How to reduce — or avoid — airline fees for checked bags

How to reduce — or avoid — airline fees for checked bags


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Checking a bag on the airport has gotten pricier for vacationers — and tougher to avoid.

A checked bag is one saved in a airplane’s cargo maintain throughout a flight. While that service was free in years previous, it is now commonplace for main airways to cost for checked bags, consultants mentioned.

Major U.S. airways began doing so in 2008, levying round $15 a bag, mentioned Katy Nastro, journey skilled at low-cost flight alert platform Going.

Today, it is about double: $30 to $35 for one checked bag, Nastro mentioned. That means vacationers who verify a bag on every leg of a round-trip itinerary can add an additional $60 to $70 to the whole value of their primary fare. And charges usually improve for every further checked bag.

Passengers paid about $6.8 billion in complete baggage fees in 2022, the final full 12 months for which information can be found, in accordance to the Bureau of Transportation. That’s up 17% from roughly $5.8 billion in 2019, though fewer passengers flew on U.S. carriers in 2022, Bureau information present.

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“Unless baggage is included in a higher-class (premium financial system, first, enterprise class, and so on.) ticket, passengers ought to count on to pay a payment,” Eric Napoli, vice chairman of authorized technique at AirAssist, which helps passengers file claims for airline compensation, defined in an e-mail.

Here’s some recommendation from journey consultants on how to reduce these fees, and maybe avoid them altogether.

Fly with sure airways

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There are just a few airways that also do not cost for a checked bag.

Southwest, for instance, is the one outlier within the U.S., consultants mentioned. The service allows two free checked bags.

The “Big Three” Gulf Airlines — Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates — nonetheless supply free baggage, as does Air India, in accordance to Aiden Higgins, senior editor of The Broke Backpacker web site.

These carriers could have sure restrictions, together with for baggage dimension and weight.

Of course, simply because they might not cost for bags does not imply their fares are cheaper than others when assessing total value. And they might not fly routes that work for vacationers’ itineraries.

Combine bags

Travel companions may additionally think about combining suitcases.

A household of 4 could give you the option to condense 4 bags into two, probably slicing checked-bag fees in half, consultants mentioned.

Unless baggage is included in a higher-class [premium economy, first, business class, etc.] ticket, passengers ought to count on to pay a payment.

Eric Napoli

vice chairman of authorized technique at AirAssist

One caveat: Passengers want to think about airways’ weight necessities for bags and whether or not consolidating suitcases may set off further fees.

Skip checking a bag

Traveling mild — solely with a private merchandise and/or carry-on bag, relying on what your airline and fare class allow for free — is “the one fool-proof manner” to avoid paying a checked-bag payment, Napoli mentioned.

Of course, this would possibly not be potential for everybody.

But passengers “can sneak fairly a bit into the cabin” inside airline limits, particularly with a well-packed backpack (aided by packing cubes) mixed with a sling bag and/or a tote bag, Higgins mentioned.

Passengers with softer, duffel-bag-type baggage that is extra pliable could have a neater time assembly carry-on dimension necessities versus these with a tough case, Nastro mentioned.

Consider a fare improve

Even the main carriers usually cost for carry-ons on basic-economy fares, consultants mentioned.

A better-tier ticket for a better value may embrace a baggage allowance — by which case passengers could wind up paying the identical complete value in contrast to a lower-cost fare whereas additionally getting some further advantages like the power to select a seat or make flight adjustments, consultants mentioned.

“If you might be utilizing an aggregator like Skyscanner, it will possibly typically work out cheaper to go along with the 2nd or third most costly flight if the airline is [also] providing baggage,” Higgins mentioned.

Travelers ought to learn the high-quality print to discern what baggage is included of their ticket, which varies from airline to airline and ticket class, Napoli mentioned.

Add bags early

Whether you are checking a bag or carrying one on for a payment, declaring that early can prevent cash.

For instance, an ordinary passenger flying Spirit Airlines from New York to Los Angeles this week would pay $39 for a carry-on, in accordance to the service’s price chart. (A checked bag is cheaper: $34.)

But these costs assume passengers add their bags throughout the preliminary on-line reserving course of. Those who wait to pay till arriving on the gate, for instance, would pay $99 for a checked bag or carry-on, the chart signifies.

For those that know they will want to add a bag, “9 occasions out of 10 it is at all times cheaper to do it upon reserving” as an alternative of deferring till later, Nastro mentioned.

Relatively excessive fees for “add ons” like bags imply a funds service might not be the most affordable choice when assessing complete value and worth, she mentioned.

Buy a baggage scale, light-weight bags

Buying and utilizing a baggage scale earlier than touring will help vacationers avoid shock fees on the airport due to exceeding a weight restrict on checked bags.

“At least weigh your suitcase earlier than you even guide the flight,” Higgins mentioned. “Once upon a time airways might need turned a blind eye” to further weight, however not any extra, he mentioned.

Travelers also can put money into ultralight baggage, Higgins mentioned.

“You can simply save 1 or 2 [kilograms] by shopping for specifically designed ultralight journey gear,” he mentioned. However, such bags might be expensive and might not be as sturdy as sturdier packs, he mentioned.

Get a bank card or be part of a frequent flier program

“Many bank cards, particularly airline-branded playing cards, supply free checked bags as a perk,” mentioned Napoli.

Of course, vacationers should not essentially open a bank card account simply for this perk, consultants mentioned. Some playing cards may additionally carry an annual payment, although vacationers may come out forward if their annual advantages (e.g., financial savings on bag fees) eclipse that expense.

“It varies bank card to bank card and airline to airline,” Nastro mentioned.

Joining an airline’s frequent flier program may additionally include perks for vacationers like free or additional baggage, Higgins mentioned.



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