American Airlines the Latest Big Airline to Raise Checked Bag Fees
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American Airlines the Latest Big Airline to Raise Checked Bag Fees

Airlines fees are a source of major profits and they keep going up

September 24, 2018

Unless you want to pay more, you'd better start packing lighter the next time you fly. American Airlines has just become the latest carrier to raise fees for checked bags. Customers who currently have free checked bag privileges are not affected by the change.

Most Big Airlines Raise Checked Bag Fees

JetBlue raised its checked bag fees back in August by $5, prompting United Airlines to follow suit. This past week, Delta Airlines raised its fees without any prior notice. Now, American Airlines has joined the others in raising bag fees. All four airlines now charge $30 for the first checked bag, up from $25, and $40 for the second bag, up from $35. Southwest is the only major U.S. airlines that doesn't charge for checked bags and it does not plan to charge customers for checked bags. Southwest also doesn't charge fees for reservation changes, which can add up quickly with other airlines.

American Airlines was the first airline to charge a fee for checked bags in 2008, which was then only $15. Since then, the practice has become a standard in the industry with Southwest as the exception.

Soaring Profits

Fees are a major source of profits for airlines, who have kept fares relatively low in recent years. But low fares don't equal profits, so airlines charge fees on nearly anything these days, from snacks and drinks to bags (carry-on and checked), early boarding and even seat selection. This latest fee announcement is the latest increase in fees. Just recently, a number of other new fees were reported for the big U.S. airlines.

According to the Department of Transportation, U.S. airlines raised about $4.6 billion on checked bag fees and more than $2.8 billion in cancel/change fees in 2017.

Congress Stepping In?

Outrage at being nickel and dimed at every step of the flying process has led Congress to consider limited these fees in pending legislation governing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A provision has already passed the Senate to require the fees charged for checking bags and changing flights to reflect the actual cost for the service, which should be lower than the cost currently charged to consumers. The airlines, however, argue that the fees are not excessive, saying that the fees allow them to keep overall fares low.

Is there anything you can do?

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to avoid these fees. Many airline credit cards offer perks, such as free checked bags, when you book the flight using the card. But these cards often have a lot of their own fees. In the end, the only true way to save money is to avoid these fees altogether. Many discount carriers charge ala carte and can be attractive alternatives to the major carriers. If you don't want to fly a discount carrier, look for ways to reduce the amount of checked bags you own. Using a compression system for your carry on bags can make it easier to fit everything, but you might have to unpack it while going through the security screening.

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