Tips for beating airline baggage fees
How to make the most of your baggage allowance and still pack enough for your trip.
For those who thought that fees for checked bags on airlines was a temporary thing, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Idaho I’d like to sell you.
Clearly, checked baggage fees are here to stay. And now, with Spirit Airlines‘ new $100 fee for a carry-on bag, you can rest assured that other airlines will soon follow.
In fact, according to the latest Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 17 of the largest US airlines collected a whopping $2.6 billion in baggage fees during the first three quarters of 2011. And in 2010, 20 airlines collected $3.4 billion in baggage fees. Holy Samsonite, Batman!
Baggage fees here to stay
Sure, it’s an outrage, but commercial airlines are just that…commercial. They are not public transportation, so they can do as they please, or until the public refuses to fly. Hey, good luck with that approach.
So how can the average vacationer avoid or, at the very least, minimize baggage fees.
Tips to beat bag fees
Here are a few tips that might help:
• Carrier Choice. Choose an airline with no fees or lower fees for checked baggage. Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge for checked bags. And some airlines, such as JetBlue, allow you to check one bag for free. Of course, JetBlue increased its fee for a second checked bag from $35 to $40 in February.
• Pack Light. Take less stuff. The lighter you pack, the more easily you can avoid exceeding your airline’s weight limit (varies by carrier, but typically 50 pounds per bag).
• Carry On Less. It’s a good idea to reassess your carry-on bag. You might not be aware that there are carry-on weight limits. Those limits range from 16.5 pounds with Virgin America to up to 40 pounds with Delta. There also are differences in carry-on sizes, as the dimensions vary by airline and aircraft. Because some airlines don’t publish carry-on bag weight limits on their websites, it’s wise to inspect your carriage contract to make sure you don’t exceed the limits.
• Loyalty Counts. Frequent fliers know that, when it comes to airline perks, loyalty counts. If you build up enough frequent flier miles with an airline, you achieve a higher status level that typically means no checked baggage fees. Nice.
• Rent. Certainly, it’s more comfortable to play a destination golf course with your own clubs, but at what cost? Unless you’re a pro golfer, you’re probably better off leaving your clubs at home and renting at the resort. This strategy also applies to other large items, such as surfboards, scuba gear, skis and bicycles. When you consider that many airlines charge as much as $100 per checked third bag – and that’s just one way – renting gear at your destination looks like a smarter financial move.
Now that the airlines have figured out how to squeeze more money out of us, our choice is to either pay the higher fees or figure out a way to beat the system. As long as we know the rules, we can play so we don’t have to pay.