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The Cheapest Airline for Checking Lots of Baggage

Now that Virgin America no longer exists, its probably a good time to revisit those checked baggage fees.

For many moons, Virgin America provided us with in-flight Wi-Fi,  great service and mood lighting that earned it the nickname of “the party plane” around here at the office. (“I feel like I’m going clubbing on a plane,” one previous staff member whispered to us years ago.) Aside from all of that, it also offered a consistent fee across its checked baggage policy, making it the best airline to check multiple bags.

Now, depending on the number of bags checked, the cheapest airlines still are Southwest, Frontier and Alaska. JetBlue follows in the middle of the pack, with United being the cheapest out of the legacy carriers. American and Delta, far and away, are the most expensive.

Because, here’s the thing: Checked baggage fees per bag increase as the number checked increase; and every airline has different prices for the first, second, and follow-on excess bag. To make matters worse, there is no easy way to see what the total baggage cost is across the board, compared against competitors. So no matter whether you’re running a borderline illegal import/export business or simply moving across the country, here’s a handy Map Happy guide to see how much checking baggage will truly cost.

(Some airlines cap the number of excess baggage at 10 checked pieces; other airlines have no such limitation.)

The only thing to remember is that when there’s a “free bag” involved, it means the checked bag fee just moves up the sliding scale. 

So, meaning, if you get one free bag through a United credit card, and then check in a second bag, $35 will be the first charge, not $25. Not a trivial thing to forget.

How many bags are getting checked in?

This chart details how much it will cost you in total:

Airline 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Alaska $25 $50 $125 $200 $275 $350 $425 $500 $575 $650
American $25 $60 $210 $410 $610 $810 $1,010 $1,210 $1,410 $1,610
Delta $25 $60 $210 $410 $610 $810 $1,010 $1,210 $1,410 $1,610
Frontier $25 $55 $130 $205 $280 $355 $430 $505 $580 $655
JetBlue $25 $55 $155 $255 $355 $455 $555 $655 $755 $855
Southwest $0 $0 $75 $150 $225 $300 $375 $450 $525 $600
United $25 $60 $210 $360 $510 $660 $810 $960 $1,110 $1,260

Reference

Individual baggage fees listed as of date.

Airline 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Alaska $25 $25 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75
American $25 $35 $150 $200 $200 $200 $200 $200 $200 $200
Delta $25 $35 $150 $200 $200 $200 $200 $200 $200 $200
Frontier $25 $30 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75
JetBlue $25 $35 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100 $100
Southwest $- $- $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75 $75
United $25 $35 $150 $150 $150 $150 $150 $150 $150 $150

Please note that this chart lists out fees per checked item. Baggage fees are cumulative, as shown above.





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