If you have taken a trip recently, or you have a trip coming up, you may have noticed that the airlines have tacked on extra fees for checked baggage. Many are now charging $30 or more in fees to check a single bag round-trip and $50 or more for a second bag. If your trip is with your family, these baggage fees can add up to hundreds of dollars in addition to what you have already paid for the flight.
Many people have pointed out that to avoid these excess baggage fees you should be careful about what you pack and how much you pack, which is basically common sense. Most people know that it’s always best to pack clothes that can be worn in layers when it’s cold, so you can remove some layers if it warms up. There are Laundromats almost wherever you may go. I rarely take very much with me, and even on a two week trip in England, I washed clothes so, not only would I not have to pay any excess baggage fees, but I wouldn’t be lugging so much around with me either. The clothes thing is obvious, but what many people don’t realize is that there are other ways to avoid these baggage fees, some of them not so obvious.
Who are you flying with? That’s an important question when trying to avoid baggage fees. Not all airlines are charging the baggage fees. For example, Southwest doesn’t charge for checking a bag. Because of this, and perhaps thanks in part to them not having assigned seating, they manage to board their planes a lot faster than many of the other carriers. People aren’t trying to cram everything they own into the maximum carry-on allowed and in turn attempt to cram it into the overhead bin which is always two inches too small for a carry-on bag. This means that they are more likely to take off on time, which means that you don’t miss your connecting flights and that you arrive at your destination when you are supposed to. It’s an often over looked problem that these baggage fees have caused. And if you’ve been paying attention you may have realized that some airlines have reduced the size of the carry-on you are allowed. I’m sure the reason for them is to force people to check a bag and prevent them from being able to shove everything they need into a bulging carry-on.
Southwest unfortunately doesn’t fly everywhere, and so you may be stuck with an airline that is charging excess baggage fees and not have a choice about who you are flying with. You may be able to avoid the extra baggage fees if you have executive or frequent flyer status. Many airlines are not charging if you book a full fare economy ticket either, although those types of tickets typically cost as much if not more than a discount First Class ticket. Airlines are also not charging their First class passengers for checking bags. First Class passengers typically get a generous baggage allowance. Of course not everyone can afford even discounted First Class; however there are many ways to get upgraded. You can see my previous article about some ways to get upgraded without status, and if you manage to do so, not only do you save on the baggage fees, but you also get to travel in style. There are many credit card offers now that are giving enough miles for a free upgrade. On a longer flight you might want to take advantage of them as they are well worth it.
Speaking of longer flights, luckily on international flights you still get at least one free checked bag. Of course if you have more than that, perhaps because you plan to bring back souvenirs, getting upgraded can be a great thing to try to do. Not only do you typically get up to three bags checked for free, as you do on British Airways in Club World (Business Class), but you also get to travel comfortably instead of being crammed into chattel… er, I mean economy class.
If for some reason you must bring a lot with you, and you cannot do any of the things above to avoid the baggage fees, in some cases it may be cheaper to send your luggage ahead of you, with either a luggage service, or even with FedEx. This is true especially if your luggage is overweight. Most airlines only allow up to fifty pounds per piece of baggage, and anything over that usually has a sticker shocking price tag attached to it. Remember that the overweight fee is in addition to the fee for checking the bag in the first place. Be sure to pack early and weigh your luggage beforehand if you are afraid you might go over their weight allowance. You can weigh your luggage on your bathroom scale, or for around $10 you can get a handheld scale specifically for weight your bags.
Saving money in these tight times is very important to most of us. Be sure to investigate all of your options before booking your ticket. It could wind up saving you a lot of money that could be better spent on your trip than on baggage fees to the airlines.