Airline Fees for Luggage

by Jessica

May 11th, 2011

The number of airline fees has risen so dramatically that keeping track of them is nearly impossible – and the ones that seem to increase the fastest are the luggage fees.

Most airlines these days charge for certain checked bags, and some even charge for carry-on bags. Because these fees are almost never included in the price you see when you’re looking for cheap flights, the fare you thought was a great deal may turn out to be pretty much the same as all the others once you’ve added in the luggage fees.

So even though these things change frequently, we thought we’d outline some of the baggage fees that are out there – as well as places you can go to look up current information – in order to help you make an informed purchasing decision.

>> And don’t miss these tips for avoiding checked bag fees, either.

Airline Fees for Checked Bags and Carry-On Bags

Most airlines will allow one checked bag free of charge on international flights, but on domestic flights very few US airlines let passengers check any bags for free anymore. Some allow for one free checked bag and then start charging with the second, but most charge right from the first bag.

In either case, it’s worth checking on the airline’s website to see not only what the current fees are but whether there’s a discount for doing online check-in.

As yet, Spirit Air is the only airline in the US that’s charging for carry-on bags – and they only started doing that as of summer 2010 – but there’s no telling whether other airlines will follow suit. Discount carriers in Europe already do charge for some carry-on bags.

Some US airlines and their luggage fees:

  • AirTran
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $20 for 1st bag
    • $25 for 2nd checked bag
  • Alaska Air
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $20 for 1st checked bag
    • $20 for 2nd checked bag
  • Allegiant*
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $35 for 1st bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag
  • American Airlines
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st checked bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag ($50-60 for 2nd checked bag on international flights, depending on destination)
  • Continental Airlines*
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st checked bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag ($50 for 2nd checked bag on international flights)
  • Delta Air Lines*
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st checked bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag ($55 for 2nd checked bag on international flights)
  • Frontier*
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $20 for 1st bag
    • $20 for 2nd checked bag
  • Hawaiian Airlines*
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag ($50 for 2nd checked bag on international flights)
  • jetBlue
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • No fee for 1st checked bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag
  • Southwest
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • No fee for 1st checked bag
    • No fee for 2nd checked bag
  • Spirit Air**
    • Between $20-45 for carry-on bags
    • Up to $38 for 1st checked bag
    • Up to $45 for 2nd checked bag
  • Sun Country*
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag
  • United Airlines* ‡
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st checked bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag (up to $50 for 2nd checked bag on international flights)
  • US Airways*
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st checked bag
    • $35 for 2nd checked bag ($55 for 2nd checked bag on international flights)
  • Virgin America
    • No fee for carry-on bags
    • $25 for 1st bag
    • $25 for 2nd checked bag

* These airlines offer a discount on checked bag fees if you check in and pay for your bags online ahead of time.
** Spirit Air’s prices vary depending on whether you’re a “fare club member” or not, and then whether you check your bags at the gate.
‡ United offers a deal where you pay an annual fee of $249 to check 2 bags per flight all year.

More Resources

The folks at Smarter Travel have a series of airline fee PDF guides you can download for free that have not only luggage fee information but all the various fees airlines are charging these days. As of this writing, it doesn’t look like it’s been updated for almost 6 months, but it looks like they update it at least once a year. There are PDFs for airlines in the US, in Europe, and in Latin America, so you can pick the one you need.

AirfareWatchdog also produces a list of airline bag fee charges, which it also appears gets updated at least once a year. This is a regular website, not a PDF – the US airlines are here, and airlines outside the US are here.

FareCompare’s chart includes both US airline baggage fees and fees for bringing a pet with you on a flight. It’s a little harder to follow, but there’s some valuable information there.

photo by sun dazed



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