5 Things to Know about Bag Fees

Seems hard to believe but the airlines have just celebrated the fifth birthday of baggage fees; yes, it’s been five years since American Airlines started it all with a fee for a first checked-bag back in May of 2008. As for the celebrations, well that’s one of the five things about baggage fees you should know – but pay special attention to #5.

Only surefire way not to lose a bag

Listen as travel expert Rick Seaney tells editor Anne McDermott what you don’t know can hurt you:

5 Things You Should Know about Bag Fees

1. Time to get used to bag fees

They’re here to stay because they are a big reason for airline survival. Time to get used to them, and some younger flyers already have – paying for baggage is all they’ve ever known.

2. Airlines make billions from bag fees and more

Worldwide, airlines took in more than $27 billion in fees last year, and bags were a big part of that. American, Delta, United and even Southwest earned more than $1 billion each, which is why fees are not going to disappear (and why it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the airlines were celebrating this ‘birthday’ big-time).

Will free drinks on planes disappear, too?

3. Bag fees can and do keep rising

Alaska Airlines recently raised its first and second checked-bag fees from $20 to $25. And in recent years we’ve seen new fees added for everything from pillows and blankets to sodas and coffee. We’re in the midst of the fee era of air travel, and as noted earlier, time to get used to it.

4. Bag fees guarantee nothing

Paying the fee for a checked-bag is no guarantee it’ll arrive on the same flight you do. Yes, bags still get lost – probably not forever – but who wants to ruin the start of a trip with a delayed bag? Not me. I follow my own advice (see number five).

5. You don’t have to pay bag fees

The airlines are right when they refer to baggage fees as optional. You don’t have to check a bag. My advice is always use a carry-on bag; it won’t get lost and it’s free on most airlines (the exceptions are Allegiant, Spirit, and some Frontier customers). Finally, there are still two airlines that give you checked-bags for free: JetBlue and Southwest. For now, anyway.

More from Rick Seaney:

Happy Birthday Baggage Fees

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Published: July 25, 2013