How to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees

The bad news is that because of high fuel costs, United Airlines and US Airways will be following American Airlines in charging a $15 first-bag fee. The even worse news is that most of the remaining airlines will probably follow suit with the exception Southwest who locked in their fuel prices several years ago. Since the airlines are attempting to cash in on baggage fees, SmartMoney offers some tips on how to avoid them. The tips, inside…

Some tips on carry-on bags:

Embrace the middle seat
Often, there is more space for your carry-on under the middle seat, however, sometimes airplanes have equipment stored under them. You can usually find information on which seats to avoid in the airline’s carry-on bag restrictions or in their policy section on traveling with pets.

Board Early
To get that precious overhead-bin space, get familiar with how your airline boards the plane. “Most carriers allow passengers with disabilities and elite frequent fliers to board first. Northwest offers open boarding in no particular order, while Delta often starts with the window seats in the back. “

Be aware of carry-on limits
For example, American Airlines limits carry-ons to 45 linear inches (length+width+height) and 40 lbs. They also allow one small personal item like a purse or briefcase.

Some tips on checked bags:

Check airline exemptions
“American and United waive first-bag fees for first- or business-class passengers and elite frequent fliers. All major carriers still allow two checked bags for flights with an international leg. You might also be exempt if you bought your ticket before the new fee goes into effect. US Airways won’t charge those who purchased tickets before July 9. Consider planning future trips on an airline that hasn’t yet announced a first-bag fee.”

Note item exceptions

Usually strollers, child car-seats and wheelchairs are free of charge. Since each airline has different restrictions regarding weight and dimensions, make sure you review the policies on the airlines you plan to fly.

Start small
If you start with a large bag you will tend to stuff more inside increasing your bag’s chance of being overweight. As a rule of thumb, don’t check a bag bigger than 24 inches if you want to stay under weight limits.

Look for a cheap light bag

Unless you are a frequent traveler, it is advantageous to go with lighter luggage which only needs to withstand a few trips a year. High end luggage is obviously more durable but weighs a good deal more.

How to Avoid Paying Airline Baggage Fees [SmartMoney]
(Photo: Getty)