Checking a bag is something frequent flyers try mightily to avoid. It adds time, extra logistics, and cost to air travel. When little ones come along, however, packing light just isn’t always possible. Flying with a baby or toddler requires gear! The time comes for traveling parents to face the reality of needing to check a bag…or two.
So just how much will checked bags set you back? Checked bag fees vary from airline to airline. It is important to know what the airlines charge before booking your flight. You need to consider the costs as you are comparing ticket prices between different carriers to get the best overall deal. This is especially true for families, because bag fees can add up quickly with multiple people.
Checked Bag Fees on Every U.S. Airline
So just how much do airlines within the United States charge for checked bag fees?
The only major US airline that doesn’t charge checked baggage fees at all is Southwest Airlines. All of the legacy carriers (United, American, Delta) tend to charge right about the same for their checked bags – $30 for the first bag.
The ultra-low cost carriers (Frontier, Allegiant, Spirit, etc.) have pricier bag fees that are more opaque. Most of these airlines charge based on variables like flight distance or how early you pre-pay for a bag. Some of these airlines have bag fee check tools on their website, so I highly recommend going there first for an estimate before you waste time going through multiple steps in the booking process.
Here’s a chart showing the current bag check fees for domestic travel on all the major US carriers.
Note that most airlines classify a standard checked bag as one weighing up to 50 lbs. The standard dimensions for checked bags on most airlines are normally 62 inches maximum, which is total length + width + depth, allowing for multiple bag shapes. A few airlines, however, have even more restrictive weights and dimensions, so I’ve noted those rules below.
|Airline||1st Bag||2nd Bag||Special Rules|
|Allegiant||$24-75||$24-75||Variable pricing based on route & when bag is purchased; check current pricing here.|
|Avelo||$37-65||$37-65||Variable pricing based on route & when bag is purchased; check current pricing here.|
|Breeze||$45-$75||$55-$75||Variable pricing based on route & when bag is purchased; check current pricing here.|
|Frontier||$48-99||$68-89||Variable pricing based on route & when bag is purchased; check current pricing here.|
Overweight fee applies at 40+ pounds.
|Hawaiian||$30||$40||Reduced cost of $25 (1st bag) & $35 (2nd bag) charged on intraisland fares ($15/$20 for HawaiianMiles members)|
|Spirit||$33-89||$73-99||Variable pricing based on route & when bag is purchased; check current pricing here.|
Overweight fee applies at 40+ pounds.
|Sun Country||$34-50||$45-60||Variable pricing based on route & when bag is purchased; check current pricing here.|
|United||$30-35||$40-45||$30/$40 rate applies for passengers who pre-pay|
Special Checked Bag Fee Rules To Watch Out For
As the chart makes clear, there are lots of asterisks and fine print in the world of checked bag fees. Here are some special bag check situations and rules to look out for so you aren’t surprised and what may cost you more (or conversely, what you might not expect to be free!).
- Pre-Purchased Bags: Quite a few airlines (in particular low cost carriers) charge you more based on when you pay for your checked bag. If you book a checked bag when you purchase a ticket, you’ll often pay quite a bit less. Sometimes there is an intermediate price if you add a bag after you’ve book, such as at online check-in. Whatever you do, never ever wait to pay until you get to the airport ticket counter. That is when prices are highest – sometimes several times more!
- Car Seats and Strollers: Believe it or not, US domestic carriers do not charge anything for checking a stroller and/or car seat. That’s a nice and rare break for traveling parents. Note though that at least one airline doesn’t allow you to gate check strollers that are either non-folding or that exceed 20 pounds (see tips for flying American Airlines with a stroller).
- Overweight/oversize bags: Oversized or overweight bags or special equipment like skis or golf clubs can really cost you. Most airlines consider any bag over 50 pounds to be overweight (and >62 inches in total dimension to be oversized). But there are a couple of tricky airlines that set the maximum at 40 pounds (ahem, Frontier & Spirit). This maximum is easy to exceed packing a standard sized suitcase with a reasonable amount in it. What airlines charge for oversize bags varies wildly – even more than regular checked bag fees. So check the fine print closely. The chart below summarizes the major overweight/oversize fee rules for each airline.
|Airline||Overweight/Oversized Bag Fee|
|Alaska||$100 per bag (51-100 lbs) OR|
$100 per bag (63-115 inches)
|Allegiant||Additional $50 per bag (51-70 lbs) OR|
Additional $75 per bag (71-100 lbs) OR
Additional $75 per bag (80+ inches)
|American||$100 per bag (51-70 lbs) OR|
$200 per bag (71-100 lbs) OR
$200 per bag (62-126 inches)
|Avelo||Additional $100 per bag (50-70 lbs) OR|
Additional $100 per bag (62-80 inches) OR
Additional $200 per bag (both overweight and oversized)
|Breeze||Additional $75 per bag (51-99 lbs) OR|
Additional $75 per bag (63-80 inches)
|Delta||$100 per bag (51-70 lbs) OR|
$200 per bag (71-100 lbs) OR
$200 per bag (63-80 inches)
|Frontier||$75 per bag (41-50 lbs) OR|
$100 per bag (51-100 lbs) OR
$75 per bag (63-110 inches)
|Hawaiian||$50 ($35 intraisland) per bag (51-70 lbs) OR|
$200 ($70 intraisland) per bag (71-100 lbs) OR
$100 ($35 intraisland) per bag (62-80 inches)
|JetBlue||$150 per bag (51-99 lbs) OR |
$150 per bag (63-80 inches)
|JSX||$50 per bag (51-99 lbs)|
|Southwest||$100 per bag (51-70 lbs) OR|
$125 per bag (71-100 lbs) OR
$125 per bag (62-80 inches)
|Spirit||Additional $79 per bag (41-50 lbs) OR|
Additional $125 per bag (51-100 lbs)
Additional $150 per bag (63-80 inches)
|Sun Country||Additional $20 per bag (51-60 lbs) OR|
Additional $50 per bag (61-99 lbs) OR
Additional $100 per bag (63+ inches)
|United||$100 per bag (51-70 lbs) OR|
$200 per bag (71-100 lbs) OR
$200 per bag (62-115 inches) OR
Ways to Avoid Checked Bag Fees
Although most airlines charge checked bag fees these days, there are increasingly a number of ways to avoid them or at least minimize them. Here are all the strategies my family and I have used to control our bag check costs over the last decade and a half of flying with kids.
Related: 7 Ways to Avoid Airline Fees
If you have elite status on an airline, you probably get at least one free bag (or more), usually for each person traveling on the same reservation with the elite member. Double check the program benefits for the airline you are flying on, however, because airlines offer different benefits at each elite status level and are constantly tweaking these rules in small ways.
Airline Co-Branded Credit Card
If you have one of the airlines’ credit cards, you (and others booked under the same reservation) usually get a free bag if you have booked your tickets with that credit card. Many of these airline credit cards have annual fees of about $100 a year, so if your family checks two bags on a roundtrip vacation on that airline once a year, you’ll at least break even on the fees.
Credit Card Airline Fee Credit
Some credit cards (especially those with higher annual fees targeted at a traveling demographic) come with perks like an airline fee credit. You may be able to charge bag fees to that card and have some or all of the fees refunded. My husband and I have had several cards the past few years that have this benefit that we’ve used to cover fees on airlines we don’t fly as often. These cards aren’t affiliated with a particular airline program but you may have to select your preferred airline (often once a year in January) in order to access the credit.
Fare Types that Include Free Checked Bags
A number of airlines have fare types or bundles that come with one or more extras. One of the included perks may be a checked bag or two. You’ll of course pay more for these fare types than the cheapest economy ticket, but there may be savings in the overall bundling, especially if you need some of the other perks too like seat assignments or a larger carry on bag.
If you are lucky enough to be traveling on a business class or first class ticket, you usually will not have to worry with bag fees. If you are booking these kinds of fares with cash though, you’ll nearly always be paying much more for these cabins, so the “savings” aren’t necessarily savings. Often first and business class passengers are able to check bags that weigh more than the standard sizes (sometimes 70 pounds instead of a 50 pound maximum).
Last but certainly not least, families can often save on bag fees just by packing strategically. Don’t underestimate the savings to be had just by sharing bags or smartly distributing your packed items between and among checked vs. carry on bags, based upon what the airline charges for each.
For example, some legacy carriers like American or Delta don’t charge for carry ons, even for passengers purchasing basic economy tickets. Families may want to carry on more bags when flying those airlines to save on checked bag fees. Conversely, some ultra low cost carriers charge more for a roll-aboard carry on than a larger checked bag. Families may save more packing clothes for everyone in one or two checked bags instead of bringing larger carry ons at all.