Know before you go.

By Alex Schechter
May 02, 2017
Delta Air Lines baggage fees
Credit: Markus Mainka / Getty

As a major legacy carrier, with destinations literally all over the planet, Delta Air Lines keeps things pretty straightforward. On all flights, passengers are entitled to one free carry-on and a personal item (such as a briefcase, purse, or diaper bag). There’s no specific weight limit for carry-ons and personal items — which is definitely good news — though you’ll need to make sure your carry-on fits within the airline’s size limit.

But to avoid the airline’s last-minute checked bag fees and hefty overweight penalties, travelers need to be prepared. Here’s how to avoid the crunch on your next Delta flight.

Baggage Fees for Domestic Flights

If you’re traveling domestically (specifically, anywhere within the 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), Delta charges $25 for the first checked bag, and $35 for the second, with a per-bag weight limit of 50 pounds.

International Flights

That’s a different story when you’re taking longer international routes, though. For passengers flying from the United States or Canada to anywhere in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, or Southeast Asia, Delta generally provides a complimentary first (and in some cases, second) checked bag.

Say you’re jetting from New York City to Tokyo, for example. Those first two checked bags are free of charge. Of course, these rules vary slightly from route to route, so it’s always best to check the airline’s full list of checked bag allowances.

It’s also worth noting these fees apply only to Basic Economy, Main Cabin, and Delta Comfort+ customers. If you’re traveling First Class, Delta Premium Select, or Delta One, you automatically get two free checked bags (and they’ll even bump up the weight limit from 50 pounds to 70 pounds).

Skymiles Medallion members, too, are always eligible for exemptions.

Excess Baggage and Overweight Fees

While Delta’s free international checked bags and domestic baggage fees are quite reasonable, things start to go south the minute you add additional luggage. A third checked bag is considered “excess baggage,” and will incur a fee of $150.

Slightly overweight checked bags (51 to 70 pounds) will cost you an extra $100, while really heavy loads (71 to 100 pounds) will do serious damage, at $200 each.

Delta also has a nasty habit of charging separate fees for each offense. So, if you need to haul a third bag (strike one) that happens to be overweight (strike two) and it’s oversize (strike three), that combined fee could cost you up to $450.

The good news? Delta is committed to keeping track of all of those checked bags. Last year, the carrier implemented RFID-embedded paper bag tags, letting travelers track their bags on the free Delta app.