Airline Baggage Policies

If you are flying internationally you will probably get one bag checked for free regardless of what airline you are using (there are a few exceptions). Some allow a second free bag but most will charge for additional bags. If you are flying domestically you will probably have to pay, but how much depends on the airline. The major U.S. carriers include Hawaiian Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, Southwest Airlines, US Airways and Spirit Airlines. Only JetBlue and Southwest normally allow a free checked bag. Also Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air, offer no-frills fares where carry-on bags will also cost you extra.

Recently two major domestic air carriers (American and United) have added a new class of service designated “basic” or “economy basic” which is an attempt to compete with discount/no-frills airlines.. This service no longer allows you to bring carry-on bags on board and also puts you at the end of the boarding process. In addition they are charging the “economy basic” passengers for showing up at the gate with carry-on bags (right now the “fine” is $25 plus the checked bag fee). If you are traveling on Basic Economy, your personal item (must fit under seat) will be the only item you can bring on board.

Like most of us, airfare is a major part of our travel expense and we are always looking for opportunities to save money. Domestic travel for us is a minor event and we will put up with a few hours of inconvenience to save a few dollars. Twelve and seventeen hour flights are be a different story. Unfortunately calculating comparison airfare costs has become a bit more complicated with the ever increasing costs for checking bags.

More and more people are trying to carry as much on board as possible to avoid bag fees and that makes getting your carry-on into a bin a more difficult problem. I’m surprised that there aren’t more arguments than there are and trying to get near the front of the boarding line has also become a serious priority. I find myself paying for checked bags more and more often just to avoid this crush.

When shopping for the best airfare it is increasingly important to know the airlines baggage policy. Most domestic airlines allow you to bring on one personal item such as a purse or briefcase, as well as one larger item such as a carry-on suitcase or backpack. On average the maximum size of a carry-on item is 22 by 14 by 9 inches including handles and wheels. Additionally there is also a rule for personal items. The maximum dimensions for your personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.

Most of the major airline carriers, other than JetBlue and Southwest, charge a fee for checked baggage on domestic flights while some are now charging for carry-on bags. However, on most international flights, only Alaska Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and for some destinations, American Airlines, charge a fee for the first checked bag (American treats many Caribbean destinations, Mexico and Canada by domestic rules).

One option to avoid bag charges is to get a credit card affiliated with an airline. For example using an Amex Delta card will get you free checked bags on Delta flights. The following is a list of cards that offer free bag check with some airlines:

  • United MileagePlus Credit Card.
  • Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards.
  • American Airlines.
  • JetBlue Plus.
  • Platinum Card from American Express.
  • Premier Rewards Gold from American Express.
  • Citi Prestige.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve.
United Airlines Fees:

Checked Bags

1 – $25 to $30, 2 – $35, 3+ – $150

Overweight Bags 1 – $100 to $200

Oversized Bags 1 – $200

Carry On 1 allowed – Free

United Basic Economy Service- Full-sized carry-on bags are not permitted – You’re not allowed a full-sized carry-on bag unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or companion traveling on the same reservation, the primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card or a Star Alliance™ Gold member. Everyone else who brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.

American Airlines Fees

Domestic Bag 1 $25, Bag 2 $35, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Mexico Bag 1 $25, Bag 2 $40, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Caribbean Bag 1 $25, Bag 2 $40 to $55, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Central America Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $35, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Brazil            Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $0, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

South America Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $0, Bag 3 $150, Bag 4+ $200

Transatlantic            Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $100, Bag 3+ $200

Transpacific            Bag 1 $0, Bag 2 $0, Bag 3+ $200

US Airways Fees

(US) allows 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee free. Carry-on should not exceed the following size and weight restrictions: 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23 cm) including handles and wheels.

US domestic (including Canada, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and U S Virgin Islands):

  • First bag: $25.00 USD
  • Second bag: $35.00 USD
  • U S domestic (including Canada, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and U S Virgin Islands):
  • Third bag: $150.00 USD
  • Fourth bag +: $200.00 USD per bag

Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico:

  • First bag: $25.00 USD
  • Second bag: $40.00 USD
  • Brazil:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: Free
  • South America:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: Free
  • Transatlantic:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: $100.00 USD
  • Transpacific:
  • First bag: Free
  • Second bag: Free
JetBlue Fees

Checked baggage

We offer fare options that include different numbers of checked bags. Should your plans change after booking a particular fare, bags may be checked online or at the airport for additional fees. Checked bags that exceed 62″ (157.48 cm) in overall dimensions (length + width + height) or exceed 50 pounds (22.68 kg) will also incur a fee.

Baggage fees for bags under 50 pounds

Fare option

Blue                         1st bag $25, 2nd bag $35, 3rd bag + $100 each

Blue Plus            1st bag Included, 2nd bag $35, 3rd bag $100 each

Blue Flex            1st bag Included, 2nd bag Included, 3rd bag+ $100 each fees

Size requirements: Bags that do not meet the dimensions and/or weight restrictions are considered oversized and/or overweight and will be charged as follows:

51 lbs (23.13 kg) – 99 lbs (44.91 kg) – $100 per bag.

63″ in (160 cm) – 80 in (203.3 cm)(including wheels and handles)– $100 per bag.

Delta Air Lines Fees

In economy, within Canada and the US, 1st bag $25, 2nd bag $35. To other destinations, prices vary by itinerary.

One of the best charts we’ve found that lists most airlines and their fees for checked baggage is HERE.

There is also a company, Lugless that is offering an option for you to ship your bags ahead and save money. While I have doubts I would love to hear from someone that has used this service?

Also see “Earning Frequent Flyer Miles


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