Travel Insurance

Current Airline Baggage Fees (2024) & Why They Are Increasing

Current Airline Baggage Fees (2024) & Why They Are Increasing

Just in the year 2023, the United States airline industry earned around $5.5 billion in baggage fees alone. Unfortunately, that still was not enough to prevent them from raising the prices in 2024, pushing the limits of affordability of traveling.

As you prepare for your next adventure, it’s essential to be mindful of the rising costs of airline baggage fees. Recent reports from major carriers like American and United Airlines indicate yet another round of fee increases, further complicating the travel landscape for jet setters worldwide.

Rest assured, there are still ways to navigate around these rising fees. We will delve into the factors driving these fee hikes and explore strategies to have the most affordable traveling experience available in 2024.

The History of Airline Baggage Fees

Reflecting on the evolution of airline baggage fees over the years unveils a notable upward trajectory. In the early 2000s, major carriers began introducing fees for checked bags, moving away from an all-inclusive pricing model.

In 2008, the airline industry brought a change that shook the way the industry operated. Many major U.S. airlines began to charge their flyers for checking in their baggage. At the time, the $15 a bag charge sounded almost preposterous to travelers.

Since then, these fees have steadily climbed to almost double, with recent data indicating an average cost of $30 to $40 for the first checked bag, and escalating charges for additional luggage or overweight items. This trend has prompted travelers to reassess their budget allocations and seek alternative strategies to manage their travel expenses effectively.

Taking a look at baggage fees over the years, despite small bumps caused by the pandemic or other socioeconomic factors, there is an astronomical incline seen in the cumulative baggage fees since the introduction of this fee structure.

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

What Causes an Increase in Airline Baggage Fees?

Why do airlines charge baggage fees and why do they keep getting higher? The answers can be found in a tiny tax loophole.

Airlines are required to pay the federal government 7.5% of their ticket prices when people are flying domestically, as well as a roster of other fees. It is not too hard to discern that airlines are not happy about this requirement. Airlines typically are not allowed to charge for carry-on bags, though some airlines have found a loophole in that rule as well. So many major companies have turned to an alternative way of maximizing their revenue.

The U.S. Code of Federal Regulation does not include baggage fees in the 7.5% transportation tax. As long as, “the charge is separable from the payment for that transportation of a person,” airlines can continue to charge separate bag fees and keep the post-tax profits. 

To comprehend the rationale behind these airline baggage fee hikes, it’s essential to consider the various factors influencing airline economics. Volatile fuel prices, operational expenses, and the need for airlines to remain competitive in a saturated market all contribute to the upward pressure on baggage fees. Additionally, the economic challenges posed by global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have further exacerbated these financial pressures, prompting carriers to seek alternative revenue streams to offset losses.

How Much Do Airlines Charge For Baggage?

These are the current baggage fees for each major US airline in 2024:

Fees for additional bags and overweight baggage can cost upwards of $50 or even beyond $100. 

Which Airlines Don’t Charge For Baggage?

If you’re looking for a domestic airline that doesn’t charge for checked bags, the only airline that doesn’t charge for baggage is Southwest. Southwest Airlines baggage fees are zero for your first two checked bags. You can also bring a personal item and carry-on luggage on board for no additional charge.

How to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees

While almost every major domestic airline charges baggage fees for checked luggage, there are still ways that travelers can keep their trip costs to a minimum and avoid baggage fees by using the following tips:

  • Loyalty Programs: Becoming a frequent flier with many companies can bring a number of perks. One of said perks can be discounted checked baggage fees. For example, being a HawaiianMiles Member means you pay $15 for your first bag and $20 for your second checked bag, a near 50% reduction from the cost of checking a bag without being a member. 
  • Leverage Airline Credit Cards: Explore co-branded credit cards offered by major carriers, such as Southwest, American Airlines (AAdvantage card), Capital One, etc. These cards often provide complimentary checked baggage allowances as a cardholder perk, helping you save on fees with each journey.
  • Travel Light: Embrace minimalist packing techniques to avoid checked baggage altogether. By prioritizing essentials and packing strategically, you can streamline your luggage and bypass costly fees.

The Safety Net of Travel Insurance

In the event of unforeseen circumstances, comprehensive travel insurance serves as a vital safety net for travelers. Beyond coverage for trip cancellations, many trip insurance policies offer reimbursement for lost or delayed luggage, providing added peace of mind amidst the uncertainties of travel.

The process of picking the best suited travel insurance can be very overwhelming. You can use our trip insurance comparison tool to find and customize the best plan for you. If you still need assistance finding a plan that will work for your trip, our award-winning Customer Success Team is always here to help.