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Checking a bag? News fees might make you think twice.

Harriet Baskas
Updated September 21, 2018

This week American Airlines and Delta Air Lines joined United, JetBlue, Air Canada, and WestJet in hiking fees for checked baggage.

Southwest Airlines still allows passengers to travel with two checked bags for free, and CEO Gary Kelly says it has no plans to begin charging bag fees

American Airlines announced Thursday that, starting with tickets purchased Sept. 21, fees to check bags will rise by $5 to $30 for the first checked bag and to $40 for the second bag for travel within the U.S. and to other North American and Caribbean destinations.

“This is the first time American has changed its domestic checked bag fees since 2010 and follows similar changes made by other airlines,” the carrier's official statement says.

American’s announcement comes on the heels of similar bag fee increases rolled out by Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines a day earlier and mirrors updates made in the past few weeks by United, JetBlue, Air Canada, and WestJet.

“We are making adjustments to our checked bag fees in select markets - most of which have not been changed for the past eight years,” said United spokeswoman Maddie King. “These changes allow us to continue investing in the overall customer experience in today’s marketplace.”

While the updated bag fees are pretty much the same across these airlines, there are some differences to watch out for, especially when it comes to excess, overweight, and oversize bags. It is also worth exploring the bag fee waivers each airline may offer with certain ticket bundles and to frequent fliers or certain credit card holders.

Here’s what you need to know before you check a bag with these airlines.

American Airlines

For tickets issued after Sept. 21 for travel in the U.S. and other North American and Caribbean destinations: $30 for the first checked bag, $40 for the second, $150 for the third, $200 for the fourth bag and above. Overweight bag charge (51 to 70 lbs.): $100. See American Airlines' full baggage policy.

Delta Air Lines

Applies to tickets issued after Sept. 19. For travel within the U.S.: $30 for the first bag, $40 for the second, $150 for the third, $200 for the fourth. Between the U.S. and Canada; $30 for the first bag, $50 for the second, $150 for the third bag, $200 for the fourth bag and above. See Delta Air Lines' full baggage policy.

JetBlue

For tickets issued after Aug. 27: $30 for the first bag; $40 for the second and $150 for the third bag and any additional bags. Overweight bag charge (51 to 99 lbs.): $150 (up from $100). See JetBlue's full baggage policy.

United Airlines

For tickets purchased after Aug. 31 for flights to/from North America, the Caribbean and Central America: First checked bag: $30, second checked bag: $40 within the U.S., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Caribbean and Central America; second checked bag to/from Canada: $50. Third bag and any additional: $150 (US and Canada). Overweight bags (51 to 70 lbs.): $100 extra. See United Airlines' full baggage policy.

Air Canada and WestJet

Air Canada and WestJet, which both have plenty of flights to and from the United States, boosted checked bag fees as well and now have fees starting at $30 (up from $25) for the first bag and starting at $50 (up from $30) for the second bag. See Air Canada's full baggage policy. See WestJet's full baggage policy.

Why did airlines raise fees for checked bags and what can you do?

Some airlines link rising bag fees to rising fuel prices. Others say raising baggage fees helps pay for improved amenities, such as free TV and movies, inside the cabins. JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes says it will help the airline keep fares low.

But the bottom line may just be, well, the bottom line: in 2017, 23 domestic airlines earned more than $4.5 billion in baggage fees, up $276 million from the year before.

Savvy travelers swear that flying with just a carry-on bag is not only possible, it is preferable for getting in and out of airports quickly and avoiding round-trip checked bag fees that can sometimes double the price of a trip.

To do this, organization is key. Start with our editors' go-to carry-on checklist and check out our tips for lighter and smarter packing. And believe us when we say packing cubes are life-changing.

If you can’t just travel with a carry-on, run some numbers (and factor in the convenience) to see if shipping your bags ahead with Fed Ex, UPS, or a luggage shipping company such as Luggage Forward or Luggage Free makes sense.

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