Everything You Need to Know About the Changing Landscape of Airline Checked Baggage Fees

Understanding the Latest Trends and Strategies to Make Your Air Travel More Enjoyable

Flying can be an exciting adventure, but it can also come with its set of challenges, especially when it comes to checked baggage fees. Airline practices around these fees are evolving, and understanding these changes can make all the difference in your travel experience. In our 24th episode of the Know Where You Want to Go Travel Podcast, host Cam DeJong dove deep into this subject, providing essential insights. This blog post will expand on those discussions, helping you navigate the complexities of air travel more effectively.

The Rise in Checked Baggage Fees: What’s Happening?

Recent Increases and Industry Trends

In our podcast, we discussed the recent trend of increasing checked baggage fees among major U.S. airlines. This trend was initiated by Alaska Airlines and quickly followed by carriers like United, American, and Delta. The standard fee increase has been about $5, making the average cost to check a bag $35. While this might seem minor, it adds up for frequent travelers and families who often check multiple bags.

Why Don’t Airlines Bundle Baggage Fees in Ticket Prices?

The Southwest Model vs. The Mainstream Airlines

One of the key points we explored is why airlines don’t bundle these fees into their ticket prices. Southwest Airlines is an outlier in this regard (for now!), offering two free checked bags with every ticket. This leads to one of many questions: Why don’t more airlines adopt this model? The answer often comes down to business strategy and profit margins.

However, bundling baggage fees into ticket prices could alleviate some of the stress and perceived customer service issues. For instance, ticket prices could be slightly increased to include baggage fees, similar to what Southwest does but executed even more seamlessly.

The Low-Risk of Lost Luggage: Debunking Myths

Statistics and Consumer Fear

A frequent concern among travelers is the risk of lost or damaged luggage. Statistically, this fear is largely unfounded; less than 1% of bags are lost or damaged. During November 2022 to January 2023, for example, the number was below 1%. It’s even lower during non-peak travel seasons. Despite these reassuring figures, many travelers still prefer to carry on their baggage, sometimes turning to oversized or multiple carry-on items.

Streamlining Air Travel: Bundling Services for a Better Experience

Food, Drink, and Enhanced Customer Experience

The podcast also touched on the idea of bundling other services, such as food and beverages, into the ticket price. Not many travelers purchase food or drinks on planes, leading to missed opportunities for airlines to enhance customer satisfaction. Including a $10-$15 fee in the ticket price to cover quality meals and snacks could transform the in-flight experience, making it more enjoyable.

The Dichotomy of Airline Business Models: Frills vs. No-Frills

Mainstream Airlines vs. Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers

There’s a distinct divide in airline business models between ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier, and more traditional airlines like Delta and Alaska. Ultra-low-cost carriers focus on an unbundled approach, where every extra, from carry-on bags to printing boarding passes, comes with a fee. Traditional airlines, on the other hand, include more services but are still not quite at the level of Southwest’s inclusive model.

Both models have their pros and cons, but there’s an emerging middle ground that airlines like Breeze Airways are beginning to occupy. Breeze offers bundled services at a reasonable price, including cost-effective upgrades that include checked baggage, which could serve as a blueprint for other airlines.

The Future of Air Travel: What Needs to Change?

Recommendations for Airlines and Travelers

For airlines, the key takeaway is the need to rethink their service models to enhance customer satisfaction. Simple changes like bundling fees into ticket prices for an all-inclusive experience or offering higher value at a slightly higher cost could go a long way. For travelers, understanding these models and making informed choices can significantly improve the travel experience.

Final Thoughts

In this ever-evolving landscape, keeping abreast of changes in airline policies and fees is crucial. By understanding the trends and being proactive about the services available, you can make smarter, more comfortable travel decisions. For more insights, make sure to follow our Know Where You Want to Go Travel Podcast, subscribe to stay updated, and keep engaging with our content to make the most of your travel experiences.

Safe travels and happy flying!

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