More and more people are asking about baggage fees, and rightfully so. Baggage fees have become a confusing mess and every airline has a different policy, which can be daunting. Rather than going through each airline’s baggage policy, I’ll break down the basics every traveler should know. Prior to purchasing, keep these four basics in mind.

Airline Baggage Fees

Baggage basics

1. Baggage fees are per bag and per direction. So one way = one charge. Round trip = two charges. If your flight has a connection, bags will generally transfer from flight to flight and no additional fees will apply. There are a few exceptions – like if you are connecting from one airline to another and those two airlines don’t have a baggage agreement with each other; or if you actually purchase separate tickets for each leg of your connecting flight.  Both of these cases are very rare.

2. Although some web sites are more forthcoming about bag fees than others, these charges are set by the airline and do not change whether you buy your ticket over the phone or online, through the airline, or through a third party website. The bag charge will be the same. If a particular web site doesn’t list a charge for checked bags and another does, it’s simply because the first site is not revealing all of the associated fees – it’s not that they have a better deal!

3. Most airlines don’t charge bag fees for their top frequent flyers (those with “elite” status); members of the U.S. military; business and first class ticket holders; those who purchase fully refundable or other more expensive fares; and in some cases people who have the airlines’ branded credit card.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, onto the nitty gritty:

Checked baggage

For domestic flights, bag fees vary and range from free to $200. Southwest Airlines is famous for its “Bags Fly Free” policy – they allow two bags for no charge. But most airlines charge around $30 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag. (More than two can get really expensive.) JetBlue now charges for bags (they used to allow one freebie), based on the class of service purchased:

Fare option          1st bag                           2nd bag                       3rd bag + add’l bags

Blue                       $20 (online/at kiosk)        $25 (at ticket counter)           $35 – $100 each

Blue Plus               Included                         $35                                                   $100 each

Blue Flex               Included                      Included                                               $100 each

There has been a move in recent years by some airlines to include free baggage allowance (like the JetBlue model) with an upgraded seat. You can check with individual airlines to see if they offer this perk for booking a better class of service.

Baggage fees are based on piece, size and weight. If your bag is too big or too heavy, according to airline standard, you will have to pay extra fees. Bags that weigh more than 70 pounds usually fall into this category.

Carry-ons

A common strategy now is to try to bring your bag on board with you to avoid bag fees. That’s usually a good idea, since nearly every airline allows for one free carry-on bag based on size and weight conditions (usually 45 linear inches and less than 30 pounds.) But a couple airlines, Spirit and Allegiant, will actually charge you for your carry-on, even more than the cost of a checked bag!

All airlines, however, including Spirit and Allegiant, allow you to bring one “personal item” such as a purse or laptop free of charge.

Domestic versus international

Another factor driving the costs of baggage fees is whether the flight is domestic or international. Passengers flying internationally can pay fees ranging from $0 – $350, depending on the class of service and destination. When traveling international, the calculation of baggage fees will depend on the destination.

When to pay your bag fees

More and more airlines are charging higher bag fees if you pay them at the airport, as opposed to paying them in advance on the airline’s website. For this reason, we always recommend you checking the airline web site in advance of your flight to see if you can prepay your bag fees. This will save a little time at the airport, too.

Confused yet? Check out our baggage fee charts.

This is a lot of detailed information. We’ve created comprehensive baggage fee charts to help you with your trip planning. Use them for every trip!

Have questions? Just email [email protected].

Note: These tips apply for flights to U.S. destinations.  Fees can vary for traveling outside the country.  Fees are valid as of 06/01/16 but are subject to change.

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128 Comments

  1. My son is sending money to someone. She is going through an agent. When he sends the amount they tell him to and it gets there, he is told that the luggage fees have gone up so why do he have to pay the full luggage fee amount again?

    • Hi Karen,

      Airlines charge fees for checking bags. Some airlines, like Spirit Airlines, even charge for carry on bags too. The charges will depend on what airline your son is booked with and the routing. For example, if he’s traveling domestically on American Airlines, they charge $25 for the first checked bag. If traveling internationally, it can be more… depending on the route. With that said, I would find out which airline he’s flying and double check the fees they charge to see if the charges you’re being quoted are accurate.

  2. I recently booked on Allegiant. I’m not sure yet how many bags we will take since it’s a short trip (4 days) and there are only 2 of us; but I wanted to prepay. So, I chose to pay for 1 checked bag and 2 carry ons (I did this because sometimes we take a computer, which I felt would be counted as a carry on and I always take a carry on with our pills, etc). Anyway, if we don’t use all of the bags I paid for, does the airline refund bag fees?

    • Hi Ann,

      Unfortunately each airline is different with their policies. Allegiant Air doesn’t state whether they will refund bag fees for bags that are purchased but not used. I would recommend contacting the airline to inquire.

  3. I need to bring lots of luggage on a trip from Panama to the US. I looked at first class tickets and found that they were not too much more expensive. But a second look shows only one flight leg is first class. Does that mean that the first class travel allowance for baggage is only for that one leg ?

    • Hi Dave,

      There’s a few variables here. What airline are you traveling on? If you purchased each flight leg separately, then you only get the first class allowance for just that leg. If you purchased the whole trip as economy class but got upgraded to first for one leg, I doubt you’d get the first class allowance for all legs. If you purchased first class and were only given one leg in first, then you’d probably get the first class travel allowance. If in doubt, you can call the airline you’re traveling with to see what they advise. Other factors to pay attention to are the weight and size restrictions on luggage.

  4. I am flying us airways with my son. He is 2 and has his own seat and I paid the same for his ticket as mine. However when I try to pay for my checked bags online it doesn’t give me an option to pay for a first checked bag for myself and for him. The website only offers my “party” to pay $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.
    Is there a way to designate a checked bag to him?

    • Hi Libby,

      Since you purchased 2 seats, you should be allowed to purchase bags for both seats. I would recommend contacting US Airways to inform them and see what they advise. They don’t mention anything about this on their website.

  5. I booked a flight for my stepson will they charge my credit card for baggage fees or will he have to pay them at the airport?

    • Hi Sam,

      What airline is it? Depending on the type of ticket you purchased, you may or may not have to pay for bags. If you do, then you would either need to pay prior to arrival or at the airport, but some airlines charge different amounts depending on when you purchase the bags.

  6. Jeremy,
    I upgraded the first leg of my daughters oneway flight to first class on American.

    Will she still be able to get two free checked bags? It is a domestic flight, LAX to DFW then RIC

    • Hi Jami,

      This depends on how the tickets were issued. Assuming that you booked it all together and traveling on American Airlines, her luggage should transfer automatically when connecting in DFW.

  7. Last month I booked a flight and a checked bag, but now that it’s growing closer I’m realizing I don’t need the bag, my “free personal bag” is enough to hold everything I need to bring on the flight, is it possible to get a refund for the bag I no longer need? I booked with Spirit.

    • Hi Eric, Unfortunately bag fees with Spirit are non-refundable. Their policy is pretty strict – sorry this is not an ideal situation for you.

    • Hi Eric, Unfortunately bag fees with Spirit are non-refundable. Sorry our response was not better for you.

    • Hi Eric,

      You would need to contact Spirit Airlines to inform them and see what they advise. I suspect you can get a refund for the bag fee if contacting them prior to your departure.

  8. Hi,

    I booked an international flight with qatar airways. I have a connection with a domestic flight on the same ticket. As in international airways allows 2 luggage for free, will the luggage will be free on the domestic flight as well?
    thanks

    • Hi there, It’s hard to say 100% with confidence without taking a look at your itinerary, but let me try. In most cases, if you’ve booked one ticket the long-haul carrier (so in your case Qatar), is the carrier who’s baggage policy will apply. However, if you’ve booked a couple of tickets, we’d have to take a closer look at the itinerary. If you’ve booked a ticket with us (10.185.58.36), shoot me an email at [email protected] and we can help figure this out with you. If you’ve booked direct with the airlines, reach out to them. Best of luck to you!

    • Hi Shavonna, You’ll have to call the airline directly to change this. If you are a customer of CheapAir, you can also call us (800-243-2724) and we can call the airline for you so you don’t have to deal with the logistics on your own.

    • Hi Cameron, Don’t take your chances on getting a kindhearted gate agent. It’s likely that Spirit will charge you their regular fees ($50 at the counter and $100 at the gate) if you wait to manage this on travel day. I’ve heard that some gate agents look the other way, but it’s definitely noir worth the financial hit. I would use my diaper bag as THE carry on item and just forego a purse. You could also call them directly for clarification – these rules do change all the time.

  9. Hi,
    I have bought an internationl Qatar airlines ticket from cheapoir with a domestic flight from philadelphia to LA. For my long haul flight to philadelphia i can have up to 2 x 23kg luggages with me, but what happens at my connection in philadelphia where i have to get my luggages at the customs and return them for the domestic flight to LA? Do i have to pay any extra charges?!

    • Hi Ali, I just want to clarify that this is the CheapAir site NOT CheapOAir (we have very similar name and we both do the same thing–sell flights). So you would have to confirm this bit of information with CheapoAir but when WE sell a ticket like the one you’re describing, the long-haul portion is what dictates the baggage allowance and fees. If you are changing airlines, it is POSSIBLE you might have to pay additional, but you should be able to find this out easily by asking CheapOAir. Good luck to you!

  10. Hi there!
    I fly to Tokyo with American Airline, but they only tell me the size not how many lb for carry-on bag? Do you have any phone # i can contact them

  11. Hi There!
    If I was travelling on a multi stop United flight from Melbourne Aust. Would that mean I get 2 free checked bags per stop? 5 flights in total

    • Hi Renee, No. Unfortunately that is not what it means. In general, you will get the number of checked bags for the longest flight of your trip – whatever United does for the longest flight in your multi-stop should be what you pay for. Does this make sense? If you can United they will confirm this.

  12. Hi, some one i know is travelling from India to the US for college. So, she has a lot of luggage. While in limits for international travel, on her domestic flight within the US (United Airlines) she will overshoot her limit. Will she be charged for this?

    Would really appreciate an answer, and thank you very much in advance.

    • Hi Hermanth, If she booked her ticket all on one booking from India to the US, the longest portion of the flight will be the allowed baggage (so she wouldn’t be charged for any overages for the United flight). If she booked the international and domestic flights separately, she will have to pay extra for the bags when she checks in for the domestic flight. The baggage fees depend on her ticket – I encourage you to have her reach out to United in advance to find out what her allowances are so she can plan accordingly.

  13. Hi
    I booked a one-way, international flight from LAX to Munich. However, I have several stops and 2 different airlines. First stop is within the US, with Virgin America. On the first stop, I switch airlines to Icelandair. Then I have another stop in Reikjavik, switching the plane, but not the airline. I am planning to bring 4 bags. Do I only pay the baggage fees for the first airline, or will I be charged extra fees for the second airline?

    Thank you

    • Hi Celina, Typically what happens in a situation like yours if the entire trip was booked on one ticket, the longest flight’s baggage policy applies to the entire ticket (so in your case the Icelandair portion). However, if you booked these separately, you’ll have to reach out to each individual airline and find out from them what the policy is. If you booked the ticket through a third-party travel agency (like us), we can help you have these discussions with the airlines.

  14. Hi and thanks in advance.
    there´s this ticket from Lisbon to Helsinki qith Air France and Lh, but when i came to the payment doesn´t say anything bout the lugagge, how do i get to know if i should pay extra at the airport or not?
    thanks

    • Hi there, not sure if you are booking this with us cheap air.com or another travel agency. We can help you if you booked with us, but if you booked with someone else you will have to call them (or the airline directly) to find out specifics of baggage policies.

  15. Hi. I paid for my baggage online and now I’m not sure what to do with it when I get to the airport? When I drop it off, will they just know that I paid for it or do I need a certain tag? thanks.

    • Hi Kate,

      When you arrive at the airport you’ll need to go to your airline’s check-in counter and provide them with your Airline confirmation number and from there they will be able to check your bag and see that you have already pre-paid. Then they’ll tag the bag and issue you a boarding pass if you don’t already have it printed.

  16. I prepaid my bag online for spirit, will they ask me for my credit card up front at the check in counter or will it be paid for?

  17. Hello , my mother booked me a flight with american airlines back home from nashville Tn to Lax and I was wondering if the baggage fees come differently

    • Hi Sam, I’m not sure I understand your question. If she booked your flight online and did not know how many bags you were going to be traveling with – you will have to reach back out to the airline to make sure your bags are accounted for (and yes, charged). I’m not sure specifically how American Airlines handles these fees – some airlines these days charge less if you book your bags in advance online and charge more if you pay at the airport. Also, if your mom is a frequent flyer with AA, it’s possible they may have different charges (or no charges!) You’ll have to decide the number of bags you plan to bring and then see if there is a charge. I hope this helps!

  18. Hello,
    I would like to ask about baggage fees pertaining to connecting flights. If I buy a ticket from MNL – LAX (Philippine Airlines) Saturday 6pm arrival and there’s a 20 hour layover, connecting flight is from LAX-LAS (American Airlines) Sunday 2pm departure, is there an additional baggage fee when checking in the connecting flight or is it included in the ticket price? Thank you!

    • Hi Janina, I would confirm this with the airlines but USUALLY (if you bought the ticket as one itinerary), the longest portion of your travels (so Manila to Los Angeles) would be the portion of the travel that would dictate the baggage allowance. If you bought the tickets separately, you will have to look at the baggage polices separately.

      • Because I would be getting a ticket with one itinerary for MNL – LAX – LAS with a 20-hour layover in LAX, there shouldn’t be any additional baggage fees when checking in the domestic connecting flight from LAX – LAS, correct?

  19. Hello,

    I am going back home to Europe from the U.S. Can I pay my bagage in Euro at a U.S airport ?

    • Hi Emilie, I am not aware that this is a possibility. There are Money Exchanges at most major International airports, so once you pay baggage fees, you should be able to change your currency back. Otherwise, check to see if you can pay in advance online for your bags with a credit card.

  20. Hi just wondering if i purchase an xbox over the U.S. will the airline charge me for it on the way back.

    • Hi Junior, the airline will not charge you but you’ll likely have to pay some sort of surcharge at customs.

  21. I have an upcoming flight that I booked together that has both a United leg and a Spirit airlines (all in one direction). Should I go ahead and purchase a carry on or checked bag with Spirit? Assuming there are not agreements between United and Spirit so my status on United won’t bear any weight. Thoughts?

    • Hi Sherry, You are probably correct. I say probably because if the flight was purchased together, you may be able to leverage United’s baggage policy. Double check with the airline – if the United portion of the itinerary is the longer of the two (this is key), you should be able to get by with the United policy. This ONLY works if the flights were purchased together on one ticket, and only if the United portion is the longer of the two. Otherwise, yes! You’ll have to treat the two airlines separately and plan for baggage accordingly.

  22. Hi Jeremy,

    My husband and I have a return ticket Manila Barcelona Manila with Qatar Airways. The plan is to fly to Barcelona then travel around Spain by train then back to Barcelona for our trip back home to Manila. As it turns out, we have decided to take a side trip to either Morocco or Portugal since we are already in the area. The main question is, do we have to pay baggage fees again for either of these side trips since we are travelling on an international ticket?

    Thanks for your assistance.
    Natalie Riviello

    • Hi Natalie, Yes you will have to deal with baggage fees for your side trips. You have to treat every leg of your journey separately, unless everything appears on one ticket. For example, if you were traveling on two separate airlines to get to your destination and the ticket was purchased on one itinerary, you could use the baggage allowance for the longest portion of your journey (with very few exceptions this is how the airlines treat these situations). So, for example, if you were flying on Singapore Airlines to get you from Manila to Heathrow and then going from Heathrow to Barcelona on British Airways and you paid for this itinerary through a 3rd party travel agency like us, the airlines would apply the Singapore Air baggage policy to the whole journey. But if you purchased a separate itinerary to Morocco or Portugal after the fact, you have to treat those parts of yor trip independent of the rest. Does that make sense? Even if you are planning to just arrive in Barcelona and travel directly on to another destination, because you purchased the tickets separately, the airlines will see this as a completely independent trip. I hope this helps clear things up for you. Let us know if you have additional questions.

    • Hi Heather, It really depends on the airline and the weight of your bags. Do you have a plan to fly a certain airline?

  23. Hello, I’ll fly with United from New York to San Francisco with a stop in Chicago. I have only one checked bag, do I have to pay 25+25 dollars, because of that stop in Chicago, or just 25 dollars?
    Thank you for your time

  24. Hello Adam!
    My family and I are flying from Tucson, AZ to Mobile, AL with one connection in Houston, Tx. We are flying with United. We purchased 3 tickets: one for each my husband and myself and a 3rd for my oldest son, 5 yrs old. Our two youngest are under 2 yrs old and will fly for free in our laps.
    Ok so my question…we will bring 3 carseats and check them for free. We will be strolling 2 umbrella strollers (very small) and will check them at the gate. Now, I read we can check 1 carseat and 1 stroller for free. I want to know since we will not be checking a stroller with the car seats if they will allow us to check our playpen for free?? I called united customer service but I don’t think the woman really understood my question..eventually, she basically told me to check with the associate at the checking counter. Can you offer any advise for me?
    We have never flown before and our 1st time will be with 3 young children. I am trying to plan as much as possible. I am also wondering if our 1 hour layover for the connection will be stressful? My mom said get ready to be running from one gate to the other…I’m hoping it’s not like that! What do you think?

  25. Hi,

    I booked an international round trip with Emirates. I flew from SEA to DBX on Emirates and DBX to KTM on Fly Dubai. Now I’m returning to SEA and so from KTM to DBX I’m flying on Fly Dubai and from DBX to SEA on Emirates. Emirates allows two free luggages per person, does Emirates’ baggage policy still apply even though I’m flying to Dubai on Fly Dubai and not on Emirates

    • Hi Rebecca. In general, if you bought your ticket in one purchase, you can apply the baggage policy for the carrier responsible for the the longest portion of your trip. If you cobbled the ticket together on your own (through multiple purchases), you’ll have to pick up your bags when you get to Dubai and recheck them anyway (paying for two different baggage policies as you go).

  26. I’m having difficulty finding a way to book a checked bag for only two members of our party on JetBlue, rather than all four of us. Do I have to book two separate reservations?

  27. I bought a Qatar Airways ticket for a round trip from Lagos, Nigeria to Buffalo, New York with 3 trips in between. At the check in counter, 3 boarding passes were printed (Lagos to Doha, Doha to JFK and JFK to Buffalo). Note, the last leg of the flight is with a domestic flight on Jet Blue. So I had to pick up my luggage and check them in on Jet Blue myself which I wasn’t informed about initially.
    Now on my return leg, I have to fly Jet Blue back to JFK from Buffalo, will my luggage be checked in all through or will I have to pick up my luggage at JFK? Again, is there a possibility of changing my flight time to an earlier flight on Jet Blue cos i just noticed the connecting time in between is very short as I am travelling with 3 children. Thanks.

    • Hi Stella, Did you book with us? Cheapair.com? It’s hard to know unless we can see the type of ticket you booked. If you booked with us, your booking reference number would start with a #16 and be 10 digits wrong. If not, you might have booked with another competitor of ours. You can email us at [email protected] if you’re not sure and our capable travel agents can assist. If the travel was booked on one ticket, it’s customary that you would have been able to check bags through to your final destination. But there may be other extenuating circumstances – we’d really need to see how the trip was booked.

  28. I have a friend flying to Japan. She must fly American Airlines to LAX which allows one free checked bag; however, she is connecting to China Airlines for the second leg and they allow 2 free checked bags. Her question is, if she has two checked bags, will American make her pay for the one bag and China Air will allow both bags or will she be able to check both bags free? Thank you

    • Hi Matt, This is definitely a question for the airlines. If she booked the ticket all on one itinerary, the longest segment of the flight determines the bag allowance (so, in this scenario she gets to bring both for free). However, if she booked the tickets separately, she will probably have to pick up her bags in LA and recheck on China Airlines, which would mean the bag allowances are standing alone. I would definitely check with AA though – if they codeshare with China Air, they may make an exception and allow her to check her bags on through. Good luck to you.

  29. Hi,
    My wife & I are travelling across North America on several individual flights with United Airlines.
    Are we allowed to check-in 2 bags per person weighing less than 50 pound each or is there a limit of 1 checked-in bag per person ?
    Also, will there be additional charges if we check 2 bags in each weighing less than 50 pound ?

    • Hi Paul, because you mention several individual flights across North America it is hard to say. Usually, if you’re traveling on one airline the baggage policy for the longest flight segment can be applied to all other segments. Having said that, this is reserved for flights occurring as part of one itinerary to get you to one destination. If you’re interrupting this trip to stay overnight in any of the stops along the way, it’s probably not going to apply. Furthermore, United has a closed-system on its baggage policies. I would definitely reach out to the airline directly, share your question and get them to notate what they tell you in your travel record.

  30. if i purchase a ticket from amman jordan to Cagayan de oro in the phippines do I have to pay for the domestic flight connection from Manila to Cagayan de oro. I understand ettihad allow 2 bags 23 kgs each while Pal allows 10 kgs for domestic flights.

    • Hi Joy, If you are asking whether you have to pay a separate baggage fee for the domestic portion of your ticket, the short answer is that it depends on a number of factors. In general, if you bought one ticket with one airline, baggage allowance should correspond to the longest leg of your journey. If you have pieced together an itinerary on more than one ticket, you may be on the hook for each leg and each airline separately. I hope this helps. Please reach back out if you have additional questions.