Why Is Checked Baggage So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Morgan Stephens

Morgan Stephens has been to 43 countries and counting, and he's never content to stay in one place for too long. Right now, he's living in South Korea, but he's always on the lookout for his next adventure.

Traveling by flying can be costly. While traveling, you must consider your ticket, hotel, rental car, and meals. However, there is one expense that frequently surprises travelers: baggage check-in.

Regardless of the month or year, checked luggage always costs more than an airline’s discounted first-class rate. Here’s what I’ve learned about why checked baggage is out of sight!

Why Is Checked Baggage So Expensive?

Checked baggage is expensive because of the baggage taxes imposed per piece of bag carried by a passenger. Additionally, the boarding process at different stages for bag inspection necessitates more employees and equipment, which raises costs. However, many passengers still bring huge baggage on planes despite paying additional fees.

Let’s go through why checked baggage fees are so high, so keep reading!

1. Tax Arbitrage

According to the Department of Transportation’s new data, US airlines charged $1.5 billion in checked luggage fees during the second quarter of 2019.

That said, tax arbitrage is a significant driver of domestic checked luggage fees.

Further, it is considered a loophole that allows businesses to avoid paying taxes by passing them on to their customers at higher costs.

Without a doubt, taxes and fees account for around 30% of the final cost of your ticket, implying that airlines benefit significantly from these payments, which passengers cover.

2. Boarding Process

Your first step in traveling is the boarding process, which is more complicated and time-consuming for travelers carrying checked bags onboard the plane.

In addition, when passengers are allowed to bring as many bags as they want onto an airplane, it can become challenging for airport staff members to keep track of them all.

Because of this, it can lead to delays and safety concerns due to overcrowding. As a result, most airlines will charge passengers for bringing more than two bags onto their flights.

Therefore, these additional steps for checking in bags require more personnel and equipment, which drives up costs.

3. Baggage Weight

Most airlines will let you check in one bag and bring one carry-on. Also, there is usually a weight limit of 50 pounds per checked luggage and a size limit.

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Furthermore, the commonly permitted maximum bag size is 62 linear in total inches.

That said, it is widely known as the “volumetric weight” that can make a big difference in what you pay for your bag.

So, when your bag weighs more than 50 pounds but less than 70 pounds, it will be charged based on its actual weight instead of dimensional weight.

As you can imagine, this can add hundreds of dollars to your bill!

4. Rising Jet Fuel

Checked-in baggage fees are still seen as a means for airlines to defend their bottom lines from rising fuel costs.

However, the problem that airlines are currently confronting is that their prices are rising at roughly twice their revenue rate.

According to Samuel Engel, Vice President of Aviation ICF, the baggage cost is an easy target and is the best way to isolate an increase on every loyal customer.

Additionally, they saw this as a practical approach to increase passenger revenue without boosting flight rates.

Overall, checked-in baggage for every traveler is always influenced when jet fuel costs rise.

5. Trip Protection Plans

5. Trip Protection Plans

Airlines have insurance policies that cover damages and losses up to a certain amount.

That said, these policies are typically only valid if your luggage is lost or damaged due to airline negligence, such as a mechanical error.

Sadly, if your bags are stolen from baggage claim or damaged by another passenger while they’re in flight, those costs are not covered by your carrier’s insurance —yours cover them!

So, if you’ve ever been on a flight where your luggage was damaged or lost, you understand how costly this is for passengers.

6. Separate Ticket Flights

When you combine multiple flights, your luggage is handled by more than one airline carrier.

So, while the total ticket price may appear less expensive, bundling various flights together, especially for a long-haul vacation, may result in you spending more on baggage fees.

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Moreover, because each airline has its luggage laws, a travel flight is only under one booking reference number.

As a result, having separate flights adds up to a further baggage expense

7. Airline Advantage

According to an American Airlines representative, the airline altered its checked luggage prices to align the bag fee structure with Atlantic Joint Business partners.

Overall, their main objective is that very few people will notice the slight increase.

Also, when people resume flying, a minority will only observe since they have forgotten how much it used to cost to check luggage.

Moreover, airlines implemented these schemes to avoid ingenious pricing increases.

But unfortunately, there’s no exemption for airline baggage fees and creating new service packages and improved service alternatives.

Undoubtedly, airlines are profiting by charging you more than they need to—just because they can!

8. Domestic Vs. International

The cost of luggage fees is affected by whether the flight is domestic or international.

For example, passengers flying overseas should expect to pay anything from $0 to $350 in fees, depending on the type of service and location.

When traveling internationally, luggage fees are calculated based on the destination. Essentially, the longer your flight, the checked-in baggage fee is going to be way higher!

9. Excess Baggage

Baggage handlers are paid by weight, so it makes sense that they want to get as much in each bag as possible.

For most airlines, regardless of Frequent Flyer status, excess airport baggage and hefty charges will apply at the airport for any pieces that exceed your checked baggage allowance.

Additionally, most people aren’t aware that there are limits on how much luggage can be carried onboard an aircraft.

However, if the weight or size of your bag exceeds these limits, you’ll need to pay for excess baggage charges before you can board your flight.

10. Last Minute Piece Pricing

It is far less expensive to pre-purchase excess luggage online than to arrive at the airport and pay on the spot.

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That said, this method necessitates purchasing your excess baggage from an airport counter and paying at the time of purchase.

Also, it necessitates currency for payment, which many individuals dislike carrying around with them while traveling.

As a result, it can be complicated because it requires you to buy it in person, which may cut into your travel time.

In addition, airport rates are typically higher than having them booked on the website.

11. Ticket Type

Checked baggage allowance is heavily influenced by the type of ticket you purchase.

So, pay great attention to which travel cabin you select because airlines have devised many unique categories for classifying air travel.

For example, First-Class is generally twice as costly as business class.

Also, this luggage mainly arrives first on the luggage belts at your destination, but all priority-tagged bags may come simultaneously.

Therefore, your checked baggage fees will significantly vary depending on the route and airline.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why flights to Australia are so expensive, why flights to London are so expensive, and why flights to New Zealand are so expensive.


For airlines, baggage fees are a huge revenue source and a strategy for keeping airfare prices reasonable.

Overall, the boarding process and baggage weight are two aspects that directly impact your checked baggage fees.

If you do wind up paying these fees, keep in mind that your money will be used to sustain customer service and ensure safe air travel.


  • Morgan Stephens

    Morgan Stephens has been to 43 countries and counting, and he's never content to stay in one place for too long. Right now, he's living in South Korea, but he's always on the lookout for his next adventure.

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