Delta Raises Checked Bag Fees

A month ago JetBlue raised its first checked bag fee to $30. At the time I said JetBlue isn’t usually a leader on these things but the major US airlines would be watching very closely.

United followed the Friday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend presumably looking for the news to get buried with the rest of the trash when no one was watching. It didn’t surprise me that an airline led by Scott Kirby, who never met a fee he didn’t like (including for water), would go first.

Now Delta has jumped on board with $30 first checked bag fees (up from $25) and $40 second checked bag fees (up from $35).

Unlike United, at least Delta offers a 20 minute baggage delivery guarantee, so there’s more value for the fee they charge.

American Airlines will be under a lot of pressure to follow suit. Standing out offering a better deal isn’t something American has built a reputation on the past several years. They’ve been far more a follower of Delta. And even if attracting more customers with better pricing was a good strategy, with their stock under significant pressure they’re unlikely to want to stand out even further when Wall Street is looking at how they can possibly generate the revenue necessary to offset higher fuel prices.

It is, unfortunately, American’s move next. By the way a customer who sued when US Airways failed to deliver her $15 checked bag in a timely manner back in 2011 is still fighting American Airlines over it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well, as I said a month ago, it was always very likely that the big airlines were not going to match a bag fee increase initiated by JetBlue! I mean, JetBlue has a reputation of being customer-friendly, and if it was good enough for them, it was certainly going to be good enough for the legacy carriers.

    Of course, it’s really hard to see how this move is actually bad for frequent flyers — who, I presume, are your readers. If I had to hazard a guess, I would suspect that the vast majority of your readers have paid exactly zero checked bag fees in the past year. Many, like me, have never paid a bag fee to a USA airline in their lives. As most of your readers know, it’s generally dumb to check your bags: it’s slow and usually unnecessary (you can easily carry more than a week’s worth of clothing in your free onboard bag allowance). And if some weird circumstance requires checked bags (gear, wine, etc), you use your elite status or credit card status to get that bag for free. So bag fees generally hit the infrequent, unknowledgeable and over-packed traveller. That’s OK with me.

  2. chopsticks,

    It sounds like you love the idea of greedy, big money-making corporations taking advantage of the less privileged and less informed members of the flying public, all while those companies are government-sponsored in various ways and have been granted so many governmental waivers and favors that the flying public gets hit by one customer-unfriendly hit after another by the industry’s cartel kingpins.

    It’s only a matter of time until one or more of these cartel kingpins decide to make a massive hit against the carry-on-only crowd and start trying to shake-down even more people for checked baggage fees for baggage that in practice was previously (and still generally is) allowed by the airline reps to be free cabin baggage. But my bet is that the industry apologists and anti-regulation zealots benefiting from governmental regulation of air travel are still going to find a way to blame the customers for getting fleeced by the industry’s cartel kingpins and the other industry participants schooled into following the ways wanted by the cartel kingpins.

  3. @GUWonder — Nonsense. I’m pretty sure the major carriers would prefer to charge lots more money for tickets and include things like seat assignments and checked luggage. They would also like to have the profit margins of other S&P 500 companies.

    The problem they have is competition from ultra low cost carriers that set the prevailing domestic airfares (note that there are few if any checked bag fees for int’l travel). These ULCCs have a business model that offers lowball base fares, and then allows these companies to make almost half their total revenue in ancillary fees. Because consumers are attracted (suckered?) by these lowball come-on fares, it is basically impossible for the non-ULCCs to include these additional services “for free” in the base fare and stay in business.

    Just as most savvy travellers are able to avoid the avoid the ancillary fees on airlines like Spirit (for example, I bring only a “personal item” and let them assign me a seat), they are able to avoid unnecessary bag fees on the major airlines. I’m sorry that less sophisticated travellers don’t enjoy these advantages, but that’s kind of the way the world works — not just in travel. Do you disagree?

  4. The fact that you consider “competition”, from ULCCs or otherwise, to be a problem is a sign that you’re in bed with the industry’s cartel kingpins.

    And I doubt the claim about being “sorry” that “less sophisticated travellers” are getting fleeced by the industry’s cartel kingpins (and those disciplined by the cartel kingpins’ backers).

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