American Airlines is hiking its first checked bag fee to $25, starting Feb. 1. Surprisingly, there's no savings if you pay advance (when you buy your ticket online) as other airlines offer.
United, Delta/Northwest, Continental, and US Airways have all hiked their fees for checked baggage. They all offer a couple of dollars off the fee if you pay it at the time you buy your ticket online.
Southwest is the last airline to have no charge to check your first or second bag.
JetBlue doesn't charge for your first bag, but charges $30 for your second.
AirTran's the cheapest of the airlines charging fees: Only $15 for your first bag.
Spirit's the next cheapest, at $19 for your first bag.
A few Budget Travel readers have offered interesting perspectives on the baggage fee hikes:
M Berry writes:
The thing that frustrates me even more than the baggage fee itself, is the lack of enforcement by ticket and gate agents on the airlines that charge a fee.
It frustrates me when I see travelers that make it past the ticket agents and the gate agents with their oversized bag. They then get said oversized bag onto the plane and it doesn't fit in the bins, or the bins are full. What is the airline's response? To check their bag for free as a "courtesy."
The "courtesy" that should have been performed was the gate agent should have told that customer that they are bringing a bag that exceeds carry on sizes and that they must check their bag and pay for it. No freebies. If the gate agents would enforce the baggage rules, the congestion in the aisles would stop and the airline would increase their on-time % and make the flying experience much more enjoyable.
Dale chimes in:
I've worked on the other side of the counter for a airline. Now, I am an elite flyer. If you fly enough, as little as 25,000 miles a year, you can be an elite flyer also and the fees are eliminated. The airline industry has never been a profitable industry and it never will be. But they need and will get close. Whatever you bring on board uses fuel. The more weight on the plane, the more fuel it uses. I for one, think that they shouldn't have the cheaper ticket prices and just include $100 worth of baggage for everyone. Essentially, that's what your paying.