Airline baggage fees: What you’ll pay on United, Delta, American, Spirit & more…

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baggage carousel at airport
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As travel season ramps up, people are always looking to get the lowest fare on summer destinations. But when you fly some carriers, the price of airfare is just a starting point — and your total out-of-pocket cost quickly gets inflated based on a whole host of other fees.

In fact, consider this: Everyone loves eye-popping low fares, but you may save more money overall when you buy a slightly higher fare on a carrier who won’t nickel and dime you to death on checked bag fees.

This is one area where knowledge is definitely power for your wallet!

RELATED: Going through airport security? Here’s how to protect your belongings

Know the airline baggage fees before you buy a ticket

Here’s a look at the Top 10 U.S. airlines by passenger volume in 2018 and what each of them charges in checked bag fees…

All price quotes are exclusive of any loyalty affiliation, such as being a member of a an airline affinity club or having the carrier’s preferred credit card.

Airline 1st checked bag
2nd checked bag 3rd checked bag Free personal item and carry-on requirements*
American Airlines $25 $35 $150
  • Personal item – 18″ x 14″ x 8″
  • Carry-on – 22″ x 14″ x 9″
Delta Air Lines $25 $35 $150
  • Personal item must fit under seat in front of you
  • Carry-on – 22″ x 14″ x 9″
Southwest Airlines FREE! FREE! $75
  • Personal item – 18.5″ x 8.5″ x 13.5″
  • Carry-on – 10″ x 16″ x 24″
United Airlines $25 $35 $150+ depending on route
  • Personal item – 16″ x 11″ x 8″
  • Carry-on – 22″ x 14″ x 9″
Alaska Airlines $25 $25 $75
  • Personal item must fit under seat in front of you
  • Carry-on – 22″ x 14″ x 9″
JetBlue Airways From free to $25 depending on fare option From free to $35 depending on fare option $100
  • Personal item – 17″ x 13″ x 8″
  • Carry-on – 22″ x 14″ x 9″
Spirit Airlines Ranges from $32 if checked in during booking to $65 if done at the gate Ranges from $42 during booking to $62 at airport reservation center Ranges from $87 to $102
  • Personal item of 18″x14″x8″ is free
  • $37 to $65 charge applies to your carry-on*
Frontier Airlines Ranges from $25 if checked in during booking to $60 if done at the gate Ranges from $45 during booking to $50 at airport reservation center Ranges from $80 to $85
  • Personal item of 18″x14″x8″ is free
  • $30 to $60 charge applies to your carry-on*
Allegiant Air Ranges from $18 to $75, depending on route and when you check bag in $18 to $75, depending on route and when you check bag in $18 to $75, depending on route and when you check bag in
  • Personal item of 7″x15″x16″ is free
  • $15 to $75 charge applies to your carry-on*
Hawaiian Airlines $25 $35 $100
  • Personal item must fit under seat in front of you
  • Carry-on – 22″ x 14″ x 9″

Clark’s take

Rather than paying checked bag fees, money expert Clark Howard travels only with what an airline permits free as a single carry-on.

“Another plus is that I never worry about the airline losing my baggage,” Clark says.

Sometimes getting everything you need into a carry-on can be an extreme test. Once when in Europe, the consumer expert needed his carry-on to be less than 22 pounds or he’d have to pay a nearly $50 fee to check his bag in at the airport.

“I had to wear multiple layers of clothing in Dublin, Ireland, to make sure I avoided that hefty $50 fee!” Clark recalls. “That meant three layers of clothing so that my bag would be less than 22 pounds. I put on three pairs of pants, two shirts and a sweatshirt on top of that while flying.”

His advice to you after that debacle?

“Pack light. It’s going to make your trip a whole lot more pleasant!”

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