Here’s How Much Airlines Make from Baggage Fees

published Oct 9, 2019
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When choosing a flight, we all know how important it is to consider baggage fees. A cheap flight can look tempting, but with budget airlines like Spirit, you know it’s just a base rate, onto which you have to add fees for carry-ons, checked bags, and even selecting a seat. It’s not surprising to hear that airlines make a lot of money from baggage fees, but it’s pretty interesting to see the breakdown in a new report from travel site Upgraded Points.

In 2018, airlines including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines raised the amount they charge for a passenger’s first checked bag by $5. As a result, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, revenue from baggage fees went up by 8.6% across all airlines, and by as much as 91.6%(!) for Sun Country. Also in the top three are Alaska (whose baggage fee revenue went up 40.2%) and Spirit (27.3%).

In total, American Airlines made the most in baggage fees in the last year, at a grand total of $1.24 billion. Other top baggage fee earners were United ($933.26 million), Delta ($817.15 million), and Spirit ($669.96 million).

Overall, baggage fees make up just 3% of airline revenues, but for some airlines, they account for way more. The three biggest outliers here are Spirit, whose baggage fees made up 21% of their revenue in the first quarter if 2020, followed by Frontier (16%) and Allegiant (15%).

These same three airlines, plus Sun Country, also receive the biggest average baggage fee from a single passenger. For Spirit, that amount is $26.61; for Frontier, $21.17; for Allegiant, $19.78; and for Sun Country, $16.94. The lowest average fees collected were from Hawaiian ($8.66), Delta ($6.30), and Southwest ($0.36). That doesn’t necessarily airlines that collect more baggage fees are more expensive for passengers overall—it’s just important to remember these fees when you’re picking a flight in the first place, so you can pick the best deal for you.

For (way) more on airline baggage fees — plus lots of fun charts — check out the full report on Upgraded Points.