Baggage fees soar, account for more than 4% of airline revenue

Fees for baggage carried by 122 of the world’s airlines reached US$29 billion dollars in 2022 according to data obtained by CarTrawler and published in its Global Estimate of Baggage Fee Revenue.

Baggage activity has become a significant component of airline revenue, now exceeding four percent of global airline revenue. The 2022 estimate far exceeds the $16.9 billion collected in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the $20.9 billion collected in 2021 as travel started to recover. It does not exceed the record $32.9 billion collected in 2019, but that figure accounted for only 3.7 percent of global airline revenue.

Baggage fees come from three discrete areas: checked baggage in the aircraft hold, added fees for heavy and oversize bags and, for some low-fare airlines, the fee charged for larger carry-ons.

Fees for checked bags are common in North and Latin America and Europe, even among non-low-cost carriers, but such fees are virtually non-existent in the Asia/Pacific and Middle East regions.

In fact, Garuda Indonesia reported collecting baggage fees only for oversize and overweight baggage.

Elsewhere, however, baggage fees are spreading like a cancer, even infecting Business Class. Finnair introduced Business Light fares during the pandemic, which are priced below its Classic business fare in European and Asian markets. Business Light fares do not provide checked baggage; travelers may bring the usual two carry-on bags, similar to the Classic business fare.

The news release announcing this development hailed the increase in fees as a positive.

“The arrival of baggage fees represents good news for consumers, because it’s an indicator of robust competitive behavior between traditional and low cost carriers,” the release said.

I say, “Bull.”

The release also called the fees “…a crucial component of profitability for nearly every airline.”

More male bovine excrement.

Like other ancillary revenue sources such as paying for seat assignments, they are little more than a money-grab by greedy airlines, intent of wringing every dollar possible from the traveling public while delivering the absolute minimum in terms of comfort and service. 

Airlines need to stop playing these shell games that keep their ticket "prices" artifically low so they appear at the top of search lists. Include checked bags and seat assignments and raise your prices by 10 percent or whatever is needed because baggage and seats ARE NOT OPTIONAL.

As I reported previously, such charges distort the true cost of a plane ticket. The Government Accountability Office said such fees amounted to “fleecing airline customers.” And a White House report issued in the final weeks of the Obama Administration called for the elimination of hidden airline and hotel fees.

All to no avail. The only exception among U.S. airlines is Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV). 

There are ways to avoid paying baggage fees. Many airline credit cards waive baggage fees for their cardholders but, as is so often the case, the devil can be in the details.

For example, American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) waives baggage fees for all its cardholders regardless of how the ticket was purchased while United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) only waives fees when the ticket itself is purchased using the United credit card. This means that, if your employer bought your United ticket or you used your own company’s business credit card, you’ll still have to pay to check bags. If you’re an employee and your company reimburses your travel costs, it’s not an issue but if you’re a small business owner, then you could be paying more than necessary.

So be aware of these rapacious charges, plan carefully and, when possible, vote with your dollars for carriers that don’t rake their customers over the coals.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photo by Carl Dombek; graphic and table provided by IdeaWorks and CarTrawler

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