If you know anything about the history of airline baggage fees, you’ll remember the year 2008. That’s when American Airlines rocked the air travel industry by charging for a first checked-bag.
Sure, the U.S. Travel Association may demand a free bag for every passenger, but it’ll never happen – airlines in the U.S. alone took in more than $3 billion in bag fees last year. They’d be crazy to give that up.
Make Your Cheap Flights Even Cheaper
However, I do have some ideas on saving money, and time – both equally important – no matter how you pack.
Five Tips for Carryon Bag Packers:
Yes, carryons save baggage fees, but I like them because I can zip in and out of an airport quickly. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel as I so, so bin space is disappearing. These tips tackle time and money.
- Watch the weight: Airlines like Hawaiian now charge a fee for overweight hand luggage – look at your carrier’s website for weight limits before you fly.
- Check in exactly 24 hours before your flight: First to board is first to get the bin space and the earlier you check in, the earlier you’ll board (usually).
- Pay extra for early boarding: Some airlines charge fairly stiff rates for this amenity or bundle it with other services, but Southwest’s EarlyBird boarding is a steal at ten bucks.
- Beware of fee creep: Allegiant recently launched a carryon fee plus Spirit already has one, and it just added an extra charge for those who wait to pay the carryon fee at the airport instead of online.
- Resign yourself to free ‘checked’ carryons: If you’ve drawn a high boarding group number for your flight and fail to secure some bin space, it’ll be checked (but at least it will be free).
Five Tips for Checked-Bag Packers:
You pack too much but you’re willing to pay for it. Even so, you too can save.
- Fly Airlines with free baggage allowances: Among domestic carriers, you have a choice between JetBlue (one free bag) and Southwest (two free bags). See the FareCompare Domestic Baggage Fee Chart for more fees.
- Use an Airline-Branded Credit Card: Continental and Delta offer branded credit cards that give you free checked-bags – see if your airline (or your own premium credit card such as American Express) will match this. Don’t forget your favorite hotels, either: we’ve seen a number of chains recently featuring bag-fee reimbursement promotions.
- Avoid Checking Two Bags: With some airlines now charging as much as $60 to $70 roundtrip for a second bag, do you really need two? No.
- Watch the Weight: Overweight charges add $300 roundtrip for one too-big bag. Buy a hand-held baggage scale – at less than $20 at your local big box store, it’s worth it.
- Be Creative: Check the cost of ground shipping your bag – it might be cheaper.
More from Rick Seaney:
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