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One of the trends of 2020, besides airlines cancelling flights, cutting back on routes and asking for bailouts is to increase passenger baggage fees. JetBlue Airways was the “trendsetter” in 2018 when they raised baggage fees by $5. Most other airlines happily followed the leader at that point as they rushed to match JetBlue on the fee increases. JetBlue got the party started again in January of this year when they raised the fee for a first checked bag to $35 from $30 and the second bag to $45 from $40.

United Airlines decided to follow this strategy in February as well. Not to be outdone, last week American Airlines upped the checked baggage fee for basic economy passengers hopping over the pond to $75 each way. This is an increase from the $60 charge that was in place beforehand.

How Much Money are We Talking About?

In 2018 airlines raked in $4.9 billion in checked bag fees. Through the first six months of 2019 those fees reached $2.8 billion which had airlines well on their way to crushing the previous year’s record. Given the precipitous drop in airline travel, the total 2020 baggage fee figures will assuredly be lower.

However, it is frustrating to see these fees continue to ratchet ever higher. It is pretty wild to think that if we see Europe flights for $300 or less like we did earlier this year, that on some flights the checked bag fees may be more than half the price of a ticketed fare (assuming you pay cash). These changes increase the value of co-branded credit cards that offer free checked baggage for cardholders and for others it may mean packing carry-on luggage vs paying to check a bag when flying. Even though people aren’t traveling much at the current time, things will eventually bounce back. When they do, many may be surprised that the cost of bringing their luggage has increased yet again.

What are your thoughts on these increases? Will this trend continue in the industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


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