US Airlines Hike Checked Baggage Fee; Know whether You can Avoid Paying Extra for Checking in Your Bags

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Checking in a bag on flights within North America now costs a little more for economy class travelers. Major US airlines are increasing their checked baggage fees for travel within the USA, Latin America, and the Caribbean. After JetBlue hiked the checked baggage fee in February and American Airlines followed suit, United Airlines jumped onto the bandwagon and announced a fee hike for checked bags with immediate effect.

US airlines checked baggage fees, United Airlines' hiked checked bag fee, American Airlines new checked baggage fees
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United Airlines’ new checked baggage fee 

United Airlines raised the baggage check-in fee by $5 for first and second bags. The increased fee came into effect on February 24. Now, you have to pay $40 for the first checked bag and $50 for the second bag when traveling on United Airlines’ flights within the USA. Economy class travelers can avoid the hike by prepaying the fee before 24 hours of the flight departure. For those who confirm their travel with checked bags and pay the fee in advance, the first and second bags incur $35 and $45 respectively.

American Airlines’ new checked baggage fee

One of the largest US airlines operating flights to 270+ domestic destinations, American Airlines serves millions of travelers every year. Its baggage fee, slightly lower than competitors like United and JetBlue, has been another favourable factor for budget-conscious economy class travelers. Recently, American Airlines too announced significant changes to its baggage policy, revising the fee structure for checked bags, oversize and overweight bags.

The airline is now charging $40 to check-in the first bag for travel within and between USA, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. It offers a $5 discount on the first checked baggage fee for passengers who pay online before arriving at the airport. The fee for the second checked bag is $45, whether prepaid online or at the time of airport check-in.

American Airlines’ updated fee took effect on February 20, 2024. So, for flight tickets booked prior to this date, the checked baggage fee remains $30 and $40 for first and second checked bags respectively as per the previous checked baggage fee chart that the airline had implemented for 5 years.

JetBlue’s new checked baggage fees 

JetBlue is one of the first airlines to increase checked baggage fees in 2024. The airline revised its baggage fee chart for domestic travel at the start of February. According to the updated fares, it now costs $45 to check-in the first piece of baggage on your domestic flight within the USA, Latin America, Canada and the Caribbean. Economy travelers need to pay $60 to check-in a second bag.

However, prepaying online for your checked bags at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure of flight can save you $10 each on your first two checked bags. Travelers who add checked bags at the time of booking or before airport check-in will be charged $35 and $50 for the first and second bag respectively.

Can you avoid/reduce the checked baggage fee?

One way to save on checked baggage fees is by prepaying for your bags at the time of booking or before 24 hours of flight departure. Most airlines offer a $5-$10 discount on checked baggage fees to passengers checking-in at the airport. Certain travelers, such as elite members of airline loyalty programs or those using airline-branded credit cards, typically enjoy the privilege of receiving one complimentary checked bag or a discounted fee for checking-in bags on domestic flights.

Why are US airlines increasing checked baggage fees?

The recent development in the US aviation industry came against the backdrop of soaring fuel prices, labor expenses and overall management costs. It’s not uncommon for airlines to adjust baggage fees in response to changes in operation costs. With fuel charges and maintenance costs on the rise, airlines are struggling to return to profit in the post-COVID recovery phase. Consequently, major US carriers are resorting to increasing baggage fees to cover the inflated cost of transporting bags on short and medium-haul flights.

Moreover, baggage fee is among the major sources of ancillary revenue for airlines. According to recent data from the United States Department of Transportation, US airlines generated nearly 6.8 billion dollars in the form of baggage fee in 2022 and more than 5.5 billion dollars in the first nine months of 2023. This explains the trend of hiking checked baggage fees. More US airlines are expected to revise baggage fees taking cue from major carriers like JetBlue, American and United Airlines.

“By adjusting fees for added services that only certain customers use, we can keep base fares low and ensure customer favorites like seatback TVs and high-speed Wi-Fi remain free for everyone,” says JetBlue.

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