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Baggage Fees: How Much Does Your Flight Really Cost?

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*Updated December 2018.

Even though I have my loyalty/frequent flier miles with one airline that belongs to a large alliance, I always look for the least expensive flight to get me from A to B. Determining which flight is the cheapest, however, is not always easy!

Have you ever had to check a bag last minute at the airport and paid too much for it?

When I compare flights for my next adventure, I also need to remember to compare baggage fees — the flight that appears to be the least expensive may not be so after I pay to check a bag or two.

I always travel with one carry-on bag (usually just a small backpack for my electronics) and a personal item (my purse/D-SLR bag). A few years ago, I was allowed to bring one carry-on and one personal item on my flight INTO the UK, but I could only take ONE item with me as I departed the UK.

The once strict carry-on rules I experienced at Heathrow aren’t unique and many budget airlines permit one item only, leaving some passengers with no option but to purchase a (sometimes costly) last-minute checked bag at the airport.

With a little bit of research, you’ll know what you can carry on and how much money you can save by pre-paying checked bags online.

BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS
1 – Every airline has different rules and restrictions. ALWAYS check with your airline’s rules before flying.
2 – Pre-booking luggage when necessary is often 50% cheaper than doing so at the airport.
3 – Not researching can lead to paying some hefty fees making that cheap fare not so cheap anymore!

pack pay flights

Airline Carry-On Restrictions

Airlines vary greatly in their carry-on policies. Below is a sample of policies from airlines around the world, with several budget carriers included. If weight or bag dimensions are not listed, the airline did not provide them. Updated December 2018.

AirAsia
1 bag and 1 personal item
Weight: 15 lb/7 kg combined
Carry-on bag dimensions: 22in x 14in x 9in/56cm X 36cm X 23cm
Personal item dimensions (must fit under the seat): 15.75in x 11.81in x 3.94in / 40cm x 30cm x 10cm

Air India Express
1 piece only
Weight: 15lb/7kg total including laptop and duty free shopping
Carry-on bag dimensions: Must not exceed 115 cms (L+W+H)

Alaska Air
1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item
Carry-on bag dimensions: 22in x 14in x 9in
Personal item: Such as a purse or laptop bag, must fit under the seat in front of you.

American Airlines
1 carry on bag and 1 personal item
Carry-on bag dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 centimeters
Personal item dimensions: 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm )

Frontier
1 personal item
Personal item dimensions: 18in x 14in x 8in
A carry-on bag may be purchased, with prices varying depending on when you book. At time of booking, a carry-on bag costs $35 but increases to $50 at the airport, and $60 if done at the gate.
Carry-on bag dimensions: 24in x 16in x 10in, max weight 35 lbs

Interjet
1 bag and 1 personal item
Weight: 22lbs/10kg for both items combined
Carry-on bag dimensions: 21in x 15in x 9in / 50cm x 40cm x 25cm

JetBlue
1 bag and 1 personal item
Dimensions for larger item: 22in x 14in x 9in/55.88cm x 35.56cm x 22.86cm
Dimensions for personal item (must be placed under seat): 17in x 13in x 8in / 43.2 cm x 33 cm x 20.32 cm

Jetstar
Basic Starter fare permits 1 bag and 1 personal item.
Weight: Max 15lb/7kg for both items combined
Carry-on bag dimensions: 22in x 14in x 9in / 56cm x 36cm x 23cm
Personal item includes handbag or small laptop bag, and must fit under the seat.

Norwegian
1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item
Carry-on bag dimension: 55x40x23 cm
Personal item dimensions: 25x33x20 cm
All classes allow a max of 10kg combined, except for PremiumFlex which allows 15kg.

Ryanair
1 personal item
Personal item dimensions: 15.75in x 8in x 9.84in / 40cm x 20cm x 25cm
If you bring more than one personal item to the gate, or if the bag is too large, you will be charged £25. The only way to bring another bag on board is to purchase.

Scoot
Economy allows 2 pieces not exceeding 10kg, while business class allows up to 15kg.
Cabin baggage dimensions: 54cm x 38cm x 23cm

Southwest
1 carry-on and 1 personal item
Carry-on bag dimensions: 24in x 16in x 10in
Personal item dimensions: 18.5 x 8.5 x 13.5 inches

Tigerair Australia
On flights within Australia: 1 piece and one small item
Weight: 7kg combined
Carry-on bag dimensions: 54cm x 38cm x 23cm
Small item examples include a coat, umbrella, tablet, or handbag.

United Airlines
Basic Economy fares allow only 1 personal item as carry-on. Other ticket classes are allowed 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item.
Carry-on bag dimensions: 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm)
Personal item dimensions (to fit under seat): 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm)
Note: Basic Economy ticket holders who bring more than a personal item to the gate will be charged a $25 fee as well as be required to check the bag with applicable checked bag fees.

Virgin Australia
Passengers are allowed up to 7kg of carry-on luggage, but the total linear size of the luggage varies by trip length and ticket class.

WizzAir
1 personal item
Weight: 10kg
Personal item dimensions (to fit under the seat): 15.75in x 11.8in x 7.9in / 40cm x 30cm x 20cm
If purchasing WIZZ Priority, you may bring one extra cabin bag on board with max dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 23cm.

Airline Baggage Fees

pack pay flights

If you don’t think you can fit everything into your carry-on allowance, you can often save money by pre-paying for checked baggage online. Paying via call centers or at the airport can double the price per checked bag! Below are the policies from the same airlines listed above. Updated December 2018.

AirAsia
All checked bags must be purchased except if purchasing a Value Pack, or are flying on Premium Flex or Premium Flatbed in which a check allowance is included. Prices are discounted when passengers pre-pay online. Fees vary based on departure and arrival airports.

Air India Express
Free baggage allowance varies depending on the flight.

Alaska Air
Checked baggage must not be more than 50 lbs or 62 linear inches. The fee for the first bag is $30, $40 for the second bag, and $100 for the third and any additional bags. The fee is the same whether booking online or at the airport, according to the website.

American Airlines
You may receive anywhere from 1-3 complimentary checked bags depending on your destination and elite status. For all regions, dimensions should not exceed 62 in / 158 cm, and weight should not exceed 50 lbs / 23 kgs.

Frontier
All checked bags must be purchased. Each bag must be under 50 lbs and no more than 62 linear inches. The first bag costs $30 when booked at time of ticket purchase, but increases to $50 at the airport, and $60 if done at the gate. The 2nd bag costs $45 at time of ticket purchase, but increases to $55 at the airport.

Interjet
Checked bag allowance varies by ticket class and destination. Each bag must be less than 25kg in weight (55 lb). Most tickets include 1 checked bag, while Priority tickets allow 2. You are allowed to bring up to 5 additional checked bags, but at a higher price for each bag.

JetBlue
The Blue ticket level does not come with any checked baggage. In this ticket class, 1 checked bag is $30 if booked online. Blue Plus and Blue Flex have 1 bag free of charge. It’s $40 for a second bag with Blue and Blue Plus, and free of charge for Blue Flex. For all levels, a third bag is $150. Each baggage item must be under 50 pounds.

Jetstar
Jetstar have added the ability to increase your carry-on baggage weight from 7kg to 10kg for an extra fee. Beyond that, you should look into pre-paying for a checked bag before you arrive at the airport. Select from 15kg to 40kg of checked baggage when booking your ticket. If you wait to purchase a checked bag at the airport, you will have to pay for a minimum of 15kg plus a fee per additional kilogram. Fees vary based on departure and arrival airports.

Norwegian
All LowFare tickets do not include free checked baggage. LowFare+ tickets allow 1 free checked bag up to 20kg, and all other tickets offer 2 checked bags up to 20kg each. Each bag dimensions should not exceed 250 x 79 x 112 cm. Paid additional luggage is 50% cheaper when purchased on online versus at the airport.

Ryanair
You can check a bag up to 20kg starting from £25 (if selected while booking your ticket). This fee goes up to £40 per bag with a £10 per excess kilo after booking, or at the airport.

Scoot
The Fly fare doesn’t include any checked baggage allowance. There is a 20kg baggage allowance for the FlyBag or FlyBagEat fares, and a 30kg allowance for ScootBiz. The size of the bag should not exceed 62 linear inches (158cm).

Southwest
The first and second checked bags are free of charge. A third checked bag is $75.

Tigerair Australia
Fees vary based on departure and arrival airports. If you wait to purchase a checked bag at the airport, you will have to pay for 15kg and will be charged the overweight fee per kilo over 15kg. As of now the rate for a 15kg bag checked at the airport is $75 AUD for short flights and $90 AUD for long flights. Rates are lower if booked online ahead of time.

United Airlines
The maximum dimensions for a checked bag is 62 inches, or 158 cm (length + width + height). United economy bags will have a max weight of 50 lbs/ 23kgs, while other classes are allowed 70 lbs/ 32kgs. Actual checked baggage fees will vary depending on destination. Some international flights comes with up to 2 checked bags free of charge. Domestic economy flights charge $30 for the first bag, and $40 for the second bag.

Virgin Australia
Passengers have a checked luggage inclusion of anywhere from 1-3 bags depending on their ticket class. Max bag weights are either 23kg or 32kg, again depending on ticket class. You can book additional bags for a fee, and the price increases extensively when doing so at the airport.

WizzAir
Fees vary based on the route, baggage weight, and time of year. For flights during low season, you will pre-pay online or via call center:
10kg: €​7.00 – ‎​€​12.00
20kg: €​14.00 – ‎​€​60.00
32kg: €​19.00 – ‎​€​74.00
For flights during the high season, you will pre-pay online or via call center:
10kg: €​7.00 – ‎​€​12.00
20kg: €​19.00 – ‎​€​70.00
32kg: €​25.00 – ‎​€​86.00
At the airport the rates go up substantially with fees of €​55.00 for bags up to 20kg, and fees of ‎​€​120.00 for each bag up to 32kg. You can check up to 6 bags in total.

Can I go carry-on only?

Once airlines in the US began charging for the first checked bag, I decided to go carry-on only for domestic flights. In the middle of winter, I somehow managed to pack for a 4-day trip to Buffalo, New York in a bag half the size of the maximum (how did I do this?!).

Caroline has managed to travel for weekends away with nothing but a personal item, and Brooke has gone on multi-week international trips with as little as a 12L handbag!

Depending on your destination and time of year, consider traveling with only a carry-on (or less!) – at least to your destination. If you anticipate souvenir shopping during your trip, you may need to check a bag on the way home (a small duffel bag, shopping bag, or stuffable bag could serve as your carry-on on the return flight while you check the bag you originally brought!).

If you pre-pay online, you may avoid the extra cost of checking a bag at the airport – and we all love a little more money in our wallets to put toward our next adventure.

What are some of your best money-saving tips for comparing flights?

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Written by Heather

Heather Rudd Palmer is a 30-something with a love for travel, food, and healthy living. After short trips to Europe in her 20s, Heather left her job at 30 to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year. She visited every state and territory, embarked on two road trips, worked at an organic food store, and ate her way through Sydney. She's now a career counselor for university students. You can find Heather at There's No Place Like Oz and Healthy Life Heather.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. sarah says

    Hi I going on holiday in Oct this year and are flying with rynair.
    I have a young family but only aloud 3 carry on bags at 10kg each.
    I was reading your blog about searching for a pre-payed bag to make it a 15kg bag at £35.
    Is that for getting your bag there and returned for that price?
    How does this work as the people we booked with are wanting us to pay £70 to add 5kg to one of are cases. They have said its £35 there and £35 to return your bag.
    Is there a way round this ?? im very confused.

    Thanks.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Sarah – I believe the price is one way, so £70 sounds about right. That’s the price of a budget carrier – they get you for other things like baggage. The only way around this would be to go lighter if at all possible. Buy toiletries on arrival at your destination and wear your heaviest clothes.

      • Svenja says

        Yup, you’re right, Brooke, the price is one way. We sometimes fly RyanAir from Germany to the UK, and we usually go carry on one our way to the UK, and prepay for one checked bag on our return flight for all our shopping – 35 quid is bad enough, no need to pay that twice when you can buy toiletries at your destination, which is half the fun of traveling anyway 😉

  2. Jessica Lippe says

    Does anyone have carry on info for Aegean? I’m flying with them next week and can only find their checked luggage policy. My bag is maximum carry on size according to mist airlines, but since I’m hearing the end of my trip and have picked up a few things along the way, it’s getting heavy and I’m not sure if I should mail home/ toss some things before flying.

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