Baggage Check-in Policies on the Top U.S. Airlines

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••• A pile of luggage. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

In the olden days, airlines used to allow passengers to check bags for free. But after Spirit Airlines began charging travelers for checked bags, other airlines followed suit. Only Southwest Airlines allows passengers to check two bags for free. But it can be confusing to keep up with the different policies, so below are the rules for the top eight U.S. carriers flying in coach and not a top-tier frequent flyer member.

Allegiant Air

The Las Vegas-based carrier allows travelers to check up to four bags per passenger weighing no more than 40 pounds and a maximum size of 80 linear inches in height + width + length. Checked bag fees are priced by route, per segment and range from $20 for checking bags in advance to $50 at the airport. Overweight and excess baggage fees range from $50 to $75.

Alaska Airlines

Domestic bags cost $25 for the first and second bags and $75 for the third. Oversized and overweight bag fees cost $75 each. The Seattle-based carrier also has a baggage guarantee. If your bags are not at baggage claim within 20 minutes of your plane’s arrival at the gate, the carrier offers either a $25 discount code for use on a future flight or 2,500 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan bonus miles.

American Airlines

Domestic bags cost $25 for the first, $35 for the second and $150 for the third. Oversized and overweight bag fees range from between $150 and $200.

Delta Air Lines

Domestic bags cost $25 for the first, $35 for the second and $150 for the third. Oversized and overweight bag fees range from between $100 and $200.

Frontier Airlines

Those who pay for a checked bag on the Denver-based carrier online will pay $30 for the first, $40 for the second and $75 for the third.

For those using the call center, the cost is $35 for the first, $40 for the second and $75 for the third. At the ticket counter or kiosk, it's $40 for the first, $45 for the second and $80 for the third. And at the gate, the cost is $60 per bag.

JetBlue

For domestic flights, the New York-based airline handles baggage fees based on the type of fare purchased. For the Blue fare, the first bag costs $20 when booked online or at a kiosk, or $25 at the ticket counter. The Blue Plus fare offers the first bag free and the Blue Flex fare offers the first two bags for free. Third bags cost $100 in all fare classes. Oversize and overweight bags are $100 each. JetBlue has partnered with Bags VIP to allow up to 10 pieces of luggage delivered directly to a traveler's destination of choice.

Hawaiian Airlines

The Honolulu-based airline charged $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second and $100 for the third on its North American flights.  The maximum dimensions must total no more than 62 linear inches and weigh no more than 50 pounds. Bags weighing between 51 and 70 pounds will be charged $50 extra, while bags weighing more than 70 pounds will cost $100.  Bags weighing more than 100 pounds are not allowed.

Southwest Airlines

The Dallas-based carrier allows passengers to check two bags for free. Extra bags and overweight/oversized bags cost $75 each. 

Spirit Airlines

The Fort Lauderdale-based carrier has the most levels of fees and the highest ones, depending on how and when the fees are paid. First bags are between $30 and $100. Second bags range from $40 to $100 and third bags range from $85 to $100. Overweight bags weighing between 41-50 lbs are charged $25; 51-70 lbs, $50; 71-99 lbs, $100; and oversized bags are $100 and $150.

Sun Country Airlines

If you're flying on this Minneapolis-based low-cost carrier, the first bag will cost $25 if bought online and $25 at the airport. A second bag is $30 online and $35 at the airport and additional bags are $75. Bags weighing 50-99 pounds are an extra $75, while bags more than 62 linear inches are an extra $75.

United Airlines

The Chicago-based carrier charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second. Overweight bags cost $100 for 51-70 lbs and $200 for 71-100 lbs. Oversized bags cost $100.