Calculate fees

Baggage Fees by Airline

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In this post, we are going to compare rules and fees of the 11 largest airlines in the U.S. We will specifically focus on the regulations and charges which directly affect your checked baggage allowances, when flying domestically.

We will discuss how each airline defines a standard checked bag (size and weight) and how much it will cost to bring it with you. Also, we will cover excess charges (oversized, overweight, and extra bags) of each airline.

The airlines that we will focus on in this comparison are:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allegiant Air
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • United Airlines

Maximum Size of Standard Checked Bags

The first rule we are going to examine is the maximum size of a standard checked bag. As you can see from the following list, 62 linear inches is the industry standard for all airlines except for one – Allegiant Air being the outlier with a maximum size of 80 linear inches.

We should briefly discuss what we mean by “linear Inches” in relation to your checked bags. This is the sum of your bag’s length, width, and height. Within the context of air travel, you take the outside measurements of your bag. All airlines include your bag’s wheels in these measurements – except for one airline. Can you guess which one? Yep, Southwest.

AirlineBag Size
Alaska Airlines62 linear inches
Allegiant Air80 linear inches
American Airlines62 linear inches
Delta Air Lines62 linear inches
Frontier Airlines62 linear inches
Hawaiian Airlines62 linear inches
JetBlue Airways62 linear inches
Southwest Airlines62 linear inches
Spirit Airlines62 linear inches
Sun Country Airlines:62 linear inches
United Airlines:62 linear inches
Checked Bag Size Allowances

Maximum Weight of Standard Checked Bags

The next metric that we are going to examine is the standard weight limit for a checked bag. Not too many surprises here, as most of the low-cost carriers have reduced their weight limit to 40 pounds. Sun Country Airlines is the only hold out.

AirlineBag Weight
Alaska Airlines50 pounds
Allegiant Air50 pounds
American Airlines50 pounds
Delta Air Lines50 pounds
Frontier Airlines40 pounds
Hawaiian Airlines50 pounds
JetBlue Airways50 pounds
Southwest Airlines50 pounds
Spirit Airlines40 pounds
Sun Country Airlines:50 pounds
United Airlines:50 pounds
Checked Bag Weight Allowances

First Checked Bag Fee

In this section, we will look at the charge to check your first bag. This is where we begin to see some disparity between the airlines.

The two airlines affiliated with a state (Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines) offer benefits if traveling within their respective states. Alaska Airlines allows up to 3 free checked bags if your itinerary is within the state of Alaska. Hawaiian Airlines offers discount fares if your travel route is solely within Hawaii. For your first bag with Hawaiian, you are charged $25 instead of $30.

You can check a bag on Southwest at no charge – the only airline to do so.

The legacy airlines (American, Delta, and United) charge between $30 to check your first bag. There are a couple of outliers though. Unsurprisingly, two of the low-cost carriers in this round-up charge significantly more: Frontier Airlines charges $58 while Spirit Airlines has a $55 first bag fee. These charges are the most common – fees depend on your route and on the time of booking. Charges increase if you book closer to your departure date. What you may save on your airfare with these airlines may soon disappear once you start paying for checked bags.

Airline1st Bag Fee
Alaska AirlinesAlaska: $0
U.S.: $30
Allegiant Air$20-$45
American Airlines$30
Delta Air Lines$30
Frontier Airlines$58
Hawaiian AirlinesHawaii: $25
U.S.: $30
JetBlue Airways$35
Southwest Airlines$0
Spirit Airlines$55 – $59
Sun Country Airlines:$30
United Airlines:$30
First Checked Bag Fees

Second Checked Bag Fee

Now let’s look at the charge for checking in a second bag. As we would expect, there is a slight increase in fees with most airlines. With most airlines, there is parity with the second checked bag fee: $40 – $45.

Southwest allows you to check your second bag for free.

Allegiant charges the same fee for checked bags, whether it’s your first or fourth.

The state-affiliated airlines, Alaska and Hawaiian, continue to offer benefits if traveling solely within their respective states. You can check your second bag on Alaska for free, while Hawaiian offers a $5 discount for travel within Hawaii.

Frontier and Spirit stand out for their significantly more expensive fees.

Airline2nd Bag Fee
Alaska AirlinesAlaska: $0
U.S.: $40
Allegiant Air$20-$45
American Airlines$40
Delta Air Lines$40
Frontier Airlines$63
Hawaiian AirlinesHawaii: $35
U.S.: $40
JetBlue Airways$45
Southwest Airlines$0
Spirit Airlines$65 – $69
Sun Country Airlines:$40
United Airlines:$40
Second Checked Bag Fees

Third Checked Bag Fee

The fees for your third checked bag jump significantly with legacy airlines: $150. JetBlue has the largest fee, with a charge of $200.

This is also when Southwest starts charging for checked bags – a comparatively modest $75.

The low-cost carriers charge less than legacy carriers for your third bag. Depending on your itinerary, you could pay as little as $20 with Allegiant, up to $99 with Spirit.

Airline3rd Bag Fee
Alaska AirlinesAlaska: $0
U.S.: $100
Allegiant Air$20-$45
American Airlines$150
Delta Air Lines$150
Frontier Airlines$85
Hawaiian AirlinesHawaii: $50
U.S.: $100
JetBlue Airways$200
Southwest Airlines$75
Spirit Airlines$99
Sun Country Airlines:$40
United Airlines:$150
Third Checked Bag Fees

Fourth Checked Bag Fee

With your fourth checked bag, legacy airlines will charge up to $200 to check your bag.

The low-cost carriers are all cheaper, with fees ranging from $20 to $99.

Airline4th Bag Fee
Alaska Airlines$100
Allegiant Air$20-$45
American Airlines$200
Delta Air Lines$200
Frontier Airlines$85
Hawaiian AirlinesHawaii: $50
U.S.: $100
JetBlue Airways$200
Southwest Airlines$75
Spirit Airlines$99
Sun Country Airlines:Contact reservations
United Airlines:$150
Fourth Checked Bag Fees

Oversized Baggage Fees

Let’s take a look at how much airlines will charge for a checked bag that is larger than 62 linear inches (80 linear inches for Allegiant).

The big 3 airlines (American, Delta and United) charge an eye-watering $200 to check your oversized bag.

Most other airlines charge within the vicinity of $100.

The maximum size varies between airlines from 80 linear inches all the way up to 126 inches (American Airlines).

Both Alaska Airlines and Soutwest take a unique approach to excess charges. If your checked bag is subject to multiple excess charges (overweight, oversized, etc.) only the single largest fee applies. Your bag could be both oversized and overweight, yet you’ll be subject to a single excess fee.

AirlineOverweight RangeOverweight Fee
Alaska Airlines63 in. – 115 in.$100
Allegiant Air80+ in.+$75
American Airlines63 in. – 126 in.+$200
Delta Air Lines63 in. – 80 in.+$200
Frontier Airlines63 in. – 110 in.$75
Hawaiian Airlines63 in. – 80 in.Hawaii: +$35
U.S.: +$100
JetBlue Airways63 in. – 80 in.+$150
Southwest Airlines63 in. – 80 in.+$75
Spirit Airlines63 in. – 80 in.+$100
Sun Country Airlines:63+ in.+$100
United Airlines:63 in. – 115 in.+$200
Overweight Checked Bag Fees

Overweight Baggage Fees

As with oversized checked bag fees, overweight fees are comparatively excessive, when compared to other fees that you’re subject to. You could end up paying $200.

All airlines have a maximum of 100 pounds per bag.

Some airlines apply a two-tiered fee structure for overweight bag fees. Frontier and Spirit cheekily charge an overweight fee for bags weighing 41 to 50 pounds – most other airlines allow standard bags up to 50 pounds.

AirlineOverweight Baggage Fees
Alaska Airlines51 – 100 lbs.: $100
Allegiant Air51 – 70 lbs.: +$50
71 – 100 lbs: +$75
American Airlines51 – 70 lbs: $100
71 – 100 lbs: $200
Delta Air Lines51 – 70 lbs: $100
71 – 100 lbs: $200
Frontier Airlines41 – 50 lbs: $50
51 – 100 lbs: $100
Hawaiian AirlinesHawaii
* 51 – 70 lbs: $35
* 71 – 100 lbs: $70
* 51 – 70 lbs: $50
* 71 – 100 lbs: $200
JetBlue Airways51 – 99 lbs: $150
Southwest Airlines51 – 100 lbs: $75
Spirit Airlines41 – 50 lbs.: +$69
51 – 100 lbs: +$99
Sun Country Airlines51 – 60 lbs: +$20
61 – 99 lbs.: +$60
United Airlines51 – 70 lbs.: $100
71 – 100 lbs: $200
Overweight Baggage Fees

Are Prepaid Checked Bags Cheaper?

Can you save some cash if you buy your checked baggage allowance before reaching the airport? In most cases, the answer is yes. Unsurprisingly, the low-cost carriers have this “feature” in their fee structure. This does require preplanning if you do decide to prepurchase them.

For airlines that do not offer a financial incentive to prepurchase your bags, you’re better off waiting until you reach the airport to pay for your bags. Your travel circumstances may change where you no longer require as many bags, or you may have to reschedule or cancel your flight. As bag fees are non-refundable, this would seem to be the best way to go.

AirlinePrepaid Discount?
Alaska AirlinesNo
Allegiant AirYes
American AirlinesNo
Delta Air LinesNo
Frontier AirlinesYes
Hawaiian AirlinesNo
JetBlue AirwaysYes
Southwest Airlinesn/a
Spirit AirlinesYes
Sun Country Airlines:Yes
United Airlines:Yes
Bag Discounts for Prepaid Bags?

Final Thoughts

So, what did we learn after comparing the rules and fees of these airlines? We saw that there was almost universal consensus with regards to the standard size of checked bags, except for one carrier: Allegiant Air allows checked bags to be up to 80 linear inches.

With regards to the standard weight allowance, the low-cost airlines only offer a meager 40 pounds, compared to a standard 50 pounds with the other carriers.

The checked bag fees panned out as we would expect. This is where the low-cost airlines’ aggressive fee structure comes into play, with fees up to double compared to the other airlines. There is more parity though when you look at baggage fees beyond your first two bags.

The legacy carriers are more punishing with their oversized and overweight bags, with fees at around $200. Keep in mind though, that with most of the low-cost carriers, you’ll be paying overweight fees from 41 pounds upwards.

I did save the best for last though. Southwest is a standout when it comes to checked baggage allowances and fees. It’s the only airline now that offers 2 free checked bags (up to 50 pounds each) with each ticket. Its excess bag fees are very reasonable as well.

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