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Best Baggage Fees: What’s the Cheapest Airline for You?

Budget Traveling
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If you’re traveling, you’re probably taking along at least a handful of general necessities. Should you really pay extra for transporting a few indispensable objects? TravelNerd says, no way! When flying, the implication is you will likely need to bring along the basics. Do airlines actually expect you to forgo luggage and take no more than can fit in your pockets? The absurdity of such an assumption is undeniable. So why did Allegiant recently start charging fees for carry-on items? Why do most airlines charge upwards of $50 for a single checked bag on a round trip?

For those of you sick of paying to fly with a clean pair of underwear, we’ve created a simple, comprehensive database of baggage fees. You can either take a look at our airline fees comparison tool or keep reading to see the best domestic airlines for your luggage load.

General rankings

If we had to generalize a list of the best airlines for baggage fees, it would look something like this:

  1. Southwest
  2. Virgin
  3. Alaska
  4. Frontier
  5. Airtran

Of course, every passenger will have different needs and different expenses, making it difficult to provide a universalized list. That’s why we’ve taken the time to create a number of luggage profiles that demonstrate the best option for your bags. For a comprehensive chart of these number, take a look at this earlier baggage fee post.

Best airlines for 1 carry-on and no checked bags

Any airline but Spirit and Allegiant: $0

Almost any airline will grant you one free carry-on item. It’s common courtesy, really.   But there are 2 rebels who break the trend and dare demand money for the service. Spirit charges $30-$40 per item each way, and Allegiant charges $10-$35. If your only item is a carry-on, you won’t have to worry about baggage fees unless traveling with one of these guys.

Best airlines for 1 carry-on and 1 checked bag

Southwest and Jetblue: $0

A single carry-on and a single checked bag are a pretty standard load. Again, stay away from Spirit and Allegiant. Here you have 2 options for free checked luggage. Fly with Southwest or Jetblue and you won’t pay a cent.

Best airline for 1 carry-on and 2-3 checked bags

Southwest: $0-$50

For folks with a slightly bigger luggage load, Southwest is your airline of choice. They grant you 2 free checked bags, and your third is only $50. Compare this to American, who wants $210 for 3 checked, or US, who wants $185. When you’re transporting this much luggage, you want to start looking at fees before the actual airfare.

Best airlines for 1 carry-on and 4 checked bags

Southwest and Virgin: $100

Because Virgin charges a flat $25 per bag, it begins to overtake the other airlines as the number of checked items increases. At 4 checked, Virgin and Southwest tie at $100 per way.

Best airline for 1 carry-on and 5+ checked bags

Virgin: $125+

With this many bags, fly with Virgin. Their flat $25 per bag rate can’t be beat. As you check additional item, you’ll see bigger and bigger savings with Virgin.

Overweight and oversized bags

Airlines charge you more for big bags. Luggage that exceeds specified measurements or weight limitations will incur additional fees. Here we compare fees for bags that exceed permissible measurements. Please note we are only comparing the oversized/overweight fee amounts. We are NOT taking into consideration other bags you may be carrying.

Best airline for a bag under 70lb

Southwest and Jetblue: $50

For bags that are just a little “fluffy,” you’ll be in good hands with Southwest or Jetblue. It’s only $50 per way for each overweight bag. Compare to American and United who both charge $125.

Best airline for a bag 70lb or heavier

Southwest: $50

Once you hit the 70lb mark, Jetblue’s fee take a jump and Southwest is left the reigning champ, charging a flat $50 regardless of how overweight your bag may be.

Best airline for a 63-80 inch bag

Allegiant: $15-$30

This may come as a shock, but Allegiant rules the oversized fee category.* For an airline that charges a lot of harsh fees, Allegiant surprised us all with its lenient oversized policy. Kudos, Allegiant!

Best airline for an 81+ inch bag

Alaska: $95

Once you cross the 80-inch threshold, Allegiant drops to second place, overtaken by an unassuming competitor–Alaska. With a $95 oversized fee for bags over 80 inches, Alaska Airlines beats out Allegiant by $10.

*Remember, we didn’t include carry-on items or additional checked luggage in our oversized calculations. In reality, Allegiant’s good price on oversized bags will often be invalidated by their carry-on fee