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Travelers Spent $28.1 Billion On Checked Baggage in 2018!

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Written by Charlie

In 2018, people paid airlines over $28 BILLION to check their luggage! Find out which US airlines got the most and some other interesting numbers and facts.

Yes, that was with a big “B” – $28.1 billion. That was a lot of money spent to have clothes and belongings travel with people and it was up from the year before! Still, there are some interesting numbers to look at with this new figure.

Travelers Spent $28.1 Billion on Checked Baggage in 2018

Read More: 4 Tips to Avoid Paying Checked Baggage Fees

Of that big $28 billion amount, US airlines raked in $4.9 billion in checked bag fees. This was helped, in part, to the airlines bumping up their checked bag fees for domestic flights. According to the report from IdeaWorks Company, the $28 billion figure accounts for 3.2% in global airline revenue

Want to see in what order US airlines came in with this baggage haul? Here is the order and amount that the top 5 US airlines charged for checked baggage in 2018:

  • American Airlines – $1.2 billion
  • United Airlines – $888.7 million
  • Delta Air Lines – $788.5 million
  • Spirit
  • Frontier

Even though Southwest gives 2 free bags to all customers, they still managed to squeeze out $49.9 million in baggage fees for 2018. But, don’t feel too bad for Southwest as they did manage to make $400 million on this one other fee alone.

Some Interesting Numbers

The funny thing is that Delta is down for 2018 over 2017. In 2018, their $788 million haul was down $119 million from their big numbers in 2017. This is in spite of the fact that Delta raised their checked bag fees in September of 2018.

Part of that most likely has to do with their credit card business. In both 2017 and 2018, Delta has picked up 1 million new credit card customers (each year) from their partnership with American Express. Each of those Delta credit card holders are getting a free checked bag for them and their friends/family flying on the same reservation.

Naturally, that is going to cut into the baggage profits. For example, if each of those 1 million customers in 2018 flew just one flight and checked a bag, that was about $27 million that Delta “lost” in baggage fees.

But, airlines are winning/winning when it comes to checked bag fees. For us, the savvy travelers, we seek to not give the airlines money for our bags. It is easy enough to avoid if you have a co-branded credit card. But, the airline is making money on that, too! In just 2018, Delta picked up $3.4 billion from their relationship with American Express (and they are expecting it to jump to $7 billion a year by 2023, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

So, pay for a bag or get a credit card – either way, the airlines are pulling in the big bucks. At least with a credit card, we feel like we can get something out of the relationship beyond paying to transport our own clothes!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.