Checked-Bag Fees are Cheap Compared to Overweight/Oversize Bag Fees

Below is a somewhat faithful transcription of a text-message conversation between a college student and her mother; the college kid was texting from a Midwestern airport, as she prepared to fly home to the West Coast for the summer – with two checked-bags.

College Kid: “bagz 2 heavy”

Mother: [laboriously typing] “What do u mean?”

College Kid: “2 heavy”

Mother: “Take some stuff from one bag, add to the other, so the weight evens out and both are under 50lbs”

College Kid: “wnt wrk, 2 heavy, u put $$ in myacct 4 fees”

Mother: “Oh, dear, what airline is this again?”

College Kid: “united”

Mother: “OMG”

Mother was right to be alarmed.

United charges $25* for a first-check bag, $35* for a second – but the bags can’t weigh more than 50 lbs (bags of elite miles members can be heavier). Bags weighing between 50-70 pounds cost an extra $100 each – and that’s each way you fly – and that’s on top of the checked-bag fee.

So the fees for two checked-bags that mother thought would cost $120 roundtrip, have exploded into a budget-busting fee of $320.

OMG is right. (checkout our Airline Fee Domestic Bag Fee Chart)

Something else to note: when exactly is a bag overweight?

Generally speaking, a bag is considered overweight when it weighs more than 50 lbs, but this varies from airline to airline. And so do the overweight fees.

Some examples:

  • Virgin America: first checked-bag is considered overweight above 70 lbs; after that, bags are considered overweight above 50 lbs. Fees: $50 one-way for bags weighing between 51-69 lbs; $100 for bags weighing between 70 – 100 lbs
  • Hawaiian Airlines: does not accept any bag weighing more than 70 lbs
  • Delta Air Lines: the fee for bags weighing 51-70lbs is $90; fee for bags weighing 71-100 lbs is $175

Face it, bag fees and other airline fees can really do some damage to those cheap tickets you thought you got. But some fees are heftier than others.

See our worldwide baggage fee chart if you’re flying, well, anywhere.

Like “oversize” bag fees. Most airlines allow you to bring a suitcase that’s 62 linear inches (to determine linear inches, use this formula: length + width + height of the bag = linear inches).

Bags larger than 62 linear inches, or what the airlines refer to as “special items”** can cost up to $300 one-way on Delta, depending on the weight of the oversize item.

Don’t get blindsided: review FareCompare’s Domestic Airline Bag Fee Chart before you fly. If you have a lot of luggage, or heavy pieces or unusual items, it may prompt you to consider shipping some things, instead (but compare prices carefully).

Like those trophy antlers you want to take on the plane; Frontier will be happy to take them on your flight for $100 each-way, while United will charge $175 each-way. Or maybe leave them at home?

*Fees are slightly lower if bags are checked online (but this discount can change without notice)

** Other special items may include surfboards, while skiing equipment is often considered the equivalent of one checked-bag

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Updated: July 5, 2016