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Almost $1 Billion In Bag Fees In 3 Months – And How To NOT Pay Them!

baggage fees
Written by Charlie

The last quarter’s reports came out from the domestic airlines and it showed that the airlines brought in a staggering $960 million in baggage fees. That is a lot of money from a lot of people! While some articles tried to point out that that amount did not even cover the fuel costs, it really was not intended to cover the entire fuel cost of the airplane. It was to bring the airlines more money and it certainly has done that. To read more about this report and the fees, read this article from CNN.

$1 Billion In Bag Fees – How To Not Pay Them!

Hopefully, you were not part of the group that paid the fees that added up to that huge number! Because it is very much avoidable to not pay fees when checking baggage domestically.

Fly Airlines With Free Bags

baggage fees

The first method that jumps out is to fly Southwest. They have proudly remained as the airline that gives you the two free checked bags and they continue to push that message. If you are flying domestically and need to take a lot of luggage for your trip, check out Southwest’s prices. I would not pay an extra $50 to fly them over another airline just to avoid paying the baggage fees (since you pretty much did that by paying that cost increase). Fortunately, they do have a competitive pricing on a lot of their routes and you should be able to save money over flying with another carrier.

The next airline is one that is going to be taking away the free bag next year but still has it for now and that is JetBlue. They will give each person 1 free checked bag. They have a pretty strong network and I enjoy flying on their planes so it is certainly not trading down to fly on them just for the free bag. It is a great airline and the free bag (for now) should be able to help you.

Fly With Elite Status

After those airlines, we get into the other, larger domestic airlines. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways all have elite benefits that give their most frequent flyers free bags when traveling. Even if you are just the entry level elite (requires 25,000 elite miles in a calendar year), you will still get the free bags. Not only that, but with some of the airlines, that free bag allowance is extended to the other passengers on your reservation.

Even if you do not have elite status with an airline but you fly enough that you can get close, you still could benefit from elite baggage allowance. Even though Aegean Airlines has recently raised the flight requirements for their Gold status (and by it, Star Alliance Gold which includes United), it is still the lowest Gold status that you can fly to earn. Achieving Star Gold will give you free bags on United (as well as lounge access domestically when flying United). Read more about Aegean’s new program here.

Fly With The Credit Card

Again, each of the major domestic airlines also have credit cards and these credit cards come with baggage perks (with the exception of Alaska Airlines). They even extend to as many as 8 companions on the same reservation!

  • American Airlines Citi AAdvantage Platinum – 50,000 mile bonus. This card allows the cardholder one free checked bag and extends that allowance to up to 4 companions on the same reservation. Application Link
  • Delta American Express GoldLimited-time 50,000 mile bonus. This card allows the cardholder one free checked bag and extends that allowance to up to 8 companions on the same reservationApplication Link
  • United Airlines MileagePlus Explorer – 30,000 mile bonus (there is a targeted 50,000 mile bonus you can read about here). This card allows the cardholder one free checked bag and extends that allowance to 1 companion on the same reservationApplication Link
  • US Airways Mastercard – 50,000 mile bonus (this offer also gives a 10,000 mile anniversary bonus). This card allows the cardholder one free checked bag and extends that allowance to up to 4 companions on the same reservationApplication Link


Airlines bring in a lot of money from baggage fees. You do not have to be a part of that number! Of course, there are times when it may be necessary or if you only check a bag once or twice a year, but you should know your options. If you are only checking a bag once or twice a year, then getting an airline credit card and paying the annual fee would not be worth it for you. However, if you are checking bags on at least two roundtrips a year, then the card has paid for itself.

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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.