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Airline Fees: What You Need to Know Before You Take to the Skies

Bookmark this handy baggage fee chart to keep tabs on how much it will cost you to check your luggage.

American Airlines announced in May that beginning June 15, 2008, most economy-class passengers would have to pay $15 for their first piece of checked luggage. Travelers waited and hoped that no other airlines would follow, and American would be forced to drop the charge. No such luck. United Airlines and US Airways announced similar policies for tickets purchased on or after June 13 and July 9, respectively. Passengers on those airlines will have to pay $15 for a first piece of checked luggage.
Northwest Airlines became the fourth major carrier to implement this new charge for tickets purchased on or after July 10 for travel on or after August 28 and smaller carrier Hawaiian Airlines added a $15 for a first checked bag on flights between the mainland and Hawaii for tickets purchased after August 1 for travel starting October 1. Most recently, Continental Airlines and Frontier Airlines announced they would also charge passengers $15 for the first piece of checked luggage.

At the same time US Airways announced the new $15 charge, it announced several other new charges — the most interesting of which (at least for the media) was the $2 charge for non-alcoholic beverages. JetBlue no longer gives out free headsets to watch the in-flight entertainment (the headsets now cost $1).

So how did it come to this? Though airlines have been cracking down in recent years on existing charges for overweight / oversized bags, the real frenzy on charges began when US Airways announced a $25 second-checked-bag fee, and this $25 fee quickly snowballed into an industry-wide trend. The six major airlines – American Airlines, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways – all charge passengers to check a second bag; $25 on every aforementioned carrier excluding Delta, and United, which now charge $50. Several smaller carriers – Alaska Air, Air Tran, and JetBlue among them – have enacted similar policies.

Travelocity’s FAQ page is constantly updated with the details of each policy.

Keep in mind that this fee does not apply to all people on all flights. While policies vary, the charge is generally limited to passengers sitting in economy-class seats on flights in North America, excludes any elite members of frequent flier programs, and does not apply to anyone flying in business or first class. Trouble is, it’s not these frequent fliers that generally check lots of bags anyway – it’s the infrequent flier – also the traveler least likely to be aware of these new fees.

And don’t even think about trying to stuff everything into one bag to get around the rule. Several carriers have increased their overweight / oversized baggage surcharges, and we’ve seen in recent years the airlines have become very stringent on enforcing these rules.

Other new fees to be aware of: -
– Delta Airlines raised fees for booking over the phone, bringing along your pet, and unaccompanied minors on direct flights
– United Airlines recently upped the change fee from $100 to $150 and reinstated the Saturday-night-stay requirement on some routes
– JetBlue has begun charging for seats with the most legroom


My name: Genevieve Shaw Brown. I also answer to Genny and Gen.

How I earn my keep: I work at Travelocity.

Greatest travel lesson learned: I travel for my job, but I've learned work is work, vacation is vacation, and it's best not to try and do both on one trip.

Fondest travel memory: There are so many... but a recent experience was being totally jet-lagged and waking up pre-dawn in Koh Samui, Thailand, and watching the sun rise with my husband on the beach. We talked about what all our friends and family were doing at that very same moment as the sun set back home in New York.

First thing I do in a new place: Peruse the local restaurants and map out my dining strategy for the duration of my trip. Dining strategy = eating at as many restaurants as humanly possible.

First thing I do when I get home: Put a push pin on the destination I just returned from on the map of the world that hangs on the wall above my couch.

Travel ambition: To cover that map completely in push pins.

My most beloved place in the whole world: Cockle Cove Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts.



These new fees also very heavily penalize people travelling with young children as we have car seats as well as luggage that we have to use to travel (two children, that’s an extra $50 each ticket). The ones who aren’t paying extra are the ones who fly most often and have the greatest capacity to pay. The rest of us will slowly see air travel slip out of our reach economically and once again, transportation will be further consolidated in the hands of those at the top of the economic ladder. Just remember, that control over movement is the oldest form of social control. I guess this may be the last time I am able to to take my children to visit our family in Mexico (my husband’s parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews.)

Brenda Hayes

I feel for as much as U pay to fly we whould at least be allowed to check in 2 bags especially since most lines are prone to loseing their passengers luggage!

Cecil D. Beavers

I am replying to the comment made by Margaret Majuk on 13 June. American Airlines already has policies that help those with disabilities. I am disabled and require the use of a scooter in order to get around. I will be traveling in July and will be taking my scooter with me. There is no charge for this. I also will check a bag along with the scooter and my carry-on. After I booked my flight (Travelocity)
I called AA to discuss my scooter and that is when I found out about their policy for passengers with special needs. I forgot, I purchased my ticket a month before the new policy would go in effect so I don’t have to pay these new fees. Finally, don’t blame oil companies for high gas prices, blame the increase on the iincrease in demand, i.e., more drivers on the road. Thanks and have a nice day.

rolan vialva

I think its unfair that the airlines will not refund your money if you have a reason that you cannot travel on the day you requested, I see know reason why they should not refund at least 90% to the traveler its only fair they seems to forget we the passengers is what keeping them in business


Now more people will be carrying bags onto the aircraft instead of checking them, and the bags will be as big as is permitted. The overhead storage is already at more than capacity, if the flights I took this week from Barcelona to London and London to Washington, D.C. are anything to go by. It will be interesting to see how the airlines cope with cramming even more into the overhead storage.


The airlines were bailed out by the federal govt with taxpayers money around 2004.
New the airlines are sucking it to the people.
I hope they all file for bankrupcy; may be China or Korean air will make domestic travel cheaper..gas or no gas.
ADVICE: Twenty 5 cents profits makes more economic sense for the airlines than 3 twenty cents profits.

Celia Hooper

I agree with the previous posting that people with disabilities need to have the luggage rules waived. Many disabled children and adults may be incontinent and need extra clothing, diapers, medical equipment, medicines, etc. I think that a physician’s statement should enable them to travel without this fee. I also hope the bereavement fare stays as part of the airline policy. Finally, I do think that Congress needs to become involved, just as they are with utilities and other forms of transportation (AmTrak).

holt florida

the governments better come up with a way to lower gas and diesel prices before it brings down our nation this is ridiculous the oil companies profit and everyone else is just trying to stay in business everyone needs to realize it takes gas and diesel to put the food on the shelves from growing to consuming if something doesn’t give HOW LONG BEFORE A DISASTER? It runs so much deeper than a $15 baggage charge


First of all, i think it not fair to only charge people who only fly once in a while ,than people who are frequent fliers or first class. Those people have the money to fly when ever they want, not only that we all should be treated equal and all pay the same for the luggage rule .But it hard to fly now, you try to find the cheapest deal to get on a flght try to pack light to not pay the fee leaving things that may concern you .People are going to stop traving all togehter.The hole point of traving is to see you family ( which i could bring my kids to see my sister to expensive.)but,the way it things are changing people are just going to have to see each other thru pictures.Well that all I have to say for now it sucks ….Maybe they will look over this crazy idea if we dont fly there no jobs for those who work at the airpaort or airline.So to everone reading these comments write your comment tell them how you feel.

Cat T.

Steal from the poor and give to the rich. Robin Hood, where are you when we need you?

kyndra yamaguchi

So what does it mean if I have an infant and need her car seat and stroller?


Another disgruntled passenger with disabilities… As a manual wheelchair user who travels independently, there is no way I can schlep my luggage through the airport as a carry-on. I have no choice but to check my luggage and pay the fee. Since the airlines legally aren’t allowed to charge for any other disability accomodations (like checking wheelchairs/medical equipment, for example), how come they can get away with this? I’ve already checked with multiple airlines, and they have all responded with an impersonal message to the nature of, “No way, you have to pay regardless.”


I would like to suggest that the emergency exit seat be used for someone very tall or with a fewer extra pounds on them like myself. It really upset me most always when I fly when I ask for the exit row seat for my husband who is 6’5 and still cannot get it. And when we board a kid or an average height person is seated there. I think there should be a height rule on whoever gets those seats.Sure they say get there early and ask for it.We have not yet got that seat.

Kelley Osean

The airlines are succeeding at preventing people from flying by making travel by air a grueling, labor-intensive, price-restrictive ordeal. We’ve already cut back on our travel this summer and have decided to see the country by car. It certainly is cheaper and actually gives us time to talk as a family. The more the airlines squeeze their passengers, so to speak, the more will choose NOT to travel. And then they will have to start back at square one and figure out how to re-gain our patronage. The airline that starts to put back the perks and make travel comfortable, accommodating, and affordable will have my vote.

LaRae Ferguson

Charging 15 dollars for a single bag to be checked is absurd. Everyone will have at least one bag.. If I had known that American was charging me extra for my bag, I would have chosen another airlines


I am moving from florida to Alaska how do you think this effects me when i am bringing alot of my belongings as clother and important things in bags to travel with me on the plane not to mention that i have to pay 50 to delta airlines for each additional bag. and i have a 2 year old son who needs toys and other things for him

Pam McLean

Concerning the posting stating that international travelers are not bound by the one bag restriction. I flew Jet Blue twice in the last few months to Cancun and their policy is only one checked bag, even on this international flight. I travel for a living and have recently cancelled plans for a vacation once I realized I’d have to pay for any checked bags on a flight to the Bahamas. Isn’t this international as well? Spirit allows no free checked bags. Well they lost by business for this trip due to their policy.

Still upset

I’m ok with only being able to take one carry on. I don’t like it, but I’d be ok with the luggage charge if you’d do it on the front end. But what really got me was getting to the airport and having myself and my husband each assigned to a middle seat…in different rows! So there were seats available that were next to each of us…but, if we wanted them, we would have to pay $25 MORE after paying the $15 to check luggage. You just crossed the line NW! And the agent would not even talk to me about it. Told me she couldn’t help me…if I wanted it…I had to pay. Scam comes to mind.

hawaii tours

Great reference for trips. Especially going to Hawaii. Very useful.

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