U.S. airlines collected a whopping $4.9 billion in baggage fees in 2018. That figure alone explains why these airlines will likely never offer complimentary checked bags again.
When American Airlines announced it would start charging for all checked bags in 2008, it could only have dreamed that a decade later it would be raking in over $1BN/year in checked baggage fees. World’s largest airline (by fleet size, revenue, and passengers carried) led the pack in 2018 with $1.22 billion in baggage fees.
Here’s the breakdown of checked baggage revenue (including checked carry-on bags) in 2018 for the 10 major carriers in the USA:
Not surprisingly, the there legacies led the way.
But even Southwest Airlines, which offers two free checked bags to each passenger, still made $50 million in fees. Charging for the first two bags would run counter to Southwest’s successful business model and cost it a lot of business, but I have to imagine that the temptation to capitalize on this untapped revenue stream is strong.
I’d like to think of myself as a consumer right’s advocate, especially on issues of fare transparency, post-purchase price increases, mistake fares, and unannounced devaluations. But while some are outraged over the numbers, I just shrug my shoulders. Airfare is widely affordable across the nation today and part of the reason it is because pricing is more a la carte than before. I don’t mind paying for bags and meals, when needed. These fees have kept a check on the rise of base airfare.
> Read More: Airfare Is Cheaper* Than Ever Before
$4.9 billion in checked baggage revenue is quite a figure. As the U.S. airline industry continues to boom, look for those numbers to expand in 2019.