10 Ways to Avoid Paying Airline Baggage Fees

I hate paying baggage fees! These fees have become a huge money maker for airlines. I will show you 10 different way for how to avoid paying airline baggage fees on your upcoming travel.

Here’s the problem: a few years ago US airlines were going bankrupt. Their solution: unbundle all the “extras” services passengers receive when flying and charge for them. Baggage fees were one of the first fees to be added. Followed by selling meals, drinks, blankets, exit row seats – one airline considered charging to use the toilet!

How much does $25-$50 per suitcase mean to the airlines? A lot. The 15 largest carriers in the United States collected $3.5 billion in baggage fees in 2012. Here’s a chart of baggage fees by airlines.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to avoid paying baggage fees. I will show you how.

This is the second in a series of articles on traveling well for less money. Subscribe today to have future posts delivered to you via email.

10 ways to avoid airline baggage fees:

  1. Don’t check any bags. Bring only carry on. If you don’t check bags, you won’t have to pay for them, check them, wait for them, lug them, and look for them when they get lost.
  2. Pick your airline carefully. Fly an airline that doesn’t charge baggage fees, like SouthWest and JetBlue (JetBlue start charging fees July 1, 2015).
  3. Join a frequent flier program. Delta and United each allow free bags starting at the silver membership level.
  4. Use your credit card. Get a credit card that includes free bags as a benefit. United, Delta, and American each offer cards that earn free bags.
  5. Check it at the gate. With so many overbooked flights these days, your airline may announce free bag check at the gate. On our last vacation, our family of 4 checked four free bags each direction on Delta flights.
  6. Pack a duffle bag in your carry-on. For the shopper, use a carry-on going and pull out the duffle bag to check for your return. For business,  reverse it. Check the duffle on the way to your event. Then after giving out your materials at your event, put the empty duffle in your carry on. You only pay for a bag one direction.
  7. Send your bag ahead. UPS will deliver suitcases, etc. in just few days, sometimes for less than the airline’s fees.
  8. Watch your weight. Use a hand scale to avoid overweight bags and overweight fees. Most US airlines allow up to 50 lbs. I like this scale for how light and easy it is to use.
  9. Fly first class. First class tickets come with free checked baggage allowance. Compare the price of an economy ticket plus baggage fees with a discounted first class fare.
  10. Upgrade to first class. With an economy ticket you may be offered an inexpensive first class upgrade before the flight that costs the same as the checked baggage fees.

With these strategies I have avoided paying airline baggage fees. You can too!

Question: How have you avoided pay baggage fees? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This is the second in a series of articles on traveling well for less money.  Here are the others:

1. 7 Ways to Fly First Class for Economy Prices
2. 10 Ways to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees
3. 15 Airline Perks You Can Get for Free
4. 7 Health Habits for Travelers

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Avoid Paying Airline Baggage Fees

    1. Most people don’t know that the person who checks you in has the discretion to not charge baggage fees. If he/she knows you are a missionary or poor exchange student, for example, they will often waive the fee. This first hand from a gate agent. But it’s not guaranteed, and totally spur-of-the moment.