Travelers Face Soaring Luggage Fees

Travelers Face Soaring Luggage Fees

The cost of checking bags on flights is hitting record highs, with major airlines hiking fees up to $40 per bag each way. For many travelers, luggage charges now rival the price of tickets themselves.

Airlines Cashing In on Lucrative Revenue

Bag fees generated nearly $7 billion for US airlines in 2022 and make up an increasing portion of carrier revenues. Charging separately allows airlines to avoid certain taxes applied to base fares.

As costs like fuel and labor rise, airlines are upping baggage fees to pad their bottom line. “Airlines are raising bag fees in part because of higher costs, and in part because they want to — and they can,” said industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.

Introduction Dates Back to 2008 Crisis

Checking the first bag was free for decades before American Airlines introduced a $15 fee in 2008 amid soaring fuel prices. Other airlines quickly followed suit.

The move also responded to no-frills discount carriers charging extra. As “ultra low cost” airlines thrived, majors added basic economy fares and unbundled charges.

Comparison Shopping Gets Harder

While lucrative for airlines, the array of add-on fees makes comparing ticket prices more difficult for customers. Experts say dropping base fares and then tacking on fees likely raises overall costs.

According to a 2022 proposal, the US Department of Transportation wants to require airlines to clearly disclose all fees upfront to aid comparison. But analysts say real change would mean equal taxes on fares and fees to limit incentives driving fee hikes.

As carriers continue passing higher expenses to customers through baggage and other fees, travelers must budget extra on top of ticket prices.

Aklimson Phangcho

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