archivelogo
 The Tactical Traveler

joe A SPECIAL BUSINESS-TRAVEL BRIEFING:
DOMESTIC CHECKED-BAGGAGE RULES


When Spirit Airlines began unbundling checked luggage from its airfares early in 2007, I quoted a Big Six airline executive thusly:

"You can guarantee that some [Big Six carrier] will make its own luggage move. Coach passengers will get less and they'll have to pay for what we once gave them for free. And we'll tell first-class passengers that we did it to add value to the fare we charge them."

In other words, don't be surprised by United Airlines' move in February to reduce its free checked-baggage allowance for many coach flyers on nonrefundable tickets. And don't be stunned by United's claim that less for low-fare travelers somehow means more for us high-fare frequent flyers.

It's just the way of things. Airlines really are that transparent and phony.

And don't let it bother you that, by United's own reckoning, the new checked-bag policy will generate $100 million a year in new revenue. After all, its chief executive, Glenn Tilton, earns an estimated $38 million in total annual compensation. United apparently expects you to ignore the fact that 38 percent of the revenue from the new fees will go right into the pocket of its CEO. That, too, is just the way of things in the airline world.

US Airways has now matched United's move. Delta quietly raised its excess and overweight baggage fees. And Spirit Airlines, which now charges all customers for all checked luggage, used United's announcement as cover to raise its own baggage fees again.

As you can see by the chart below, however, the airlines don't move in lockstep on checked luggage on domestic flights. Despite United's move, two 50-pound bags remains the current standard for free luggage on domestic flights. And there are some notable positive exceptions: Continental, Northwest, US Airways and Air Canada allow first-class customers to check additional bags at no charge. Continental and Air Canada also have more liberal weight limits for elite members of their frequent flyer programs.

Also notable: Some airlines now impose an absolute weight limit of 70 pounds a bag and will not accept heavier luggage at any price. Others cap the maximum allowable weight at 99 or 100 pounds a bag. A similar dichotomy exists for oversize bags. All airlines consider 62 linear inches (length plus width plus height) the standard maximum size for their free baggage allowance. A few will accept bags up to 160 inches for an extra fee. Many more, however, limit the maximum size to 115 inches. And some carriers will not accept a bag that measures more than 80 inches. -- Joe Brancatelli

BIG SIX: DOMESTIC CHECKED-BAGGAGE RULES

Airline

Free Bag Limit

Max Weight (lbs./bag)

Overweight Fee (lbs./bag)**

Oversize* Fee (per bag)**

Excess Baggage Fees**

American

2

50

$50 (51-70)
$100 (71-100)

$100 up to
115 inches

$80 each (1st-3rd extra bags); $105 each (4th-6th); $180 (7th or more)

Continental

Coach: 2
First: 3

Coach: 50 (a)
First: 70

$50 (51-70)

$100 up to
115 inches

$100 per piece

Delta

2 (b)

50

$80 (51-70)
$150 (71-100)

$100 up to
80 inches

$80 each (1st-3rd extra bags); $110 each (4th-6th); $180 (7th or more)

Northwest

Coach: 2
First: 3

Coach: 50 First: 70 (c)

$25 (51-70)

$80 up to
160 inches

$80 each (1st-3rd extra bags); $105 each (4th-6th); $180 (7th or more)

United

1 (f)

50

$100 (51-100)

$100 up to
115 inches

$25 each (2nd); $100 each for next 4; $200 (5th or more)

US Airways

1 (g)

Coach: 50 First: 70

$50 (51-70)
$100 (71-100)

$80 up to
80 inches

$25 for second bag; $100 each for third to ninth bag

ALTERNATE CARRIERS: DOMESTIC CHECKED-BAGGAGE RULES

Airline

Free Bag Limit

Max Weight (lbs./bag)

Overweight Fee (lbs./bag)**

Oversize* Fee (per bag)**

Excess Baggage Fees**

AirTran

2

50

$25 (51-70)
$65 (71-100)

$65 up to
80 inches

$50 each extra bag

Alaska

2
3 within Alaska

50

$25 (51-70)
$50 (71-100)

$50 up to 80 inches; $75 up to 115 inches

$50 for first three extra bags; $75 each (4th-6th); $150 (7th or more)

Aloha

2

50 (d)

$25 (51-70)

$50 (in HI) or $80 (mainland) up to 80 inches

In HI: $25 (1st-3rd extra bags); $35 (4th or more). To/from mainland: $80 each (1st-3rd); $105 each (4th-6th); $180 (7th or more)

ATA

2

50

$25 (51-70)
$50 (71-100)

$50 up to
80 inches

$50 each (1st-6th extra bags); $110 (7th or more)

Frontier

2

50

$50 (51-100)

$50 up to
80 inches

$50 each (1st & 2nd extra bag); $100 each (3rd-15th); $200 (16th or more)

Hawaiian

2

50

$25 (51-70)

$50 up to
80 inches

In HI: $25 each extra bag; To/from mainland: $80 each (1st-3rd); $105 each (4th-6th); $180 (7th or more)

JetBlue

2

50

$20 (51-70)
$50 (71-99)

$50 up to
80 inches

$50 each extra bag

Midwest

2

50

$25 (51-70)
$50 (71-100)

$80 up to
115 inches

$50 each extra bag

Spirit

0

50

$25 (51-70)
$100 (71-99)

$100 up to 80 inches; $150 up to 160 inches

$10-$20 for 1st two bags; $100 for each extra bag

Southwest

2

50

$25 (51-70)
$50 (71-100)

$50 up to
80 inches

$25 for 1st extra bag; $50 each (2nd-6th extra bags); $110 (all others)

CANADIAN CARRIERS: DOMESTIC CHECKED-BAGGAGE RULES

Airline

Free Bag Limit

Max Weight (lbs./bag)

Overweight Fee (lbs./bag)**

Oversize* Fee (per bag)**

Excess Baggage Fees**

Air Canada

Coach: 2
First: 3
Elite: 4

Coach: 50
First: 70 (e)
Elite: 70 (e)

$25 (51-70)

$35 up to
115 inches

$75 each extra bag

WestJet

2

60

$35 (61-100)

$35 up to
80 inches

$65 each extra bag

KEY: "Domestic" flights are generally considered those wholly operated within the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. *The industry standard for bags is 62 linear inches (the total of length plus width plus height). **Overweight, oversize and excess baggage fees are cumulative and all are charged if applicable.
(a) The limit for Continental OnePass elite members flying in coach is 70 pounds per bag.
(b) Delta passengers to the Florida keys are limited to one free bag.
(c) Northwest allows first-class customers to check two bags up to 62 linear inches and 70 pounds. The third free bag can weigh 40 pounds and not exceed 42 linear inches.
(d) On Aloha code-shares on Island Air commuter flights, the free baggage limit is a total of 50 pounds.
(e) Air Canada first-class flyers can check a total of 150 pounds in three bags. If the three bags weigh more, a $25 charge applies. Air Canada elite and super elite flyers can check a total of 200 pounds in four bags.
(f) United permits business-class, first-class and Premier Mileage Plus flyers to check two bags free. Super-elite Mileage Plus members (global services, 1K, premier executive) may check three bags free; each bag may weigh up to 70 pounds.
(g) First-class passengers and US Airways Dividend Miles elite members may check two bags free of charge.
NOTE: These rules apply to luggage only. Separate rules apply for art, sports equipment, musical instruments, audio/visual gear, food items, animals, antlers and firearms and ammunition. All prices listed in US dollars.
Source: Respective airline Web sites on February 26, 2008



Copyright 1993-2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.