Airline Baggage Fees and Luggage Size Restrictions

Airline Baggage Fees and Luggage Size Restrictions

What’s the key to beating the airlines’ fees for checked bags and oversized luggage? By understanding how airline policies differ and making savvy ticket purchases. Here’s how.

Our new infographic describes some best practices for traveling with only a piece of carry-on luggage. But how large can your bag actually be, and how much can it weigh? Every airline has different policies regarding weight, size, and fees, so we’ve gathered the information for most of the major U.S. carriers from their official websites.

Summary of airline baggage fees and restrictions

Most airlines charge at least $25 per checked bag, with the exception of Southwest, which allows two free checked bags, and JetBlue, which permits one. Checked bags on all airlines must be 62 inches or less (length + width + height) and weigh no more than 50 pounds (except on Spirit, which has a 40-pound limit). Otherwise, you may be charged a hefty fee. Carry-on bags are free on all major airlines, except Spirit, which charges a minimum $35 per carry-on (but does permit one free personal item, a purse or small backpack up to 16 x 14 x 12 inches). Keep in mind that Spirit will charge $100 at the gate for any carry-on that has not been paid for in advance. Some U.S. airlines restrict carry-on baggage to a maximum of 50 inches when adding all three sides, though American, United, Delta and US Airways set the limit at 45 inches. It’s safest to travel with a bag this is 45 inches in total. Many airlines do not specify weight limits for carry-on items, but Virgin America caps the item at 30 pounds, while the US Airways limit is 40 pounds.

Specific airline baggage fees and size restrictions

AirTran Carry-on size limits: 50 inches (10 x 16 x 24) Checked bag fees: $25 (first), $35 (second), $75 (third) Oversize fee: $75 Overweight fee: $75

Alaska Carry-on size limits: 51 inches (10 x 17 x 24) Checked bag fees: $25 (first), $25 (second), $75 (third) Oversize fee: $75 Overweight fee: $75

American Carry-on size limits: 45 inches (9 x 14 x 22) Checked bag fees: $25 (first), $35 (second), $150 (third) Oversize fee: $200 Overweight fee: $100

Delta Carry-on size limits: 45 inches (9 x 14 x 22) Checked bag fees: $25 (first), $35 (second), $125 (third) Oversize fee: $200 Overweight fee: $100

JetBlue Carry-on size limits: 50 inches (10 x 16 x 24) Checked bag fees: $0 (first), $40 (second), $75 (third) Oversize fee: $75 Overweight fee: $50

Southwest Carry-on size limits: 50 inches (10 x 16 x 24) Checked bag fees: $0 (first), $0 (second), $75 (third) Oversize fee: $75 Overweight fee: $75 Spirit Carry-on size limits: 50 inches (10 x 18 x 22) Carry-on bag fee: $35 Checked bag fees: $30 (first), $40 (second), $85 (third) Oversize fee: $100 Overweight fee: $25

United Carry-on size limits: 45 inches (9 x 14 x 22) Checked bag fees: $25 (first), $35 (second), $125 (third) Oversize fee: $200 Overweight fee: $100 Check out this recent article on United's regulations.

US Airways Carry-on size limits: 50 inches (9 x 14 x 22), 40 pounds Checked bag fees: $25 (first), $35 (second), $125 (third) Oversize fee: $175 Overweight fee: $90

Virgin America Carry-on size limits: 50 inches (10 x 16 x 24), 30 pounds Checked bag fees: $25 (first), $25 (second), $25 (third) Oversize fee: $50 Overweight fee: $50

Keep in mind that many of the fees can be avoided by joining the frequent flyer programs of the individual airlines, or signing up for an airline credit card that offers free checked bags as a perk. If seeing all these fees convinces you to travel without checked luggage, take another look at Eagle Creek’s Carry On Infographic for more tips. This info was accurate as of February 5, 2014 and pertains to domestic flights. Always check domestic airlines sites at the time of travel to confirm there have not been any size changes. Please consult the airlines for policies governing international flights.

Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at http://quirkytravelguy.com.

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