These days, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to travel by airplane. Flights have been getting cheaper and cheaper over time, so the cost of a single flight from LA to Boston in 1941 could pay for your whole family to fly to Europe today. However, one aspect of flying has gotten more expensive recently. You might have noticed that you’re paying more for your luggage in recent months.
Are baggage fees increasing?
Yes! At the end of August 2018, JetBlue announced that they would be raising baggage prices from $25 to $30 for the first checked bag and $35 to $40 for the second checked bag. A few days later, United added an equal $5 increase to their baggage fees, and Delta Air Lines followed with the same price increase shortly afterward. The very next day, American Airlines, who had been holding out, announced that they were raising their prices by $5 per checked bag too.
A simple $5 might not seem like much, but these small price increases have been adopted by a huge number of airlines in the past couple of months, including big carriers like Air Canada and WestJet. And that’s not all – the price of third and later checked bags on JetBlue rose from $100 to $150, with similar changes for bags that are found to be over the airline’s size and weight requirements. These charges can add up fast, particularly if you travel regularly.
Why are baggage fees increasing?
In September, a congressional board authorized a bill which allows US airlines to operate without restrictions on baggage fees. The bill does include a number of protections for passengers, such as rules which stop airlines from removing passengers from flights involuntarily and requirements for minimum seat sizes. However, they come along with the removal of a clause which would have protected “reasonable and proportional” baggage fees. Airlines lobbied strongly against fee restrictions and this time, they won.
With rising fuel and labor prices, airlines are searching for new ways to grow their revenue, and baggage fees are an easy target. Most customers won’t say no to a flight when they find out that they have to pay an extra $5 but that small added cost means big gains for airlines like Delta, who carry more than 180 million passengers per year.
Extra sources of revenue like this brought in $65 billion for US airlines in 2017, a record high for the industry. And because airlines have offered exceptions to these rules for frequent fliers, these price increases won’t affect their most loyal customers, so they can protect their central source of revenue. The extra costs also won’t be detected by flight search engines like Skyscanner and Kayak, so customers will still be attracted by low base rate fares.
Baggage fees and airline add-ons: A history
US airlines started broadly introducing baggage fees around a decade ago, with American Airlines really starting the trend in 2008. Some smaller airlines like Spirit were already charging for baggage, but American Airlines were the first big US group to include this add-on fee. Back then, the fee was $15 for one checked bag on a domestic flight. This means that in just ten years, the price of baggage has doubled.
Oil prices shot up in 2008 following the recession and airlines scrambled to find extra ways to make up for the revenue that was lost in paying for this more expensive oil. Since then, airlines have increasingly been practicing “unbundling”. This is when flight services are taken out of the base ticket price for a flight, requiring passengers to pay separately for things like baggage, seat selection, and meals. In 2010, the IRS decided that revenue from baggage fees would be tax free, making it an even more attractive add-on for US airlines.
Save money on baggage fees
Luckily, there are ways to save on baggage fees. Joining a frequent flier program or using airline credit card perks can save you these add-on fees, and of course you can skip checked baggage altogether if you’re happy to travel light. For further baggage money-saving tips, check out our previous post ‘8 Ways To Reduce Baggage Fees‘.
You may need to get savvy about baggage fees before your next flight. Although flying is still relatively inexpensive, baggage fees really are getting more pricey, and these changes will probably follow for a variety of other flight add-on fees. Just remember to check baggage prices before you book your next flight so you don’t get a nasty surprise!
What do you think about increasing baggage fees? Add your views below!