Think of all the annoying fees that you'll encounter over the course of a year - late fees, bank fees, fuel surcharges on cruise lines, fees from parcel carriers like UPS and FedEx, and of course, airline baggage fees. Airlines, in an attempt to appear less expensive, have transitioned to an a la carte menu of services and it seems to be working. During the first nine months of 2011, the airlines collectively brought in $2.6 billion in baggage fees and an additional $1.8 billion for reservation change fees.
Spirit Airlines has been making the news lately, first by refusing to refund a terminal cancer patient's plane ticket and then by announcing that it will begin charging $100 per bag for any luggage that is placed in an overhead compartment. That means for a round trip flight, passengers could pay up to $200 just for their bags. In comparison, a 30-pound package sent from Florida to Ohio only costs $64 if you send it five days before your arrival.
Airlines, much like banks, have abandoned the comprehensive fee structure. Their reasoning seems sound. Why should customers pay for what they don't use? Unfortunately, that doesn't make travelers feel better. If you're flying during the 2012 vacation season, here are some of the fees you can expect to pay.
If you're flying Airtran this summer, expect to pay $20 for your first checked bag and $25 for the second bag. After that, the price is $50 for bags three through nine and $110 for 10 and over. If any of your bags are over 51 pounds, you will pay $50 per overweight bag.
Should you fly American Airlines, you will be charged $25 for your first checked baggage and $35 for the second. The next three pieces of baggage will cost you $100 per bag and your sixth piece of baggage (and any after that) will set you back another $150. For bags weighing 51-70 pounds, you can expect to pay $60, and for 71-100 pounds, $100.
Like American, Delta charges $25 for your first piece of checked baggage and $35 for the second. Delta will charge you $125 for your third bag and $200 for bags four to 10. Overweight fees for bags 51-70 pounds will cost you $90 and 71-100 pounds $175.
United charges the standard $25 for your first piece of checked baggage and $35 for the second. If you're checking more than two bags, United will charge between $100 and $200 per bag, providing it meets the weight requirements. Using the same weight cutoffs as the other major carriers, United will charge between $200 and $400 per overweight bag depending on the destination.
"Bags Fly Free," is Southwest Airline's marketing push and that's true for your first two bags. If you check more than two bags, you will be charged $50 per bag, up to nine bags. The 10th bag and higher will cost $110 each. Bags weighing more than 50 pounds and under 100 pounds will cost $50 each.
This airline charges the standard $25 for your first piece of checked baggage and $35 for the second. Your third bag is $125 and bags four through nine are $200 each. Overweight fees for bags weighing 51-70 pounds will cost you $90, and 71-100 pounds, $175.
The Bottom Line
Since airlines started charging fees for checked baggage, travelers have become more efficient when packing for a trip. However, if you absolutely need multiple bags, be sure to add the costs of those extra bags to the total price of your ticket. Since airlines have significantly different fee structures for checking in more than three bags, purchasing a higher priced ticket may actually save you money when baggage fees are added.