How You Can Get Airlines to Stop Raising Bag Fees

I feel like I’ve approached this topic before, but in light of the airlines raising bag fees once again to $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, I thought it was worth revisiting. There are a lot of people complaining about bag fees going up, but that’s not going to do any good. You need to take action if you’re not happy.

It’s a time-honored tradition for travelers to hate everything that airlines do. Airline management knows that and has to take all Marie Antoinette on Bag Feesfeedback it gets as part of a larger picture. So just because you say you hate bag fees, doesn’t mean they’ll believe you. Let me explain.

People say they hate things but then they don’t change their behavior. This has happened with nearly every change that has stuck in the airline industry. People always complain, but if they keep flying, then the revenue is usually worth it in the mind of the airline manager. Airlines also tend to move in packs, so you don’t often have much time to switch your business to show your displeasure. When one moves, they all move.

But there’s a unique opportunity when it comes to bag fees because of a couple of holdouts. Southwest won’t charge you for your first two checked bags and JetBlue won’t charge you for the first. If you really aren’t happy with bag fees, you should switch your business to these guys and then write a letter to your previous favorite airline letting them know. If enough people do that, the airlines will reverse where things are going with bag fees. If not, then they’ll just keep jacking them up until they can’t anymore. It’s that simple.

Ready to change the world? This won’t be easy, because remember, elite frequent fliers don’t pay bag fees. That means that the people the airlines deem to be most important aren’t going to care if there are bag fees or not. So it’s just the unwashed masses who have to get together to fight the power. And it’s only some of the unwashed masses who check bags. Families with kids, people going on long vacations, etc – they’re the ones impacted the most. That’s an uphill battle.

So, if you want to fight the power, stop complaining and change your behavior instead. And when you do it, tell someone with specific details. You can start with the comment section on this post. Airline people read this blog, so this is one way to reach them. Or, if you’re looking for something more effective, send them an email, give them a call, or send them a postcard from the trip you take on another airline. If you don’t like bag fees, that’s the way to get them changed.

Complaining about it won’t be enough.

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71 Comments on "How You Can Get Airlines to Stop Raising Bag Fees"

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Jonathan
Guest

Weak suggestion since Southwest and Jetblue don’t serve any of the destinations I usually travel to, and certainly don’t fly them nonstop.

A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue?

Dan
Guest

Hi,

Why not post links to the appropriate customer service email contacts here to make it easier to write? I agree with you but, people are lazy and anything you can do to make it easier to complain will ensure more people do so. Why do you think the customer service phone number is so hard to find on most websites?

Robert Esler
Guest

I have done what you suggested, plus have canceled my Midwest and American MasterCard accounts. I switched to a Chase rewards card a few months ago and now earn cash instead of miles. My next flight (in March) is on Southwest, paid for with the cash from this reward card. I will write letters to the four businesses involved (Midwest, American, Southwest and Chase) letting them know the primary reason for the switch is the bag fee. I live near Milwaukee and am very happy Southwest starting serving our area. I will become a loyal customer.

Andrew
Guest
Just for fun, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Let’s say I’m an airline. With the advent of internet booking/price comparison and continued route competition despite consolidation and reductions, especially for vacation destinations (seriously, is anyone anywhere in the U.S. hurting for options to get to Arizona or Florida?), there is constant pressure to keep ticket prices low. It’s too risky to raise fares on these competitive routes, because one false move and a stronger competitor will have a full plane and you will not. However, my business is also always one step away from disaster: Fuel prices, new regulations,… Read more »
Ryan
Guest
Jonathan wrote: A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue? Unfortunately many airlines are getting better at spotting these bags before you have a chance to hold them up. It’s only a matter of time before airlines start either sizing your carry-ons at the ticket counter, or charging you a checked bag fee penalty at the gate when they deem your bag is oversized according to carry-on policy limits. It’s one thing when you have a small bag and there is… Read more »
Katie
Guest
Jonathan wrote: Weak suggestion since Southwest and Jetblue don’t serve any of the destinations I usually travel to, and certainly don’t fly them nonstop. A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue? Umm…no. If you just stop checking bags, you’re still buying a ticket on that airline. If you switch to another airline, not only are they not getting bag revenue from you, they’re not getting ticket revenue from you as well. And if you can tell them that their bag… Read more »
Brad
Guest
at the top of your post you state this: “So just because you say you hate bag fees, doesn’t mean they’ll believe you.” then, you go on to suggest that ppl send emails and post comments to try to affect change?? What happened in the intervening paragraphs to force you to regress and suddenly think that voicing an opinion with anything other than your wallet would bring anything other than mild catharsis? Followed your blog for awhile now and was expecting your suggestion to be both A) grounded in economic realities, and B) creative and unique. Airlines like the bag… Read more »
Davester
Guest

I agree….
Don’t pack so much stuff. Pack the carry-on pieces to the gills. Gate check the carry-on pieces. (This adds to the time it takes to turn around a flight, and I don’t think the airlines collect fees for gate-checked pieces).
Try mailing stuff ahead of your trip. Buy stuff at your destination. Donate them before your return, or mail them back home. Fly Southwest or JetBlue!

david
Member
Personally, I am ok with the concept of bag fees. I say concept because I like the idea except when I am at the airport paying for them. Like you say, obviously customers are ok with it, because they keep paying. I want airlines to succeed, so if it is a way for them to make money, then go for it. However I wish I could get more out of my baggage fees. I really like Alaska Airlines 25 minute guarantee. If you bag isn’t spinning around the carousel 25min after the plane gets to the jetway, you get a… Read more »
daren_siddall
Member
Last summer I flew to the US from the UK on VS and then changed planes in IAD. Despite paying nearly $500 for a seat on a United Express flight I had to pay to check my first bag. As an international traveler and therefore unlikely to reach elite status on a US carrier and having to check a bag for a two week vacation I felt aggrieved at having to pay, especially since I was flying on an EMB145 where virtually anyone with a carry-on has to check the bag at the gate anyway. I do understand the realities… Read more »
gersov
Member

Air Canada doesn’t charge for the first checked bag and is only proposing to charge for the second, so if you’re going to Canada or major cities in Europe or Asia, there’s an alternative if fares and other costs are equal. This especially applies to UA/CO codeshares on AC metal. It’s a way for Star Alliance members to escape first checked bag fees when traveling between Canada and the US. (Yes, AC-ticketed customers have to pay UA and CO bag fees when traveling on AC codeshare flights on UA or CO aircraft.)

Dyana
Guest

re: not checking bags. I’d love to not check bags but as a woman, I need crazy outlandish things like, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, lipstick, nail polish, sunblock, i.e. things that are not allowed unless in teeny containers that last all of one day. Also, they won’t let me carry on my dive gear.

SirWired
Guest
Amen, Cranky! None of what the airlines do will change until people vote with their wallets! JetBlue and SouthWest don’t fly direct to where you don’t want to go? Well, if you continue to fly the majors, you are sending a message far louder than any complaint letter or blog posting. You telling the airlines, in the only language they truly understand, that bag fees, lousy service, surly employees, late flights, poorly kept planes, etc. are unimportant compared to the route network. If you want change, vote with your wallet. If you like complaining… well… you can see for yourself… Read more »
Jim
Guest

People have figured out how to beat the fees, Carry on bags have grown larger and larger, multiple carry on bags no less. It took 50 minutes to load the Delta flight from west palm beach to atlanta, yesterday. Management must notice the longer turn around times.

flyguy
Guest
Andrew pretty much has nailed the case! Great comments on the issue. Airlines will continue to charge for everything they can, because that is the new business model. Every dollar counts in keeping the lights on. Only history has given us the impression that anything other than transportation is is what you pay for. That is what you are buying ..transportation. It cost money to handle the bags and fuel to carry them. Sure, you can complain and take your business to another airline, however, there is always someone behind you on the computer ready to buy that $99.00 seat… Read more »
ANNELLENOR
Member
I have been flying out of Denver to and from Tulsa monthly for about a year now, a route that United, Frontier and Southwest cover. I have switched permanently to Southwest for 3 reasons: primarily the baggage fee–outrageous, especially now that security has tightened once again, Southwest flies a regular 150+ passenger plane, (sorry guys, I’m not a airplane expert, don’t know the body types!), full to capacity, by the way, every single time I have flown, while both United and Frontier are flying soup cans with wings, (crammed to the gills and too small for most carryons anyway) AND,… Read more »
Total
Guest

“What happened in the intervening paragraphs to force you to regress and suddenly think that voicing an opinion with anything other than your wallet would bring anything other than mild catharsis?”

Dude, what part of ‘don’t fly with the airlines that charge for the bags’ did you not read or understand? Yeesh.

A
Guest
LONDONAN wrote: Southwest flies a regular 150+ passenger plane This actually is a major reason I fly WN. I know for a fact that I’m on a mainline 737 every single time. Many of the flights I used to take on NW and now DL have been downgraded to CRJ’s. (Something I did complain about fiercely in writing to Delta as I’d much rather take less frequency for the larger aircraft.) Also switched a lot of my travel to AA since an ancient MD-80 still beats any CRJ and twice on a late night flight. As for bag fees, never… Read more »
Bill
Guest

They’ve still go your money under your scenario; delay at gate? They don’t care@ Jonathan:

PeteyNice
Guest
I would love to be able to fly Southwest, but the cost in gas, time and parking (can’t take MARTA to BHM) to get to Birmingham from Atlanta makes any checked bag fee seem insignificant. Alaska has a great idea with the pizza delivery play. I had to gate check a bag from Newark to Atlanta on CO after Christmas and it took almost 90 minutes from when the plane door opened to when I got my bag. If I had to pay for that I would be furious. I was still upset since whenever I gate check things to… Read more »
jaybru
Member
I must admit that charging a fee for the first bag is foreign to my idea of what a basic ticket fare should cover. But, as someone who is elite on one airline, flies almost entirely via that airline, thus, is not impacted by the bag fee, it’s hardly an issue that moves me. When I fly another airline, I almost never have a checked bag so again, the fee not an issue. Yet, if I had to pay the fee, I’d be outraged! I would be interested in knowing the percentage of travelers who are paying bag fees. Are… Read more »
Jared
Guest
Of course nobody LIKES paying baggage fees, but let’s be honest: Fares are cheaper than they were 25 years ago. Even if you add a first bag fee to the fare, it’s STILL cheaper than it was. In 1981, I remember TWA offering sale fares from JFK to SFO for $99 each way. Virgin America’s sale fares from JFK to SFO are, uh, $99 each way now. Almost 30 years later. Flying is a steal, baggage fees or not. And, oh, you can avoid flying the majors and not pay their fees, and they can then go out of business,… Read more »
ronyoung1114
Member

I have already changed my flying. Since bag fees started I have only flown Southwest. I make several trips a year and before the fees had never flown Southwest. Now I love them and tell them every time I check in “thank you for your free bag policy as this has made me a new dedicated customer”.

ANNELLENOR
Member
@ A: Always always always carry-on and pack light. yes, normally I carry on as well, but this Tulsa travel is business and I carry supplies with me. Because I lived in London for 4 years, I became accustomed to really great customer service and once I had flown British Airways, swore I would only ever fly them transatlantic…not United, not Continental, only BA. Yep, this decision may hasten the demise of US airlines, ala purchasing well made, excellent quality Japanese autos contributed to the demise of the US automakers, but surely, sooner or later, American corporations will learn these… Read more »
David M
Guest

JayB wrote:

I would be interested in knowing the percentage of travelers who are paying bag fees. Are we talking about 50% are, 50% aren’t? Perhaps less than half aren’t?

American Airlines says 25% of their domestic customers pay bag fees, the rest either are exempt or aren’t checking bags:

http://aa.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=2827

Nick Barnard
Member
Andrew wrote: Just for fun, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Let’s say I’m an airline. With the advent of internet booking/price comparison and continued route competition despite consolidation and reductions, especially for vacation destinations (seriously, is anyone anywhere in the U.S. hurting for options to get to Arizona or Florida?), there is constant pressure to keep ticket prices low. It’s too risky to raise fares on these competitive routes, because one false move and a stronger competitor will have a full plane and you will not. This ideally will be fixed as the GDSes start to include information on… Read more »
Kathy
Guest
I have to say..not a big Southwest fan, but I ended up traveling on them twice this year, instead of another airline, in large part because of their ‘no bag fee’ policy. Those two instances.. I needed to check bags, when normally I don’t. Once for a party of 6, and once for a party of 4, so Southwest got some revenue from me this year, when normally I wouldn’t choose them. They’re not that great an airline, in my opinion, pretty much the same as any other airline for the travel experience, but the no fee thing did capture… Read more »
J Guffey
Guest

Living in paradise aka Hawai’i….no choices here. No Southwest…no way to leave the islands except by air. Packing in carryon for a two-week trip is difficult but not impossible (I suppose)…I’ll try it next time I’m traveling.

Jim
Guest
I’ll add my testimonial to the fray … Last year, we took a party of six (my wife and I, our two kids, and my parents) to Orlando for a week’s vacation (you can guess where). We had the choice of flying out of FNT or DTW, with a wide variety of airlines. Ultimately, we ended up flying Southwest, because we were going to have a boatload of luggage for a week in Orlando with kids (one with medical needs). When you factored the cost of baggage fees into the total cost, Southwest was cheaper than any of the competitors.… Read more »
Merry Alexander
Guest

Yes, I have already switched to JetBlue. I was definitely a Delta girl previously but their fares are usually a bit higher and if not, the bag fee certainly puts it over the top. I even switched having a great deal of DL frequent flyer points. I think the bags fees are ridiculous so my allegiance is now with JetBlue. Do you hear me Delta?

Bill Hough
Guest
Southwest and JetBlue must be commended on their reasonable checked baggage policy. Airlines must make a profit to stay in business; however I fail to understand the logic of nickel and diming the passenger with extra nuisance fees on top of the airfare. I’ve discussed this with my co-workers, friends, family and business associates, and there is a general consensus among us that airlines should charge one honest fare and eliminate the extra fees. I plan on flying Southwest and JetBlue whenever possible. If these airlines can continue to differentiate themselves from their competitors in this manner, they will attract… Read more »
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Wonko Beeblebrox
Guest
Three of my last four trips have been on Southwest. The only leg that wasn’t on WN was on AA because I was stupid enough not to think about flying out of FLL when the cruise ship arrived in MIA (I only realized that error _after_ my AA ticket was purchased…). My next two flights are on CO/UA… a frequent flyer mileage ticket, and WN does not fly to the destination in question. I’m trying to burn up all the existing free tickets I have from accounts on the airlines that still charge baggage fees. Honestly airlines, baggage fees change… Read more »
Oliver
Guest
@ JayB: > I must admit that charging a fee for the > first bag is foreign to my idea of what a > basic ticket fare should cover. What else should the basic ticket fare cover in your opinion? A hot meal? Booze? If airlines had always unbundled the cost of moving suitcases from the cost of moving people, it wouldn’t seem so foreign to you that they now want to charge extra, I think. Personally, I have no problems with a reasonable fee that is somewhat proportional to the cost of the service provided. I might see things… Read more »
frank
Guest

@ Andrew:

ANDREW!!!!!!!!!

Amazing post. YOU GET IT.

DeltaPMflyer
Guest
Does no one know how to play the game. Really. Everyone. This is too simple. In golf, you have to know the rules and make them work for you. 1. Get status anywhere. You can get status some way for free. I got a BMI silver for free just for sign up. Then fax to other airlines and have them match. Bingo free bags. 2. Get a Debit card for $25 a year and then 1st bag free Continental. Done. 3. UPS. Really. Sometime cheaper. 4. Pack BIG for the fee. Get a golf bag HARD CASE. Pack it full… Read more »
million miler
Guest
Seems to me there is an element missing in this conversation. Truth in advertising, or more accurately, full disclosure when purchasing tickets on the web. Most people probably do some comparison shopping for pricing and schedule, but how many booking sites actually show the total out of pocket cost – bag fees, snack on board, cold beverage of your choice, etc? I gather there are a couple of airline sites that let you prepay these fees, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Since fees seem to be here to stay, maybe we need to level… Read more »
Stephen Dutton
Guest

You go Cranky…Well done.

I agree in the full disclosure fact that all extra fees & costs should be outlined in the final outline when booking and people should read the details before hitting the send button, they worry about the prices but don’t look at the details.

Consumer Mike
Guest
The customer ALWAYS has the most effective weapon to deal with a bad or greedy business – his/her money. Rather then complain endlessly about the mounting gouging of air travlers you need to – if possible – change your flying habits. Choose the airline that is most competitive for your business and appreciates it. The increase of nickle and diming passengers is the hidden fare increase for those “low prices”. It effectively raises the price of each ticket. Thirsty? Pay for a beverage. Hungry? pay for that snack. Cold? Pay for the blanket. Next: Need to use the restroom? Get… Read more »
Marks
Guest

Jonathan wrote:

(snip)
A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue?

Ah well, of course the next step is to charge for carry on bags.

Gotcha.

Jim Huggins
Guest
Oliver wrote: Personally, I have no problems with a reasonable fee that is somewhat proportional to the cost of the service provided. Except that it isn’t. Because the airlines aren’t charging elites for the same service, it’s the non-elites that are bearing the cost of the service provided. You want to charge $20 a bag for everyone, elites included? Now you’ve got a system where everyone pays for the service provided. (Plus, you get rid of this nonsense where the second bag is somehow more expensive to process than the first bag.) Somehow, though, I don’t see any airlines daring… Read more »
Ron
Guest
Cranky, I understand the thing about moving your business away if you don’t like the fees, but not the part about telling the airlines. What makes you think they even read the comments you send? Ten days ago I stepped off a US Airways flight to find one of my checked suitcases ripped. It was the end of a 24-hour journey with 2 kids and I didn’t feel like dealing with it at the airport, so instead I sent them an email the next day. Haven’t heard back yet. If this is how they treat correspondence from their own customers,… Read more »
myriamparis
Guest
I’m totally fine with the bag fees, but then again, I don’t have kids. I’ve travelled with only carry-on for years, including overseas, and the few times I decide to bring home a bottle of wine I’ll be sure to factor in the cost of bag-check. I’d rather have the low fare and have control over what extras I’m paying for, then have it all bundled in whether I use it or not. The thing I can’t STAND however is when my small overnight bag, my laptop in a slim-line case (no briefcase), and my purse get me stopped at… Read more »
Patrick
Guest

I hate to burst your bubble, but the gate agents do not have time at the last minute to be checking bag size and then charging customers. The bag will be checked at the gate and no fee will be charged. The airline loses! I see this every day on every flight. I am the guy loading these 75 pound (carry on) bags. The place these bags should be turned around at is the TSA check point.

myriamparis
Guest

I should mention that one of the reasons I abide by a carry-on only policy is because of multiple problems with badly ripped bags, like the poster above me. If I had paid a fee for that kind of service I would have been seriously affronted.

rtrader
Member

I don’t care if they raise bag fees to $200 per bag. My LAST airline flight was a year ago on United. I now either drive or don’t make the trip I WILL NOT fly on any commercial airline again!!!.

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Travel-Writers-Exchange.com
Guest

Yep! Carry-on bags are larger and they hold up the line which makes the flight crew and employees at the gate very cranky. It’s up to the consumer to decide what he/she wants. Higher bag fees? Lower airline tickets? It’s about supply and demand. When will consumers realize they drive the market. It’s all in an Economics class :)

Of course, the simplest solution is to bring a carry-on. When in doubt, leave it out! You can always buy what you need when you arrive at your destination.

Scott
Guest
Well. It’s interesting to see how many comments the subject of baggage fees has brought up! One major number that speaks to the strength of Southwest’s no fee for bags policy is market share. From October 2008 to October 2009 it increase nearly a full percentage point, from 12.78% to 13.69%. This may appear trivial, but we’re talking about the entire US domestic air travel market. 1% is HUGE. Keep in mind that’s a percentage, so even though the number of air travelers has dropped, that means a lot more of who is left flying is flying Southwest, and they… Read more »
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