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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-flightWi-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.) 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 airline is Southwest. Alaska and Frontier only become reasonable after the third bag or so. JetBlue, United, American and Delta fall behind the pack in that order.

Frontier ironically has the highest second-bag fee out of all the airlines, but makes up for it later down the line with a cheaper excess bag fee.

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 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 ahandy 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, $40 will be the first charge, not $30. Not a trivial thing to forget.

How many bags are getting checked in?

Updated: November 14, 2018Though this piece has been updated multiple times to reflect checked bag hikes, it is now industry standard to charge $30 for the first bag, and $40 for the second bag unless its Frontier.

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



Individual baggage fees listed as of date.


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

The Cheapest Airline for Checking Lots of Baggage via @maphappy
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