Baggage Fee Increase Spells Costly Holiday Travel

If you aren’t a big airline traveler, here’s a quick and simple break-down on luggage fee history.

Not too long ago, travelers didn’t have to pay for their first checked luggage. Many airplanes charged fees only when passenges checked more than one bag at the airport and charged various amounts based on the weight and size of each additional bag. In 2008 however, airlines drew the ire of customers when they started charging fees for first checked baggage, according to the Associated Press.

Fast-forward a couple of years to 2010 and Spirit Airlines started going for carry-on luggage too, charging passengers between $20 – $45 for suitcases stowed overhead on the plane. Allegiant Airlines followed suit.

All these fees, which were initially put into place as a way to deal with rising gas prices,  rose steadily over time and have brought the industry billions of dollars in profit. U.S. airlines alone brought in more than $1.7 billion in baggage fees during the first half of 2012, setting a record as the largest amount ever collected in that same six-month period.

As if that isn’t enough, passengers now have to brace themselves for yet another price hike. Starting on Election Day earlier this week, Spirit Airline put into effect a new policy that charges travelers $100 for carry-on baggage if they pay at the gate. This fee used to be $45.

ABC News reports the prices will increase by $5 if paid for at booking, or by $10 at the check-in counter.

Considering that we are at the start of holiday season, and people tend to travel a lot during this time, you might want to double-check these fee policies the next time you book a flight. The smartest thing to do is compare prices before you book. Services like Nerdwallet and SmarterTravel can help you compare airline fees, so you can make an informed decision.

You should also consider traveling lighter and packing smarter, by taking only what you need and leaving things you can do without at home. Of course that is easier said than done, considering the extra clothing and gift-giving that accompanies this time of the year. You can cut your travel expenses in other ways – eat before you go to the airport, and take along a book or magazine to keep you occupied so you can forego on-board entertainment fees.

Happy (and affordable) travels!