More Travelers Paying for Checked-Bags

Although flyers claim to hate baggage fees, more were paying them during the first quarter of this year – to the delight of the airlines. Air travel analyst Rick Seaney says, “Some claim passengers are simply getting used to bag fees – I say they’re just getting beaten down.”

See What You’ll Pay for Your Bags

More Fees Despite Fewer Flyers

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. airlines collected more than $815 million in bag fees during the months of January, February and March compared to just under $792 million for the fourth quarter of 2011. The figures are even more revealing, according to media reports, because passenger traffic took a 4 percent dip during this period.

The 2012 first-quarter figures are also higher than the same three months of 2011, but the highest bag fee revenue period so far remains the busy summer travel months of last year – July, August and September of 2011 – when the airlines collected nearly $900 million.

Summer Travel Tip: Re-Check the Bag Fees

Delta Earns Most from Bag Fees

As usual, Delta led in bag fee collections, with $198+ million compared to runner-up United. The top five:

  1. Delta: $198.3 million
  2. United: $156.7 million
  3. American: $139.2 million
  4. US Airways: $124.3 million
  5. Spirit: $38.0 million

Spirit Gains on Carry-on Bag Fees

Low-cost carrier Spirit’s ranking can be attributed at least in part to the fact that, unlike most airlines, it charges a fee for all bags, including carry-ons. So far, Allegiant is the only other carrier that charges for a carry-on, but this fee was not instituted until after the first quarter of this year.

Several theories have been advanced to explain the seeming willingness of passengers to pay the dreaded bag fees but as analyst Rick Seaney explains – expanding on his beaten down theme, “It’s like the final stage of grief, as we come closer to acceptance of all baggage fees.”

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Published: July 9, 2012