Posted by: jwtarr | November 24, 2008

Keeping an Eye on Baggage Fees

In these tough economic times, the airlines are trying to find every way possible to keep up.  The most recent tactic: charge passengers for luggage.  When I fly back to school from Los Angeles I pay very close attention to the luggage fees.  I normally have to pack everything I have into a small number of suitcases and I can’t afford to pay exorbitant overweight fees.

What’s interesting is that the rules are changing.  Back in 2006, almomst every airline allowed you to check two bags weighing up 70 pounds each.  But now, overweight and oversized bags cost more, the weight limit is lower for checked bags, and some airlines even charge for the first bag (even if it is the correct weight!).  Tom Parsons from bestfares.com did the math and found that United Airlines is the most expensive in terms of baggage fees.  To check two bags weighing 60 pounds it would cost you $630 round trip!  Each way that’s $15 for the first bag, $50 for the second bag, $125 for each bag that is overweight.

Southwest on the other hand is just $100 round-trip for the same set of luggage.  I personally fly Southwest to get back to school.  But, Southwest does not service the Syracuse Hancock Airport.  Instead, I have to fly to Buffalo and then drive to Syracuse.  It actually is more cost-efficient in the end. 

Here are the current luggage fee policies for some of the major United States airlines:

  • Air Tran: free first checked bag, $25 second checked bag, $39 overweight fee
  • American: $15 first checked bag, $25 second checked bag, $50 overweight fee
  • Continental: $15 first checked bag, $25 second checked bag, $50 overweight fee
  • Delta: free first first checked bag, $25 second checked bag, $80 overweight fee
  • Northwest: $15 first checked bag, $25 second checked bag, $50 overweight fee
  • Southwest: free first and second checked bag, $25 overweight fee
  • US Airways: $15 first checked bag, $25 second checked bag, $50 overweight fee 

Industry specialists warn that next on the airline agenda is to limit the size and weight of your carry-on luggage.  Continental just reduced the limit on the carry-on luggage by six linear inches (length, plus height, plus width).  Some airlines are considering limiting the weight of your carry-on to 40 pounds.

The best thing to do is to check these policies before you book your flight.  Often times, your travel needs may actually make that bargain fare rather expensive.

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