Skip to content

Airline baggage fees: Here's how much it costs to check a bag on major U.S. airlines

Sept. 03, 2022
11 min read
Suitcase or luggage with conveyor belt in the airport.
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Remember when you could check a piece of luggage — or two — for free? Unfortunately, those days are mostly over, so it's important to consider luggage fees when booking your next flight.

Baggage fees can vary greatly. And there's nothing worse than being hit by surprise fees after the fact. So how much does it cost to check a bag?

With pricing all over the place, we've put together the following airline-specific baggage guides:

Sign up for our daily newsletter

These airline-specific guides give you a lot to compare, though. So in this guide, we've summarized information regarding airline baggage fees, including charts comparing the cost. This guide will let you see which airlines are, in fact, the best for baggage fees.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for more TPG news, deals and points and miles tips delivered each morning to your inbox.

How much does it cost to check a bag?

ATIT PHETMUANGTONG/GETTY IMAGES

As mentioned, we reviewed the baggage fee policy for many airlines and found that luggage fees can truly make a difference in your total flight cost.

The chart below compares the cost of your first, second and third checked bag. However, this table assumes you're purchasing a regular domestic fare type, checking standard luggage that's not overweight or oversize, have no elite status and do not carry a cobranded airline credit card with a checked bag benefit.

CarrierFirst bagSecond bagThird bag
Alaska$30$40$100
American$30$40$150
Delta$30$40$150
Frontier$55 to $89$60 to $89$85 to $95
Hawaiian$25 to $30$35 to $40$100
JetBlue$35$45$150
Southwest$0$0$75
SpiritVariesVariesVaries
United$35$45$150

As you can see, these fees are all over the place — ranging from no fee up to $89 for your first checked bag. With some airlines, you cannot check luggage if you book a basic fare type. And some airlines offer bundled fares that include a checked bag. So, you'll want to pay attention to the fare you are purchasing if you want to minimize your luggage fees.

You'll also notice that the Frontier, Hawaiian and Spirit fees have a range that depends on the flight you booked. With Frontier and Spirit, you'll have to use the respective airlines' fare calculator to see the exact price for your specific flight. But, paying for your luggage during the reservation process will give you the least expensive pricing with those two airlines. For Hawaiian Airlines, you'll pay the lower price for flights between the islands and the higher price for all other flights within North America.

Last, while most airlines allow you to check a bag up to 50 pounds, Spirit and Frontier cap the weight of a standard checked bag at 40 pounds. After that, you are looking at paying a pretty penny for an overweight bag.

Related: These 27 credit cards can get you free checked bags

How much does it cost to bring a carry-on bag?

Carry-on bags sometimes carry an extra fee. WERA RODSAWANG/GETTY IMAGES

Airlines aren't only charging for checked bags; some also charge for carry-on baggage. Carry-on bag fees are usually limited to low-cost carriers, but you'll want to pay attention to your allowances before your next flight.

For some airlines, you'll find that checking a bag is less expensive than bringing it on the plane with you. Here's a chart comparing the carry-on bag fees for domestic flights.

CarrierAllowanceRestrictions
AlaskaIncluded: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on item.
AmericanIncluded: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on item.
DeltaIncluded: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on item.
FrontierIncluded: 1 personal item.

1 carry-on item: $60 to $89.

The personal item must be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you.
HawaiianIncluded: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on item.
JetBlueIncluded: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on item.Blue Basic passengers cannot bring a larger carry-on for the overhead bin, just a personal item.
SouthwestIncluded: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on item.
SpiritIncluded: 1 personal item.

Variable cost: 1 carry-on item.

UnitedIncluded: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on item.Basic economy passengers are not allowed to bring a larger carry-on for the overhead bin, just a personal item.

You'll notice that most airlines don't charge a fee to bring a carry-on bag, but you are limited to one personal item and one carry-on item. A personal item includes a backpack, laptop bag, camera bag or another small item you can store underneath the seat in front of you. Meanwhile, a carry-on is typically a small suitcase, but it must fit in the overhead bin above your seat. Each airline has different dimension limits, so you'll want to check your luggage size and your airline's policy before heading to the airport.

Similar to the checked bag policy, the fee for bringing a carry-on bag for Frontier and Spirit varies. Both airlines offer a baggage calculator to check the price when booking your flight.

And when it comes to basic economy fares, United and JetBlue are the only two that don't allow a carry-on bag onboard for free. United will charge $25 to check a bag, while JetBlue will charge $65. However, there are exceptions to the rules depending on your status and destination. For example, if you are a JetBlue Mosaic member, you can still bring a carry-on bag onboard for free (in addition to a personal item).

Related: How to tell if your backpack counts as a personal or carry-on item

Best airlines for baggage fees

Based on the chart above, it is easy to see that Southwest is by far the best airline for baggage fees. With Southwest, your first and second checked bag fly for free, which means no passenger — regardless of status or credit card — will incur a luggage fee for up to two bags. Plus, Southwest lets every passenger bring a carry-on bag and personal item onboard. And if you need to check a third bag, the fee is only $75 (which is significantly less expensive than most other airlines).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Spirit and Frontier are the two worst airlines for baggage fees. Although fares might be lower, you'll want to calculate your baggage fees to determine whether your overall travel cost is lower.

Related: Which credit cards cover baggage delays?

Tips for avoiding checked bag fees

RATTANAKUN THONGBUN/GETTY IMAGES

Now that you see how quickly these fees can add up, the next thing you’ll want to learn is how to avoid baggage fees. The easiest way is to have the corresponding airline’s cobranded credit card. For all of the above carriers, except Frontier, there's at least one credit card that'll waive the fee for your first checked bag. Most also offer it to additional companions traveling on the same reservation (the major exception is Hawaiian).

However, perks vary by card and airline; some are more restrictive than others. For example, to utilize the waived bag fee benefit on the United℠ Explorer Card, you must purchase your ticket using the card. With most other airline cards, merely having cardholder status is sufficient, regardless of the card you swiped at the time of purchase. And with the United Explorer Card, only one additional passenger can reap the benefits. Meanwhile, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card allows up to eight traveling companions to check their bags for no additional cost.

The next option for avoiding checked bag fees is to hold elite status with the airline’s frequent flyer program. All airlines mentioned here offer at least one free checked bag to certain elites (except Southwest, which offers two free checked bags to everyone). For example, American allows one standard, 50-pound bag for Gold, two for Platinum and three for Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum.

Related: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines

There are ways to avoid checked bag fees. MARTIN-DM/GETTY IMAGES

Here are a few more tricks to avoid checked baggage fees, including overweight or oversize fees:

Gate check

Most airlines allow you to gate-check your carry-on luggage for no additional cost — and they’ll often force travelers to do so when overhead bin space is tight.

The exceptions are typically low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier and legacy carriers when traveling on basic economy fares. Otherwise, most airlines are happy to gate-check just about whatever you’d like, and you may even have luck doing this before boarding starts.

If you gate-check your luggage, ensure the airline checks it through to baggage claim. However, you must claim some items — such as strollers, wheelchairs and even rolling carry-ons on regional planes — at the gate upon arrival.

Read the rules closely

As punitive as airline baggage policies can be, some helpful exceptions exist. For example, most U.S. carriers let you check skis, snowboards and boots as a single checked bag — even if your skis are in a different bag from your boots. The same often holds for hockey equipment and typically doesn't require an additional fee as long as it's within the standard weight allotment.

Before you go to the airport, take a screenshot of the rules in case you get an agent who isn't familiar with uncommon checked items.

Try curbside check-in

Check-in agents at the curb are often contractors, not airline employees. So they may have less incentive to strictly enforce the airline's baggage rules. In addition, some locations may not have scales to weigh the bags.

Carry the heavy stuff on board

In the U.S., carry-on weight restrictions are rarely (if ever) enforced. So when packing for your next vacation, put heavy items in your carry-on bag rather than risk paying for overweight checked bags.

Buy a baggage scale

For under $10, you can find a small, lightweight hanging scale for weighing luggage. These scales are typically quite accurate and will help you stay under your desired weight. A bonus is that you’ll also avoid being that person repacking their bags at the airport and holding up everyone else.

Related: Get bonus miles when your checked bags arrive late

Bottom line

Bag fees are an unfortunate reality of air travel in 2022. In certain situations, you could wind up spending hundreds of dollars beyond the original price you paid for your ticket. So, carefully consider baggage policies before jumping on that “great deal.”

If there's a cobranded credit card or an easy way to earn elite status (one that offers waived baggage fees) for the particular airline you're flying, it might be worth looking into these options. You might find that the annual fee on the credit card can be far less than the checked bag fees for your family over the year.

Featured image by WEERAYUT RANMAI/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases