Report: Airline Bag Fees Dip but Carriers Still Rake in Near-Billion Dollars

The latest figures are in from the government’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which show airline profits dipped in the 3rd quarter of 2011 from the year before, in part because bag fee collections were down.

United Lowers Fee after Backlash

Bag Fee Earnings Down for Two Airlines

However, the sixteen reporting airlines still raked in $898 million in baggage fees, plus another $608 million in reservation change fees. Other ancillary fees – including everything from pet transport fees to food-for-sale and frequent flyer miles sales – brought in another $2.38 billion.

Somewhat surprisingly, bag fees dropped more than 10 percent for Delta and United, though they still brought in lots of money.

Which Airlines Add Bin Space for Carry-on Bags?

Airlines with Most Bag Fee Revenue

Here are the top five earners from bag fees:

  1. Delta – $232.5 million
  2. American – $152.8 million
  3. US Airways – $128.8 million
  4. Continental – $94.3 million
  5. United – $74.8 million

United is completing the final steps in its merger with Continental, and if you add up the bag revenue for both airlines, the new United zooms into second place.

Find Out What Fees Cost on Your Airline

No Bag-Fee Airlines

Southwest is the lone airline that offers two checked-bags for free, although JetBlue also offers a first checked-bag for free.

The 3rd quarter total for all airline bag fees was an impressive $898 million – well over $2.5 billion for the year with another quarter revenue yet to report – but this revenue was down from $906.4 million from the 3rd quarter of 2010.

Why Bag Fees are Declining

Although the BTS report does not give any reason for the decline in bag fees, numerous sources have noted increasing number of passengers opting for carry-on bags which only Spirit Airlines charges a fee for.


Published: March 12, 2012