Airlines with Lowest Baggage Fees – What You Need to Know

Heading to the airport? Here’s some last minute advice: use a carryon to avoid those steep checked-baggage fees – trust me, it’s easier than you think.

If you’ll be traveling for an extended period though, carryon baggage might not be feasible; in that case, try to avoid the worst of airline fees–baggage fees. Following is some helpful information to better inform your flight travel plans:

Use FareCompare’s Domestic Baggage Fee Chart

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a quick reference to size up the airline fees at a glance?

Well, that’s what we’ve done just for you. We’ve compiled and frequently update a domestic airline baggage fee chart for you to reference when making your flight travel plans. While we make every effort to post the most current updates, understand that the airlines can and do change their fees without warning or notice.

Airlines with Lowest Baggage Fees

So which airlines have the lowest baggage fees? That’s a little complicated.

Most airlines have different fees for first, second and third checked-bags, though some – like Virgin America (VX) – charge a flat rate for all bags (in the case of VX, $25 per bag). Plus, there are exceptions to the fees – in many instances, fees are waived for business and first class travelers, for elite miles members, for active duty military and so on. And prices vary on international routes, too.

If you have an unusual situation, be sure to check your airline’s specific baggage fee rates and policies.

But for our purposes here, let’s just look at the baggage fees for a regular-sized, non-overweight, first checked-bag. Here are some of the airlines with cheaper fees:

AirTran – $20
Alaska – $20
Allegiant – fee ranges from $15 – $30
Frontier – $20
Spirit – fee ranges from $18 – $33

You’ll note that these airlines tend to be on the small side. The larger legacy carriers like American Airlines and United Airlines generally charge $25 for a first-checked bag (and $35 for a second).

Airlines with No Baggage Fees: JetBlue & Southwest Airlines

Only two U.S. airlines still offer a checked-baggage service with no fees: JetBlue gives you one bag for free and Southwest gives you two bags for free. Both of these carriers aggressively tout these perks in hilarious ads, like the JetBlue video below (which I have dubbed, “Crabby Cabbie”):

One-Way Baggage Fees – Beware and Be Aware

It’s very important to note that most of the baggage fees you see are one-way only; in other words, that $25 baggage fee will actually cost you $50 for your round-trip flight; mentally add that cost to the total price of your trip to avoid turning a cheap flight into an expensive one.

Yes, baggage fees can really add up. Say a family of four is traveling in coach on US Airways and each family member checks a bag: that’s an additional $200 roundtrip. If the folks flew on JetBlue or Southwest, it would be free – which is the same “price” they’d pay if they all toted carryon bags.

So, the next time you plan and pack for your flight, don’t forget to consider the above baggage fee factors. The only extra weight we want you to have is in your wallet!


Updated: February 10, 2016