Mastering Baggage Fees: Strategies to Avoid Airline Baggage Charges

As airlines increasingly charge fees for services that were once included in the ticket price, savvy travelers seek ways to minimize or eliminate these additional costs, particularly when it comes to baggage fees. Here are some effective strategies to avoid paying airline baggage fees and maximize savings while traveling.

Fly Southwest

Southwest Airlines stands out as the only major U.S. carrier offering free checked bags, allowing passengers to check up to two bags per person without incurring additional fees. While Southwest’s open seating policy means passengers cannot select seats in advance, the savings on baggage fees make it an attractive option for many travelers.

Earn Elite Status

Frequent fliers can benefit from earning elite status with airlines, which often includes perks such as complimentary checked bags. Elite status tiers typically require meeting specific travel milestones and offer varying levels of benefits, including free checked bags and priority boarding.

Get an Airline Credit Card

Airline-branded credit cards often provide cardholders with benefits such as free checked bags, priority boarding, and in-flight discounts. While these cards may have annual fees, the savings on baggage fees and other perks can outweigh the cost for frequent travelers.

Consider a Travel Credit Card

General travel credit cards offer travel credits that can be applied towards baggage fees, among other travel expenses. While these cards may also come with annual fees, they provide flexibility in redeeming rewards across various airlines and travel-related purchases.

Book a Premium Cabin

Tickets for premium cabin classes typically include complimentary checked bags along with other amenities such as larger seats and priority services. While premium cabin tickets come at a higher price point, the added benefits may justify the expense for some travelers.

Gate Check Your Bag

In situations where flights are full, gate agents may offer to gate-check bags free of charge to alleviate overhead bin space congestion. While this option requires traveling with a carry-on bag, it can be a convenient way to avoid baggage fees, particularly on crowded flights.

Consider United’s Baggage Subscription

United Airlines offers a baggage subscription plan that provides subscribers with free checked bags on eligible flights within the continental U.S. While the subscription comes with an annual fee, frequent travelers may find it worthwhile, especially if they frequently fly United and check baggage.

Weigh Your Bag at Home

To avoid unexpected fees for overweight baggage, travelers can invest in a portable luggage scale and weigh their bags at home before heading to the airport. This ensures compliance with airline weight limits and helps avoid costly overweight baggage fees.

By employing these strategies and considering the associated costs and benefits, travelers can effectively minimize or eliminate airline baggage fees, allowing for a more budget-friendly and hassle-free travel experience.

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