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Updated Checked Baggage Fees

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. airlines made over 5 billion dollars in 2019 from baggage fees. As much as customers dislike these fees they are an important part of an airline’s revenue. To help you better calculate the true cost of an airline ticket it is important to know how much each airline charges and how you can reduce or avoid these fees.

First let’s take a look at each airlines checked baggage fees, updated January 10, 2021:

First BagSecond BagThird BagFour or More Bags (4)
American$30$40$150$200 (2)
Delta$30$40$150$200 (5)
SouthwestFreeFree$75$75
United$35 (3)$45 (3)From $150 (6)From $150 (6)
Alaska$30$40$100$100 (2)
JetBlue$35 (3)$45 (3)$150$150
Spirit$30 – 65 (7)$42 – 65 (7)$85 – 105 (7)$85 – 105 (7)(8)
Frontier$38 – 60 (7)$50 – 55 (7)$85 – 95 (7)$85 – 95 (7)
Allegiant$25 – 50 (7)$25 – 50 (7)$25 – 50 (7)$25 – 50 (7)(9)
Hawaiian$25 / 30 (10)$35 / 40 (10)$50 / 100 (10)$50 / 100 (10)
Sun Country$30 – 45 (7)$40 – 50 (7)$40 – 50 (7)$40 – 60 (7)(6)
(1) Prices are one way only. Double the price to estimate your round trip cost.
(2) Destination and season may limit maximum number of bags allowed.
(3) $5 discount if purchased online in advance.
(4) Each extra bag.
(5) Maximum of 10 bags.
(6) Extra bags are subject to space restrictions.
(7) Prices vary greatly depending on route and if purchased during booking, during check-in, or at the gate.
(8) Maximum of 5 bags.
(9) Maximum of 4 bags.
(10) Flights within Hawaii / Flights between Hawaii and North America

Note that checked baggage fees for the discount airlines (Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, and Sun Country) vary depending on a number of factors. It is cheapest if you purchase and pay baggage fees online at the time you make your reservation. The fees increase if you pay later, if you wait until you get to the airport and are most expensive if you pay at the gate. For some of these airlines the price increases depending on destination.

It is very important to understand that these fees are based on ONE WAY travel. If you are flying round trip and have to check bags you will have to pay these fees twice. Also, baggage is subject to size and weight restrictions. If your bag is too big or too heavy you will have to pay an extra fee. Check your airline’s specific baggage policy for more details.

How can you avoid these fees? Most airlines offer 2 free checked bags for their more expensive, premium classes. Flying First Class (and sometimes Second Class) can get you free checked bags. This probably isn’t going to save you any money though.

The cheapest option is to avoid checking your baggage. But this doesn’t always work as most of the discount airlines also charge a fee for carry on baggage. The other airlines have very strict policies regarding the size of carry on luggage (usually 21 inches or less). Some items (like liquids over 3.4 ounces) can only be checked, you won’t be able to bring them through the security screening checkpoint.

Another good option is the airline’s credit card. Most airline credit cards offer your first checked bag for free. The only drawback to these cards is that they often have an annual fee that could exceed any checked bag fee you would pay if you don’t fly regularly.

If you do fly a lot you should stick with one airline and use their frequent flier program. Frequent fliers often get their bags checked for free.

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Jay Muller

Author of The Flight Advisor

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