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The Definitive Guide to Baggage Allowance on U.S. Airlines

The Definitive Guide to Baggage Allowance on U.S. Airlines
Taylor Rains

Packing light is always the goal when traveling, but it is not always possible. When the luggage stacks up, passengers will have no choice but to check their bags and, in some cases, pay a fee to do so. Baggage policies vary airline to airline and can get complicated depending on the route, fare class, or membership tier. So, I’ve outlined the essential points of each U.S. airline’s luggage policy to make it easier to understand. Hopefully, this will save you time sifting through long webpages and trying to decipher what applies to you. Please note: all bag fees are charged per leg and must not exceed the airline’s specified weight limit (typically 50 pounds).

Delta Air Lines

cheap checked bags

Economy

Delta’s baggage allowance is pretty straightforward. Economy passengers, including Basic Economy (BE), Main Cabin (MC), and Delta Comfort+ (DC+), will always be allowed one carryon bag and one personal item but should expect to pay for their checked bags within the United States and to/from Mexico, Canada, Central America, and the Caribbean. International flights typically allow for one free checked bag; however, basic economy will still be charged a fee on some routes.

All economy class passengers will be charged $30 for their first bag and between $40 and $55 for their second bag on the following routes:

  • Flights within the United States (including Puerto Rico)
  • Flights between the United States and Canada
  • Flights between the United States/Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Central America, Caribbean, Guyana, and Bermuda
  • Flights between the United States/Canada and Mexico
  • Flights between Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

The first checked bag is free for economy passengers on most international routes; however, some routes charge a fee for basic economy. These fees range between $30 and $60 for the first bag and $40 and $100 for the second bag. Those routes include:

  • Flights between the United States, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Panama
  • Flights between the United States and South America (excluding Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Guyana)
  • Flights between the United States/Canada, and Tahiti
  • Flights between the United States and Colombia
  • Flights between the United States and Israel
  • Flights between the United States/Canada and Europe and North Africa
  • Flights between Mexico and Europe

First Class, Premium Select, and Delta One

Delta’s First Class class, Premium Select, and Delta One passengers can enjoy up to two free checked bags at a maximum of 70 pounds on all routes. Furthermore, Medallion Members (Silver – Diamond) traveling in First Class or Delta One will be allowed three free checked bags up to 70 pounds and Medallion Members in Premium Select will be allowed three free checked bags up to 50 pounds, regardless of destination.

Active Military

Active U.S. military personnel on orders will be allowed five free checked bags up to 70 pounds, regardless of class. Active military flying in economy for personal travel will be allowed two checked bags up to 50 pounds, while those in First, Premium, or Delta One are allowed three bags up to 70 pounds.

Exclusions

Medallion Members in economy class within the U.S. and Canada will be allowed free checked luggage up to 70 pounds based on their tier. Silver Members will be allowed one free bag, Gold Members will be allowed two, and Platinum and Diamond Members will each be allowed three. These allowances extend to eight travel companions traveling on the same reservation as the Medallion Member. Furthermore, SkyTeam Elite, Elite Plus, and Eligible Delta SkyMiles Credit Card Members will all be allowed one free checked bag.

Join in on the discussion about baggage allowance and other topics on the Delta Air Lines Consolidated Thread.

American Airlines

cheap checked bags

 Economy

American follows a similar baggage policy to Delta. All economy class passengers can enjoy a free carryon bag and a personal item on all routes. Regular economy passengers, including Basic Economy, Economy, and Premium Economy, will be charged a $30 fee for their first checked bag on some routes, with the cost going up for every checked bag after that. These routes include:

  • Flights within the United States
  • Flights to/from Mexico
  • Flights to/from the Caribbean (excluding Cuba and Haiti)
  • Flights to/from Central America (excluding Panama)
  • Flights to/from Guyana

Basic Economy passengers will be charged a fee for their luggage on the following routes:

  • Flights to/from Panama
  • Flights to/from Colombia
  • Flights to/from Ecuador
  • Flights to/from South America (excluding Colombia, Ecuador, and Guyana)
  • All transatlantic flights

Complimentary Baggage

Your eligibility for free checked baggage will depend on the credit card used to purchase the trip, your elite status, and the route. Outlined below are allowed a complimentary bag (* excludes basic economy):

  • One checked bag: Eligible AAdvantage Aviator and Citi cardmembers (on domestic itineraries), AAdvantage Gold, Oneworld Ruby, Business Class passengers, Premium Economy passengers, flights to/from Colombia*, Ecuador*, El Salvador*, Haiti, Panama*, and on Transatlantic* flights.
  • Two checked bags: AAdvantage Platinum and Platinum Pro, Oneworld Sapphire members, Business Class passengers, Premium Economy passengers, and flights to/from Argentina, Australia*, Brazil*, Chile*, China, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Paraguay*, Peru*, South Korea, and Uruguay*.
  • Three checked bags: First Class passengers on 3-cabin aircraft, AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Oneworld Emerald, and Active U.S. military (and dependents) with ID on orders or for personal travel.

Have more questions about baggage allowance? Head to our FAQ page on American Airlines Baggage Allowance.

Cuba

Flights originating from the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean will have a fee for checked baggage on the flight to Cuba, but not on the flight leaving. Flights originating from Cuba allow for two free checked bags. Only the second checked bag on the return flight will be charged a fee.

United Airlines

cheap checked bags

Economy

United’s baggage policies for economy passengers differ depending on fare class. Regular Economy and Economy Plus passengers are allowed one free carryon bag and a personal item but will pay a fee for checked baggage up to 50 pounds on routes between the United States, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Mexico. The first checked bag will cost you $30, while prices vary for the second, third, and fourth bags. Upgraded Points outlines the charges for a second, third, and fourth checked bag per customer per route.

Economy class passengers will be allowed one free checked bag on many international routes, including:

  • Flights between the United States and Europe, India, and the Middle East
  • Flights between the United States and South America
  • Flights between the United States and East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Basic Economy

Basic Economy passengers are not allowed a free carryon. If someone brings one to the gate, they will be forced to gate check their bag (except on transatlantic flights) and not only pay the checked luggage fee but also a $25 gate handling fee. Furthermore, basic economy passengers will be charged $60 for a checked bag on flights between the United States and Europe, India, and the Middle East – all other international routes allow one free checked bag.

Premium Plus, Business, and First Class

Premium Plus, Business, and First Class passengers are allowed two free checked bags up to 70 pounds on all routes, both domestic and international. Any extra bags will be charged a fee ranging from $150 to $200 on all routes, excluding Cuba. Extra bags on flights to/from Cuba will cost a whopping $500.

Exclusions

MileagePlus members are allowed free checked baggage up to 70 pounds depending on their tier, similar to Delta. Silver Members are allowed one free checked bag, Gold Members are allowed two, and Platinum and 1K Members are each allowed three. Furthermore, Star Alliance Gold Members and MileagePlus Explorer cardholders are allowed one free checked bag, while MileagePlus Club and Presidential Plus SM cardholders receive two free checked bags.

Active U.S. military personnel are also allowed free checked bags – five when on orders and three for personal travel.

Have more questions about baggage allowance on economy? Head to the United Airlines Economy thread.

Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, and Sun Country

cheap checked bags

Low-cost carriers make their money on ancillary fees – one of the big ones being baggage. All four of the U.S. low-cost carriers allow a free personal item that must fit under the seat, but charge for everything else. Carryon and checked bag fees vary airline to airline and depend on when you pay for the bag and what the route is. Typically, the earlier you add a bag to the reservation, the cheaper it will be. On the other hand, buying at the ticket counter or the gate will be the most expensive. Below are the ranges you can expect for baggage:

  • Spirit – fees are less for checked bags to alleviate overhead bin space.
    • Carryon (10″x18″x22″): $26-$31 for $9 Fare Club members and $35-$40 for nonmembers during booking; $36-$41 for $9 Fare Club members and $45-$50 for nonmembers after booking or during online check-in. $55 at the ticket counter and $65 at the gate.
    • Checked (40 pounds): $21-$26 for $9 Fare Club members and $30-$35 for nonmembers during booking; $31-$36 for $9 Fare Club members and $40-$45 for nonmembers after booking or during online check-in. $50 at the ticket desk and $65 at the gate. Prices go up by $10 for the second checked bag and over $30 for any after that. Fees apply to overweight and oversized bags.
  • Frontier: Pre-booked carryon bags (35 pounds, 10″x16″x24″) cost $30-$45 and the first checked bag (50 pounds) costs $30-$55. Bags purchased at the ticket counter will cost $55 and $60 at the gate. A $75 charge will be applied to overweight and oversized bags.
  • Allegiant: $18-$41 at booking (depends on route), $45 after booking, and $50-$75 at the airport. A $50-$75 fee will be charged for overweight bags and a $75 fee will be charged for oversized bags.
  • Sun Country: up to $30 at booking for a carryon bag and the first checked bag, $30 after booking or by calling reservations, and $40 at the airport. Bag prices go up for every additional checked bag. Overweight and oversize fees apply.

Active U.S. military personnel will receive up to four free bags depending on the airline (one carryon and 2-3 checked bags).

Head to the discussion thread on Frontier Airlines Baggage Rules to stay in the loop on changes or announcements.

Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and Hawaiian

cheap checked bags

Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and Hawaiian have their own baggage policies but are not as complicated as the legacy carriers. All four allow for a free carryon and a personal item, while Alaska, JetBlue, and Hawaiian charge for checked bags.

  • Alaska: $30 for the first checked bag, $40 for the second, and $100 for the third. Fees waived for First Class passengers, active U.S. military personnel, Elite Mileage Plan members, and eligible cardholders.
  • JetBlue: $30 for the first checked bag, $40 for the second, and $150 for the third. The first bag fee is waived for Blue Plus and JetBlue Plus Cardmembers, while both bags are free for Mint and Mosaic passengers. Active U.S. military personnel and their dependents are allowed free checked bags.
  • Southwest: Southwest offers the best baggage policy – allowing two free checked bags and then $75 for each additional. Overweight and oversized bags will be charged a $75 fee (waived for active U.S. military personnel).
  • Hawaiian: First checked bag: $25 between islands, $30 to/from North America, and free for international flights. Fees waived for Pualani Platinum and Gold members, World Elite MasterCard holders, and Elite and Premier Club Members. Active and retired U.S. military personnel and dependents are allowed free checked bags. Fees apply for overweight and oversized bags.

Join in on the discussion on Southwest Airlines‘ checked and carry-on baggage policy.

View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. diver858

    January 27, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    Title suggests an objective list, in fact is just another FT puff piece for Southwest (see last paragraph) – can’t say I am surprised.

    Why not include the Alaska baggage allowance exceptions for items like sporting goods – quite generous, far more than Southwest https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/baggage/special-baggage/traveling-with-sporting-equipment
    and wine flies free from 30 destinations https://www.alaskaair.com/content/deals/special-offers/wine-flies-free

  2. glob99

    January 27, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    I guess Delta doesn’t fly from USA to Asia. ;)

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