The First U.S. Airline Has Raised Checked Bag Fees To $35, Offers Prepayment Discount

We’ve got another JetBlue checked bag fee increase. A year and a half ago JetBlue was first to raise its first checked bag fee to $30 and other U.S. airlines followed.

Now they’re a leader in fees again, Seth Miller notes, raising their first checked bag fee to $35. However they’ll still charge $30 as long as the fee is paid online in advance (prior to the online check-in window opening).

  • This will mean fewer transactions at the airport, saving time and staff

  • And some customers may pay for bags, planning for the savings, and not wind up checking one – fees therefore that JetBlue wouldn’t otherwise earn

  • Plus customers who check bags at the airport will pay more

what does kim jong un thing about jetblue checked bag fee increase

These new higher charges apply to tickets booked January 16 onward. Tickets purchased prior to this change are subject to the pre-existing lower fees.

United followed JetBlue’s checked bag fee increase a mere four days later last time. Then both Delta and American followed. Will they follow here too? American just rolled out prepaying checked bags online, a feature that really only make sense if there’s an incentive for customers to pay early like a discount.

In this way so-called ‘full service’ airlines are becoming like their ultra low cost carrier brethren. Spirit Airlines charges its lowest fees for checked bags online. Fees go up at the airport. And they’re higher still if a customer has to check a bag at the gate. They’re using fees not just to generate revenue, but to drive channel customer behavior in ways that lowers the airline’s costs.

Man checked a can of beer as luggage on a Qantas flight.

Higher checked bag fees mean an even greater incentive for customers to bring their life’s belongings on board. That in turn causes delays, both because bags take longer to stow and because more bags than a plane can handle means taking the time to gate check bags. As a result JetBlue says they’re going to step up carry on rules enforcement. (JetBlue will be will be “taking a look at how we can improve 1+1 bag policy compliance and working on longer-term solutions.”)

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. Bag fees are an interesting game. For an airline, there are several factors that come into play in deciding whether (and how much) to charge for a bag. How many customers will pay a fee, and as the fee goes higher, how many opt out? What is the fuel/labor cost of checked bags? Will I lose customers (to other airlines, or to people driving or staying home) if I implement or raise a bag fee?

    There’s obviously a point when customers will decide not to pay a bag fee. I recently flew on Frontier, which was charging $40 for a carry-on (you get to bring a small “personal item” like a backpack for free). I think this aircraft seats 230 people. Of those 230 people, fewer than 10 had a full-size carry on with them — and most of those probably had it comped as elite members. I would suggest this is a revenue fail: the bag fee is too high.

    My hunch is that, above $30, many customers will stop checking bags. Very few people truly need a checked bag — I’ve travelled the world with just a carry-on and a personal item — and if you start charging them tons of money, they’ll likely figure it out. Frontier’s customers have figured this out. So I’d be cautious as an airline raising this fee: I don’t think it will generate more income.

  2. RyanAir plays this game well. RyanAir’s customers need 1 or 2 flights to figure out how to minimize the fees. Then RyanAir overhauls its fee structure so that customers need more flights to learn the new system. The cycle repeats.

  3. Will other airlines match JetBlue’s checked bag increaese? Magic 8-ball says “You may rely on it.”

  4. I guess this can’t be done since it would take too much time but it seems like airlines should just weigh all of the baggage a customer has and charge it on a per pound basis. Ideally it should include the weight of the passenger as well but that definitely would not fly 🙂

    The size of bags that people bring aboard are crazy. And then many of those passengers can’t even lift them up to put them into the overhead bin. If you can’t pick it up, checked it.

  5. Jetblue is interesting in that they’re going the route of Spirit in the back of the plane, and Delta up front.

  6. “Very few people truly need a checked bag…”

    Haven’t checked a bag in over ten years and short of some weird, extenuating circumstance, I never will.

  7. @chopsticks

    “I’ve travelled the world with just a carry-on and a personal item”

    @James N

    How do you do that when world traveling? Are your trips really short? Even if I took only my laptop and a weeks worth of work clothing (and some non work clothing) I’d probably be out of space in my backpack that I carry on.

    Personally I’ll do carry on only OR carry on + checked, I like my underseat foot room; and tend to only use personal items if I ran out of other allowance.

  8. I only carry one bag over my shoulder I bought in an Lands End outlet store that has two open sides to it in 1992. I usually have about 20 Pds in it but less for some airlines
    in case they would check the weight and never any problems bringing it on except once. That was at PNG on my way to BNE. So I started taking things out but the Qantas employee got tired of it and with seeing the line behind me she gave me my boarding pass. Weird that it happened at PNG and no where else. I travel as a consultant from November through most of March and part of April and May and parts of September and October. I use local laundramats, so it can be done.

  9. Our group of three checked two bags from Orlando to Barbados on Dec. 1 at a charge of $30 for the first bag and $20 for the second bag for a total of $50. On the return trip on Dec. 17, JetBlue charged us $35 per bag for a total of $70. It looks as if an employee in Barbados jumped the gun.

  10. A lot of people don’t realize these ancillary revenue is not taxed. The airline gets 100% of the fees. If the bag fees were factored into airfare, the US gov’t will get a taxed portion. When the gov’t decides to tax the checked baggage fees, this practice will end because it will simplify the back end accounting.

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