When the practice of charging people to take their suitcase of clean clothes with them on their flight became commonplace, there were some very angry travelers – and we completely understand why!
It seems to make sense that you should be allowed to bring a few essentials with you on an airplane trip – but, we understand that if everyone lugged their entire wardrobe along with them it would considerably add to fuel charges, available seat space, and therefore the price of an airfare.
Sometimes, however, there are certain necessities that you need to travel with that extend beyond what will fit in 1 suitcase.
When this is your situation, you may wonder “Which are the U.S. airlines with the lowest checked bag fees?”
Believe it or not, in today’s world of airlines charging for what seems like every little thing, some carriers still do offer free checked luggage for one bag and others are keeping their checked-bag fees at a minimum if you must (or simply want) to bring more luggage.
Because everybody’s situation is different (some of us can get by with just clothing and shoes for a few days while other’s travel needs require transporting heavy equipment or many personal belongings), the total that you’ll pay for your checked-bag fees will be different that what someone else reading this article will pay.
This guide, however, can steer you in the right direction for a true low-cost airline carrier when it comes to comparing baggage fees.
Which Airlines Have the Lowest Checked Bag Fees?
Generally speaking, the lowest checked-bag fees are found on Southwest, Virgin, Alaska, Frontier, and AirTran.
But, again your scenario (size, weight, and number of bags) might cause your grand total to be something entirely different from the person standing next to you in the check-in line.
Since everyone’s needs are different, it’s impossible to provide a one-size-fits-all list, but you can use these sample profiles as an example of fees you might pay when you have bags to check.
Best Airlines for Passengers with No Checked Bag and 1 Carry-On
It may sound silly that we even have to mention which airline to fly if you don’t have any checked bags, but we must because Spirit and Allegiant will actually charge you for your carry-on bag – even if you don’t have any luggage to check in.
If you don’t have any checked bags at all, you don’t need to worry about baggage fees unless on airlines unless you’re traveling with one of these 2 carriers.
Best Air Carrier for Passengers with 1 Carry-On and 1 Checked Bag
If you just have a single carry-on and only 1 checked bag, you’re the typical traveler.
Again, Spirit and Allegiant will charge you for both types of bags. If you want to fly on an airline that lets you bring a single checked bag for free (size and weight limits are in effect for these – and most carriers – however), fly JetBlue or Southwest.
Best Airlines for Passengers with 2 to 3 Checked Bags
If you have a slightly larger luggage load, you’ll want to fly Southwest to save some money.
Southwest allows you 2 free checked bags and your third checked bag is just $50. This is in comparison to American Airlines, for instance, an airline charges their passengers $210 for 3 checked bags.
US charges slightly less for 3 checked bags, coming in at a total of $185. Remember, traveling with a lot of luggage means you’ll need to start looking at how these fees add up in addition to looking for the lowest airfare.
Best Air Carrier if you have 4 Checked Bags
If you have 4 checked bags, you’ve got a lot of luggage and the fee is going to be pretty hefty no matter who you fly with.
Virgin, however, charges a flat rate of $25 per bag, which for a total of 4 bags is more reasonable that most other carriers.
Southwest charges $100 for 4 bags as well on a one-way flight (keep in mind that all fees mentioned are for a one-way ticket), which ties Virgin in this 4-bag scenario.
Best Airlines for Passengers with 5 or More Checked Bags
Again, Virgin offers the best deal if you have to check 5 or more bags. Their $25 per bag fee can’t be beat.
With each additional bag you check, you’ll save more and more money flying Virgin over the other airlines.
Best Airlines for Passengers with Oversized and Overweight Bags
If you’re traveling with really big or heavy bags, you’re going to be charged more for it no matter who you fly with.
To get a decent break on traveling with checked bags, you need to stay within a specified weight and size limit – for all carriers (which makes sense as airlines try to accommodate all passengers’ luggage needs on a single flight).
If you have bags that are just a bit over the normal weight requirements, Southwest and JetBlue will charge you just $40 more for each of these bags. American and United charge $125 for each overweight bag.
Checked bags that weigh70 pounds or heavier are cheapest – again – if you fly Southwest or JetBlue, as these carriers charge just $50 per overweight bag regardless of how heavy your bag may be.
If you have a bag that is oversized (between 63 and 80 inches), Allegient is surprisingly lenient in their extra fees, charging between $15 to $30 extra per big bag (the actual fee depends on the measurements).
This is actually one of the lowest fees we’ve seen in the industry to date. Bags that are 81 inches and larger should be flown on Alaska if you want to save the most money, as this carrier charges just $95 for an oversized bag of this size – beating second-place Allegiant by $10.
All of the checked-bag fees that we found were current as of the date this article was published, and are only to be used as a starting off point when comparing baggage costs.
When you fly – with any size or weight of checked bags – it’s best to research each carrier to see what their current policies are.