kyle Burbank

Founder ~ Moneyat30
Kyle is a freelance writer - including being the head writer for Fioney.com. He also serves as editorial director for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com. In 2015, Kyle and his wife Bekah moved from Los Angeles to Springfield MO in pursuit of greater financial freedom. Together, the pair enjoy travel, coffee, and spending time with their dog Rigby. Additionally, as of 2023, they become first-time homeowners.

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