Watch Out for the Baggage Police

Attention summer travelers: If it’s been a while since you’ve flown, now is a good time to review airline baggage fee rules. What you don’t know can cost you.

LISTEN: Travel expert Rick Seaney on his own run-ins with bag police.

Worldwide Baggage Fee Chart

Baggage Police at the Gate

Air Canada has begun cracking down on over-sized and overweight carry-on bags and they’re not alone. The action by the Canadian carrier spreads to all that country’s airports by June 8, and it appears to be a reaction to the same old ‘not enough room in overhead bins’. Last year, FareCompare reported United Airlines began a similar action by placing sizing-templates for carry-ons in most U.S. airports. Those who go over the limits may have to pay the regular checked-bag fee and/or relinquish the bag for storage in cargo.

It would not shock us in the least to learn other airlines are planning to copy these moves; after all, it could mean even more fee revenue.

Know the Rules Before You Fly

Most airlines have specific size limits for all bags and that includes carry-ons. These sizes differ by airline. Some examples:

  • United carry-on (free) 9 x 14 x 22 inches
  • Spirit carry-on (for a fee): 22 x 18 x 10 inches inches
  • Spirit personal item (free): 16 x 14 x 12 inches

Sure would be nice if there was a universal baggage size but there’s not so measure carefully. Tip: If your bag has a handle that sticks out, those extra inches must be included in the total measurement.

Fees for Baggage

Bag fees – for carry-ons and checked-luggage – can and do change without notice so check with your airline before you start packing. Big airlines typically charge the steepest fees, $25 one-way for a first checked-bag but smaller carriers including Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit charge for checked-bags and carry-ons.

Only one airline still gives you a carry-on and two checked-bags for free: Southwest.


Updated: May 27, 2015