Frightening Facts about Bag Fees

Even if you fly a lot you may learn something you didn’t know and as they say, knowledge is power. It could also save you some big bucks.

LISTEN Rick Seaney has some baggage horror stories.

  • Fact #1: Fees for one checked bag could cost more than a ticket.

Sound crazy? Let’s do the math. These are real, round-trip prices for a United flight in April.

Ticket Fees
LAX – $140 First checked bag $50
Overweight fee $200*
TOTAL – $140 TOTAL  – $250

*Overweight fees kick in for bags weighing more than 50 pounds.

  • Fact #2: Some airlines charge for all bags. Some are still free.

Allegiant, Spirit and in some cases Frontier will charge for checked-bags and for carry-on bags. Most other airlines still allow carry-ons for free. Two airlines still provide checked bags for free: JetBlue (1) and Southwest (2).

How to pack a carry-on with absolutely everything

  • Fact #3: Airlines are cracking down on too-big carry-ons.

If you’ve made it onboard with an oversized carry-on in the past, or had your big carry-on taken from you at the gate and checked for free, it may not happen again. United for one is cracking down and will now require oversized bags to be checked before security. Have your credit card handy or meet the size requirements of 9 x 14 x 22 (including handles and wheels).

  • Fact #4: Canceled flights usually mean fee refunds. It is not automatic.

As American Airlines says on its website, you must put in a request. Otherwise, do not expect a refund.

  • Fact #5: Fees for lost bags are refunded. So are some expenses (but only some)

The Department of Transportation requires fee refunds for lost bags, but most bags are rarely lost forever – only a few days or so. You are also entitled to “reasonable reimbursement for expenses you incur while waiting for the delayed bag, such as the purchase of toiletries and a change of underwear.” But do not go crazy because the airlines won’t pay. Hold onto all receipts; if your bag among the tiny percentage of ‘gone for good’ you will need receipts and claim checks to prove your case.


Published: March 21, 2014