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1 US Airline is Raising Bag Fees, Will the Rest Follow?

Alaska Airlines will raise the cost of checking a bag in the New Year from $30 each way to $35, the first major U.S. airline to increase luggage fees across the board in more than five years – but likely not the last.

The Seattle (SEA)-based airline quietly updated its dedicated baggage fee page over the weekend reflecting the upcoming change. For tickets booked on Jan. 2, 2024, and onwards, the cost of a first checked bag will be $35 – up from the longtime rate of $30 each way. Checking a second bag is also going up by $5, to $45.

While other airlines charge even heftier fees for luggage on long-haul international flights to Europe or Asia, Alaska doesn't operate those routes. It charges the same baggage fees whether you're flying within the mainland U.S., out to Hawaii, up to Canada or Alaska, or down to Mexico or the Caribbean.

Alaska confirmed the hike in an email, adding: “As we navigate rising operating costs – including high fuel prices – we occasionally need to adjust our fee structure to maintain a high level of excellence in the service we provide.”
 

alaska bag fees

alaska bag fees  

On paper, Alaska isn't exactly the first U.S. airline to charge $35 per checked bag. United and JetBlue raised the cost of checking a bag to $35 each way back in 2019 … but you can save that extra $5 by adding a bag to your flight online at least 24 hours before departure.

Come January, Alaska will be the only U.S. airline charging $35 for a bag no matter what. But in the monkey-see, monkey-do airline industry, it's only a matter of time before other airlines follow suit – Alaska just gave them cover to do it.

That's just what happened back in 2018 when JetBlue was the first major U.S. airline to raise the cost of checking a bag from $25 to $30 each way on short-haul flights. Within a matter of months, United, American, Delta, and Alaska all did the same.

While an extra $5 per bag may not seem like much, luggage fees are big business. U.S. airlines collected nearly $7 billion (with a b) on bag fees alone in 2022 … and they're on track to shatter that record in 2023.
 

us baggage fees chart  

Plus, carriers have all the more reason to charge more for bags thanks to what they've given up: change and cancellation fees.

The big carriers did away with those fees altogether during the pandemic, hoping that the additional flexibility would give travelers confidence to keep booking tickets. Unless you bought a stingy basic economy ticket or are flying with a budget carrier, you can typically change or cancel your flight for free now.

Meanwhile, bag fees continue to go up and up.

Ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit seem to raise their baggage fees once a year, whether you're checking luggage or just stowing a suitcase overhead. And both Delta and American have raised bag fees to a whopping $75 each way when flying to Europe on a basic economy ticket.

Alaska flyers can avoid paying higher bag fees altogether by using the Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card. There's just one hitch: Unlike some other airlines, you'll actually need to book your flight with your Alaska card to get that free bag benefit.

There's an even easier way: Pack in just a carry-on bag. Even the cheapest Alaska basic economy tickets allow you to stow a carry-on overhead for free.

 

Bottom Line

Alaska will raise the cost of checking a bag from $30 to $35 while also raising the costs of bringing a second piece of luggage starting Jan. 2, 2024. And while they may be the first major U.S. airline to raise bag fees across the board, we're betting they won't be the last.

Given what we've seen in the past, it's likely only a matter of time before other airlines like American, Delta, United, and others raise the cost of checking a bag, too.

 

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