When I pack for a trip, no matter the duration, I try to pack lightly. A bag in the overhead and my backpack below the seat in front of me — that’s all I need for a weekend getaway or a month traipsing around Peru. I’ll be damned if I have to fork over another $30 on top of the ticket price, taxes, and fees.
Apparently, I’m not the norm. According to the Daily Republic, U.S. airline carriers made $4.9 billion by charging baggage fees in 2018. Say each checked bag costs $30. That’s 163,333,333 checked bags in 2018 alone.
It wasn’t too long ago that baggage fees were a rare occurrence. In 2000, according to Hipmunk, travelers paid a grand total of $209.8 million in baggage fees. That’s it. That’s not even a fraction of what we spend on fees today. In fact, it wasn’t until 2008 that baggage fees became de rigueur. The 2008 global financial crisis hit the aviation industry hard, and airlines started introducing mandatory baggage fees for checking a second bag. (Delta was the first to do so in May 2008.) Then American Airlines introduced a $15 baggage fee for the first bag checked, and, well, the rest is history. A constantly-increasing-in-price history.
Despite the fact that right after these fees were introduced the number of customers checking bags dropped 25 percent, that number has recovered — and then some. Fees are just the norm now, as are smaller seats, pricey meal services, and basic economy tickets, which will charge you for overhead space.
According to the Daily Republic’s report, there’s a reason baggage fees aren’t going away: “Airlines like bag fees because they aren’t subject to the same taxes as revenue gained from ticket sales. The fees also don’t show up in online ticket price searches.”
Here’s the full breakdown of how much each U.S. carrier made in 2018 thanks to baggage fees:
- American $1.22 billion
- United $889 million
- Delta $788 million
- Spirit $638 million
- Frontier $366 million
- JetBlue $321 million
- Alaska $280 million
- Allegiant $220 million
- Hawaiian $85 million
- Southwest $50 million