Checked baggage fees are the airlines' most hated tack-on, surveys tell us. Airlines, of course, have a different view. Twenty major airlines collected a total of $2.6 billion in these fees in the first nine months of 2010, and some experts predict that may increase this year.
See also: Stolen, damaged items in checked bags.
So how can you avoid loading up on these fees without having to pack too lightly?
- Consider an airline credit card. Delta waives fees for one checked bag for holders of its SkyMiles card from American Express. Continental does likewise with its branded OnePass Plus card from Chase.
- Get your hotel to pay. Some chains reimburse guests for luggage fees. Kimpton Hotels, for instance, issues a room credit up to $25 for guests who show proof of a second bag charge. And through April 30, guests at any of 4,500 InterContinental Hotels & Resorts properties — which include Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Candlewood Suites — can get up to $100 in checked baggage fees returned with a two-night stay. Wherever you make a reservation, ask about the hotel's policies.
- Fly often. You can save on, if not avoid, baggage fees when they earn "elite" or "preferred" status in frequent flier programs. But you typically must log about 25,000 miles per calendar year to qualify.
Southwest remains the only U.S. airline that allows two free checked bags per passenger; JetBlue gives you one for free, but recently raised its price for the second to $35 from $30.
For the latest on airline baggage fees, pet and snack costs, visit the AARP Travel Center powered by Expedia fees list.
You may also like: Tips for shipping your luggage. >>
Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.