If you want to save money on your next flight, it might help to pack lightly or plan in advance. United Airlines announced that it will increase the fees for checked bags by $5, starting March 6.
This increase will apply to both domestic flights as well as to short international flights to Central America and the Caribbean. That means travelers will now pay $35 for the first bag checked and $45 for a second bag for each flight when they check bags in person.
Expect Other Airlines To Follow Suit
With the exception of Southwest Airlines, which is known for giving its customers two free checked bags, experts predict that other airlines will soon follow suit and raise their baggage fees as well. This last happened in 2018, when JetBlue led a previous round of baggage fee hikes.
However, it should be noted that no official announcements regarding this have been made by Alaska, Delta, American, or any other major airline.
Discount airlines like Spirit and Allegiant already charge between $25 to $65 per checked bag, depending on the route, in addition to charging for carry-on bags.
United Airlnes and American Airlnes planes are shown on the tarmac from an outdoor terrace and observation deck at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
How To Avoid Baggage Fees
Although the simplest way to avoid higher baggage fees on United and JetBlue is to simply take the largest carry-on that still fits within the airline’s limitations, you can also save money on baggage fees by paying for checked bags online before your trip.
Both United and JetBlue offer a $5 discount if you pre-pay for your checked bags at least 24 hours in advance. When you do this, you only have to print out the bag tags and drop them off at the airlines’ bag kiosks once you arrive for the airport.
Signing up for an airline credit card may also help you to avoid checked bag fees. The JetBlue Plus card allows you one free checked bag for yourself and up to three other people on the same reservation when you purchase a flight with the card. Likewise, the Chase United Explorer card allows one free bag, while the United Club card gives you two free checked bags.
Granted, all of these credit cards come with annual fees, but the card fees might be worth it if you travel on these airlines and check bags frequently.
Passengers drag luggage while walking at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Additionally, you can stick with one airline for all your air travel in order to earn elite status with that company. Almost all elite members receive some sort of luggage perk. The lowest level of MileagePlus Premier at United, for example, gives you one free checked luggage item, and you can check in three for free at the Premier Platinum level. Delta’s Silver Medallion program also waives the fees on your first checked luggage item.
You can use your credit card to get that elite status, too. Using these two strategies in conjunction with one another can also help you get some nice travel perks in addition to the baggage fee waiver.
Coronavirus As A Cost Factor
Of course, with the concern over the coronavirus (COVID-19), many people are avoiding traveling by plane altogether. United Airlines announced that they are cutting flights for the next several months, due to a decrease in demand.
In some cases, this is resulting in lower fees for cancellation and rebooking. Vox reports that Delta, United, JetBlue, American and others are making accommodations for weary travelers in the wake of the pandemic.
Additionally, you may be able to get deep discounts, especially on international flights as airlines struggle to remain profitable during a difficult climate for air travel. So, if you do intend to fly during this time, you may encounter a cost savings even if baggage fees remain the same!
Baggage handlers load a Southwest Airlines flight at Midway International Airport Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)