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Airlines Are Increasing Baggage Fees — Here’s How To Avoid Them

By Peter Vanden Bos
Read time: 4 minutes

Checking a bag on your next flight? Despite their unpopularity, baggage fees likely aren’t going anywhere soon. These dreaded fees have become a major revenue driver for airlines, to the tune of a whopping $33 billion in 2023 alone. And 2024 has already seen increases in bag fees across the board — with one airline even going so far as to introduce a dynamic pricing model. Below, find out how much you can expect to pay for checked bags on your next flight (and how to avoid checked bag fees altogether). 

Checked Bag Fees Are Increasing

Luggage on security belt at airport
Credit: onurdongel/ E+ via Getty Images 

In January 2024, Seattle-based carrier Alaska Airlines announced it was raising baggage fees from $30 to $35 for the first checked bag and from $40 to $45 for the second bag. This announcement kicked off a trend, with other airlines soon matching Alaska’s increase. Now, travelers on domestic flights can expect to pay $35 to $45 across the board — a 12% to 16% increase — for their first and second checked bags, respectively. (Ultra-low-cost budget carriers such as Spirit and Frontier are a different story.)

Fees are typically similar for short-haul international flights to places like Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, but can vary considerably for long-haul international flights to Europe, Asia, and beyond. Be sure to diligently check the airline’s website for a detailed list of fees before booking.

Why the increase? According to the airlines, it comes down to costs. Delta said that its increase was its first time raising fees since 2018, and the higher amount reflects higher costs for transporting luggage these days. 

One Airline’s New Surge Pricing for Checked Bags

Airport agent tagging baggage
Credit: Hinterhaus Productions/ DigitalVision via Getty Images 

By now, travelers are used to dynamic or surge pricing thanks to companies such as Uber, but they’ll also have to get used to that idea when it comes to airline fees. New York City-based JetBlue Airways joined other airlines in early 2024 in increasing fees, but in April the carrier went one step further by introducing dynamic pricing for bags.

Now, the cost of checking a bag will vary according to whether you’re flying during what the airline considers a “peak” or “off-peak” period. As expected, peak dates cover major holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving but also most of summer travel (about half the year in total). 

The good news is that if you plan ahead, you can save $10 by adding a bag at least 24 hours prior to your flight. Travelers who wait until the airport and are traveling during peak dates will pay as much as $50 for the first checked bag and $70 for the first checked bag. 

How To Avoid Checked Bag Fees

Traveler picking suitcase up from baggage carousel
Credit: urbazon/ E+ via Getty Images 

The first answer may seem obvious: Try to fit more into your carry-on bag. That task becomes easier with these clever tricks — such as rolling your clothing instead of folding it — that promise to save valuable space and help you avoid checked bag fees altogether. (Plus, you won’t have to worry about the airline losing your luggage while on vacation.) If you do manage to fit enough in your carry-on but don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding overhead space, most airlines will let you check your bag at the gate free of charge.

Another option is to look for an airline that doesn’t charge fees. Low-cost giant Southwest Airlines famously lets each customer check two bags free of charge. Other airlines offer fare options that include a checked bag and other perks, which can often represent a greater value than buying those options a la carte. For example, American Airlines offers basic economy, standard economy (called Main Cabin, which includes a seat assignment and the ability to make ticket changes), and Main Cabin Extra. The latter option includes a few extra inches of legroom, plus one bag free of charge. 

Finally, most major airlines offer co-branded credit cards that waive baggage fees for the cardholder and up to nine passengers traveling together on the same reservation. Though these credit cards typically charge an annual fee, the savings on bag fees for even just one or two trips could be substantial. Of course, if you pony up for first class or fly frequently enough to achieve elite status (or fly with someone who does), you won’t have to worry about bag fees. But even if you don’t fly enough to qualify, some airlines offer special perks, such as Alaska’s program that lets you check a case of wine for free when visiting certain West Coast cities. 

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