Do Your Holiday Flights Have Hidden Fees Attached? This Guide Will Tell You

He's upset because he just had to pay $100 for his bag. Sorry, dude!

"Thanks, Spirit Airlines."

‘Tis the season to charge extra for everything. This year, that includes baggage, at least if you’re flying discount. Earlier this week, word got out that discount airlines Frontier and Spirit are making the most of the holidays by adding a seasonal surcharge to already-elevated checked baggage fees.

The good news is, the additional fees aren’t bank-breaking. Spirit is charging an extra $2 per flight, while Frontier’s fees range from $5 to $10 extra. Definitely not enough to make people change their minds about going home for Thanksgiving.

Still, though, the increased prices are making many say “Bah, humbug,” including Florida senator Bill Nelson, who urged the airlines today to reconsider increasing the fees. “These increased surcharges fly in the face of declining fuel costs and appear focused on increasing profitability on the backs of American families,” Nelson wrote in a holiday letter he sent to all the CEOs of major US airlines. “If your company does plan to impose holiday surcharges, I request that you rescind those plans immediately.”

Airline companies are on the defensive about the hikes. As Frontier president Barry Biffle told Bloomberg in an interview, “This idea that Frontier is actually ripping people off at the holidays—nothing could be further from the truth. We encourage consumers to look at the total price—that’s all that matters.” Translation: our fares are still cheaper than the non-discount airlines, so suck it up.


So far, it appears that Spirit and Frontier are the only two airlines raising their baggage fees, but just because it’s always nice to have information organized in one place, here’s our holiday-flight-buying gift to you: a guide to the baggage fees of major U.S. airlines for the most general, economy-type travelers. (We’ve only included information for the first and second checked bags, in addition to the carry-on costs. If you’re traveling with three checked bags, you need to reconsider your travel strategy or something. Or ship those Christmas presents home.)


Carry-on: Ranges in price from $26 to $100 depending on when you pay the fee and whether you’re a member of their $9 Fare Club. (Hint: Don’t try to be the person who sneaks an oversized bag through as carry-on, because that’s how you end up having to pay the $100.)
1st Checked Bag: $21-$100
2nd Checked Bag: $31-$100


Carry-on: $35-$60, depending on when you pay the fee.
1st Checked Bag: $30-$60
2nd Checked Bag: $40-$45, keeping in mind that you’re not allowed to gate-check a second bag.


Carry-on: Free!
1st Checked Bag: Free!
2nd Checked Bag: Free! (Never change, Southwest.)


Carry-on: Free!
1st Checked Bag: $25
2nd Checked Bag: $35

American Airlines

Carry-on: Free!
1st Checked Bag: $25
2nd Checked Bag: $35


Carry-on: Free!
1st Checked Bag: $20-$25
2nd Checked Bag: $35


Carry-on: Free!
1st Checked Bag: $25
2nd Checked Bag: $25


Carry-on: Free! (Or $50 if you wait until you get to the airport to let them know.)
1st Checked Bag: $35-$50
2nd Checked Bag: $35-$50

FINAL NOTE: If there’s a takeaway from this list, it’s that the earlier you pay for your bags, the better. Learn to be a light packer. Know what you’re going to bring in advance. Don’t try to overstuff a bag, or think it will sneak by the attendants at the gate. And please, please be kind to the flight attendants!