Checked Baggage Fees : Will They Go Away? Can You Avoid Them?

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28/03/2009 – Checked Baggage Fees : Will They Go Away? Can You Avoid Them?

Checked baggage fees have been a hot topic over the past year and I receive quite a few e-mails asking when I think the fees will be removed and how to avoid the fees.

First off, I think most flyers need to settle in and understand that these fees will not be going anywhere anytime soon. Airlines around the globe are in a financial crisis, right along with many other industries.  Airlines are in business to make money and operating aircraft is expensive.   Airlines are generally owned by shareholders and share holders like profits (why else would you purchase stock?).   So, when US Airways announces that it took in more than US$100,000,000 in checked baggage fees in 2008, while simultaneously reducing its checked baggage loads by 20% (which reduces weight, which reduces fuel coasts, as well as related ground services costs to handle the baggage) and is on track to earn potentially more than US$300,000,000 from checked baggage fees, why would they eliminate these fees?

For those of you seeking to avoid checked baggage fees, the only way to do it is become loyal to an airline and work your way through their frequent flyer program.   Within Star Alliance and One World baggage fees are waived throughout the alliance for their elite flyers.   Within SkyTeam the fees are not universally waived, such as Delta Airlines only waiving fees for Delta/Northwest elites, not the elites of its partner airlines.

While I rarely check bags any more, I to find the fees annoying.  When I must check a bag I intentionally try and book flights on Star Alliance carriers (United Airlines, US Airways and Air Canada when flying in North America) to avoid the fees.  The baggage fees are not an issue internationally, as all the airlines I fly have no baggage fees for at least the first bag when flying internationally.

The best advice is to pack only what you need and get in on as carry-on.

Next time you think US$25 is expensive to check your bag…think of what it must cost to ship the ‘baggage’ in the photo posted below.

Happy Flying!
–Click Image To Enlarge–



  1. It will be interesting to see how Southwest does with the no fees approach, as they really seem to be pushing it in their TV ads that I have seen.

    I think it might work for some travelers. For example, the bag fees are one reason my family is going with WN for our cruise. But, many business travelers rarely check a bag but who knows.

    If FlyerTalk is any indication, though, it seems that Southwest’s lack of a change fee might be wooing some passengers over.

  2. Dan,

    I agree that WN is certainly winning on many consumer traveller fronts. Casual travellers do not think about upgrades, lounge access, elite lines, immigrations fast-track and other perks. Casual travelers also don’t tend to mind point-to-point flights or a lack of code shares.

    While business travellers put a lot into the airlines economy, causual travellers are a substantial portion of an airlines economics.

    That said, I like Southwest, and I have flown Southwest for a very long time. SWA has a good on-time record, staff is almost always willing to go the distance for a flyer, if there is a problem the agents are empowered to deal with it and the planes are generally quite clean. As I get no domestic upgrades any longer (all FF programs are foreign) WN is often one the first places I look for flights…and it has nothing to do with baggage fees.

    I also know a number of business travellers who were woo’d by WN’s frequent flyer perk of flying with a companion at no fee. I’d love to see a legacy carrier match that!

    Happy Flying!


  3. John,

    As Dan Webb pointed out WN is the IATA airline code for Southwest Airlines. Some codes are easy, AA = American Airlines, BA = British Airways and some are much more challenging to sort out , such as B6 = JetBlue and 3G for Atlant-Soyuz Airlines.

    …sorry for the late reply. I’ve been traveling through 3 countries and 2 continents for most of day.

    Happy Flying!


  4. …Then why don’t you frickin’ say Southwest…Is it that frickin’ hard to do? Of course then you won’t get to look so frickin’ COOL by using coded nomenclature that three other people know.

  5. Nobody,

    I was responding to someone else in the same terms they were using. Generally I write my posts using an airline’s IATA code for many airlines, then go back and insert the airline names, this is done out of habit.

    Many people know the airline codes, in fact if you go to most airports and look up at the Departures/Arrivals boards the flights are listed with each airlines’s two letter code rather than the name of the airline. This is why many airports also now show the logo of the airline, because people were confused seeing “B6” listed instead of JetBlue.

    When I write quite replies to comments I flip between codes and names, just because I am writing quickly. As you can see in my above post I referred to the airline as “Southwest”, “SWA” and “WN.”

    I am sorry if this caused you any confusion.

    Happy Flying!


  6. There is a way around those stupid baggage fees. Carry your baggabe onto the airplane with you. Attempt to place the article into the overhead bins. When it is certain that your bag will not fit, call the flight attendane and they will happily check your bag to your destination for you without charge.

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