Often checked baggage leaves a lot to be desired. There are fees that tend to pile up, the liability and worry of potentially losing your luggage, and just the simple and soft extra effort it requires to bring your checked luggage along with you. But dealing with the checked luggage does not have to be a miserable experience and you don’t even have to pay for your checked baggage all the time. This is an ultimate guide to checked baggage.
In this travel guide prepared by Treknova, we will provide you an insight on everything you need to know about checked baggage. Also, we will look at things that you can and cannot bring along in your checked baggage, and offer some tips on how to avoid unwanted baggage fees at airports.
A Quick Look at Checked Baggage Fees
Checked baggage fees may vary with airline carriers at various major U.S. airports. Given below is a general overview of the cost of baggage fees.
- Expect to pay around $30 for your first checked bag and around $40 for your second checked bag. However, prices may further increase if there is a third checked bag.
- The total dimensions of a checked baggage should be limited to 62 inches.
- Weight limit for checked baggage is 50 pounds (22 kg).
If the size of your checked baggage is beyond the size requirements, then you will be charged additional fees, which can range from $100 to $200, or even more.
If you are flying a one-way trip via any U.S. airline carrier, the cost of checked baggage fees would likely cost you as follows:
Alaska Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $30. The fees may then increase to $40 for second checked baggage and $100 for the third checked baggage. This is all about Alaska Airlines baggage policy.
Allegiant Air: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $15. The fees may then increase to $35 for second checked baggage and $35 for third checked baggage. It all comes under the Allegiant Air baggage policy.
American Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $30. The fees may then increase to $40 for second checked baggage and $150 for the third checked baggage. Click here to know more about American Airlines’ baggage policy.
Delta Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $34. The fees may then increase to $45 for second checked baggage and $150 for the third checked baggage. It all comes under the Delta Airlines baggage policy.
Frontier Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $30. The fees may then increase to $40 for second checked baggage and $85 for the third checked baggage. Check out Frontier Airlines baggage policy.
Hawaiian Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $30. The fees may then increase to $40 for second checked baggage and $100 for the third checked baggage. Check out Hawaiian Airlines baggage policy.
JetBlue Airways: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $35. The fees may then increase to $45 for second checked baggage and $150 for the third checked baggage. For more information on JetBlue Airways baggage policy.
Southwest Airlines: The Airlines does not charge fees for the first and second checked baggages. However, if you are travelling with a third checked baggage, then the airline will charge a $75 fee for baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches. For more information checkout Southwest Airlines baggage policy.
Spirit Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $31. The fees may then increase to $41 for second checked baggage and $85 for the third checked baggage. For more information checkout Spirit Airlines baggage policy.
Sun Country Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $30. The fees may then increase to $40 for second checked baggage and $40 for the third checked baggage. For more information regarding Sun Country Airlines baggage policy click here.
United Airlines: The cost of first checked baggage weighing 50 pounds and of dimension 62 inches is $30. The fees may then increase to $40 for second checked baggage and $150 for the third checked baggage.
Keep in mind that checked baggage fees for major U.S. airline carriers may differ based on the time paid and the flight’s route. Generally, you can expect to pay around $30 for your first checked bag and around $40 for your second check bag. The price, however, usually spikes up for the third checked bag. In addition to the standard checked baggage fees, you need to also watch out for oversized and overweight baggage fees. Typically, you are looking at weight limits of 50 pounds (22 kg) and total size dimensions (LxWxH) of 62 inches. Going over one of the permitted size requirements could result in hefty charges ranging from $100 to $200.
Rules for Carrying Items as Carry-on and in Checked Baggage
It is no secret that when going through airport security, you will have to be extra careful about what items you bring as a carry-on. There are special rules, like the TSA liquids rules that you need to be mindful of, and also heightened rules for things like sharp objects, firearms and so on.
However, when you are dealing with the checked baggage, you have much more freedom to bring along different items. You still may have some restrictions, though. And there are definitely some items that are better off in your carry-on than being in your checked baggage.
Items You Should Put in Your Checked Baggage
Here are a few items that you should pack in your checked baggage rather than a carry-on.
- Sharp objects
- Sports equipment
- Large toiletries and necessities
- Baby essentials
- Foam toy swords
- Canned foods
- Cast-iron cookware
- Firearms and ammunition
Books are allowed as carry-on items, but if you are travelling with multiple books, you may want to put them in your checked baggage because they also often lead to heightened security checks as well.
Some types of alcohol are never allowed on the plane, such as those that contain more than 70% alcohol or over 140 proof.
Items You Should Not Put in Your Checked Baggage
Here are a few items that you should avoid packing in your checked baggage.
If you think you will need a medication during your flight, any medication that will be essential to you during your trip should go in your carry-on bag. If you think that the medication is too big or will also violate the TSA liquid rules, but there are exceptions for medical supplies so that you likely can still bring it through airport security. TSA makes exceptions for certain medical supplies.
Computers and other electronic devices
You do not want to keep your laptop computer or other personal electronics, such as tablets in your checked baggage. The risk of them being stolen or damaged is much higher when kept in your checked baggage. So, bring them as a carry-on and this can be prepared to remove your laptop and other large electronics, like a full sized video game console from your bag, unless you have TSA Pre-Check.
Dry batteries, like AA, AAA, etc. these items can go in your carry-on or checked baggage. Lithium batteries with 100 watt hours or less may be carried in a device in either carry-on or checked bag. Batteries can sometimes become an issue when it comes to checked baggage. With dry batteries, like AA, AAA, C and D, you have nothing to worry about as they can go in your carry-on or checked baggage as well.
However, things are a little different in the case of carrying lithium batteries on a flight. Lithium batteries with 100 watt hours or less may be carried in a device in either a carry-on bag or checked baggage.
Loose lithium batteries are prohibited in checked bags.
Lithium batteries with more than 100 watt hours may be allowed in carry-on bags with airline approval. One spare battery, not exceeding 300 watt hours, or two spare batteries, not exceeding 160 watt hours each, are permitted in carry-on bags.
Power chargers and power banks
Mobile phone chargers can be kept in your checked baggage, however, portable chargers and power banks containing a lithium-ion battery must be packed in your carry-on bag.
Jewellery, money and other precious items
Be sure to avoid packing jewellery, or any type of valuables or important documents, such as passports in your checked baggage. Also, do not store cash, credit cards, travellers checks, or any other type of money related object in your checked baggage.
If you inspect the airline’s contract of carriage carefully, you will see that airlines typically will exclude liability for damage or loss of valuable items like:
- Antiques, artefacts, collectibles, religious items
- Eyeglasses, Prescription Sunglasses and Non-Prescription Sunglasses
- Items made of paper (e.g., blueprints, maps, manuscripts, business/personal documents, photos, books, securities, etc.)
- Money, gift cards, and gift certificates
- Irreplaceable items
Consider your checked baggage as a safe with a cardboard door that is being moved by strangers when out of your sight from point A to point B. Now, consider how you would feel stashing your valuable items in there. Those are the type of items you should always keep in your checked baggage.
Certain aerosols are considered highly flammable. Thus, objects like bear spray are not allowed in your checked baggage or carry-on bag. You are allowed to bring one 4 fl. oz. (118 ml) container of mace or pepper spray in checked baggage, provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge.
Self-defence sprays that contain more than 2 per cent by mass of tear gas (CS or CN) are prohibited in checked baggage. Cooking sprays are also not allowed both as carry-on or checked baggage items.
Generally, aerosols will be allowed in checked baggage as long as they are not labelled as hazardous material (HAZMAT). Any type of other flammable substances, such as gun powder, fuel, matches, certain paints, etc. will not be allowed on the plane. There is, however, an exception for matches: One book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches are permitted as carry-on items, but all matches are prohibited in checked baggage.
Fireworks, fire crackers, bang snaps, party poppers, sparklers, and anything within the realm of explosive objects are not allowed in either a carry-on or a checked bag. This includes other items, like flare guns and bear bangers.
Lighters with fuel are prohibited in checked bags, unless they adhere to the Department of Transportation (DOT) exemption, which allows up to two fuelled lighters if properly enclosed in a DOT approved case. Some lighters are not allowed in your carry-on or checked bags, including Arc Lighters, Plasma Lighters, Electronic Lighters and E-Lighters.
Chlorine for pools and spas
Chlorine for pools and spas is not allowed on a plane. You cannot transport chlorine in your carry-on or your checked baggage.
Electronic cigarettes and vaping devices
The FAA prohibits bringing devices in checked bags, which include battery-powered E-cigarettes, vaporizers, vape pens, atomizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems. However, you can bring these on as carry-on items only.
TSA recommends that you check with the airline you’re flying with when it comes to the best way to transport your drone. But, speaking from personal experience, you are much better off carrying your drone in a hard-sided case through the airport as a carry-on.
Also, you should keep in mind that some of the batteries used in drones are not allowed in checked baggage.
You are not allowed to transport some marine life, like live coral and live fish in your checked baggage although they can come through as carry-on items. However, an exception is that you can bring a live lobster through your checked baggage.
Ways to Avoid Checked Baggage Fees
There are a few ways you can avoid paying checked baggage fees. These are given as follows:
- Use co-branded airline credit cards
- Become members of airline’s elite status programs
- Hold special airline memberships
- Attach your travel/airline credits to credit cards
- Travel with a military status (or a family member of a military personnel)
These tips to avoid checked baggage fees are explained in detail below.
Use Co-branded Credit Cards
Using co-branded airline credit cards are the easiest ways to avoid paying checked baggage fees when travelling. A benefit of using co-branded airline credit cards is you can often get a free checked bag for yourself and at least one companion.
Here are a few credit cards that offer free checked baggage:
United Explorer Card: Using this credit card, you can avail one free checked bag for you and a companion on international flights.
Citi Platinum Select: Using this credit card, you can avail one free checked bag for you and up to six companions on domestic flights.
However, if you decide to go with a more premium card, you might be offered more free checked bags, such as with the United Club Infinite Card, which offers two free checked bags.
But, just be aware of the terms because some airlines may require you to use your co-branded credit card when purchasing your airfare in order to avail the benefit. Also, there are different stipulations for how many companions can get free bags and whether or not the benefit applies to international flights.
Hold Elite Status
Holding an elite status is another easy way to get around paying checked baggage fees. The higher you go up in airline elite status, the more bags you can check for free, and the heavier they can be. Typically, the bottom levels will start you off with one free checked bag.
Participate in Special Membership Programs
Some U.S. airlines offer special membership programs, for example, the $9 Fare Club by Spirit Airlines and the Alaska Airlines Club 49. These membership programs can save you on things like airfare, but also sometimes you can get discounts for baggage fees. Some airlines, like United may even offer a special baggage subscription service which can be worth it in some cases. Although if you do the calculation, you typically are better off with the credit card benefits.
Add Credits on Travel Credit Cards
You can utilize special travel credits that are attached to credit cards in order to get reimbursed for baggage fees. For example, the Amex airline credits are perfect for getting reimbursed for up to $250 in airline incidental costs, like baggage fees. You can find these credits on cards, such as the Platinum Card. One good thing about these credits is that you can use these for different airlines. So, instead of being forced to fly on a single airline to get the benefit, you can simply choose which airline works best for you.
While the Amex airline credits are great, the most flexible option would be to get a card that has a broad travel credit, such as the $300 travel credit that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You could use the travel credit on any airline and for virtually any travel expense, including airfare.
If you are in the military, you can often get many bags checked for free for you and potentially for your spouse as well. This is even the case when travelling for personal reasons. For example, United Airlines allows you to get three free checked bags on a personal trip. Plus, these bags can way up to 70 pounds.
So, be sure to check with the airlines regarding your military related benefits when it comes to checked baggage.
Having to deal with checked baggage is not always a hassle-free experience. However, there are plenty of ways as mentioned above that you can consider in order to avoid problems, such as paying hefty baggage fees and experiencing stressful situations, most likely with delayed or lost baggage.