Surprise, Surprise: Airlines Making Less Money from Bag Fees

It may not feel like it when you fork over that $50 round-trip fee to check a big suitcase, but airline revenue from baggage fees actually dipped last year.

LISTEN: Airfare expert Rick Seaney digs a little deeper.

Billions in Bag Fees

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics – which monitors such things – the baggage fee figure for all airlines in 2013 was down about 4 percent over the previous year:

  • 2013: $3.35 billion
  • 2012: $3.45 billion

Contrast this to 2009, the first full year of mainstream airlines collecting fees for a first checked-bag and that figure was a mere $2.74 billion.

Frontier now charges fees for carry-on bags

Bag Fees Down, but Profits Up

The Christian Science Monitor quotes a consultant who claims the drop is part of the air travel industry’s grand design to reward some passengers – like business travelers – with perks including free bags. Of course, business travelers typically pay much more for airline tickets than leisure travelers do, so don’t feel sorry for the airlines because they are making money: $7.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013 alone (and this is up from a loss in the fourth quarter of 2012).

First Billion Dollar Fee Airline?

Meanwhile, another report suggests Delta Air Lines is on track to become the first single airline to collect more than a billion in bag fees. Last year, it took in more than $833 million in bag fees with United a somewhat distant second at nearly $625 million. Lowest of the major carriers was Virgin America with $58 million.

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Published: May 6, 2014