Hate baggage fees? Love baggage? Christopher Elliott has 7 ways to get around those pesky fees. Some of them are pretty darn sneaky — like checking your bags all the way through when the first airline doesn’t charge a fee but your second airline does. Ha! [MSNBC]


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  1. aishel says:

    I once had 2 pieces of luggage and a car seat while flying Southwest. I was flying alone, so I wanted to check all 3 items. Since they charge for the 3rd piece, what I ended up doing was carrying the car seat all the way through to the gate, and then checked it at the gate, where they offered me the option of sending it directly to baggage claim when I arrived at my destination. Win!

  2. kepler11 says:

    it’s a bit embarrassing that the stuff Christopher Elliott writes can pass for journalism. Vote for the most outrageous fee on the sidebar there? Give me a break. This is ridiculous.

    the tips are not earthshattering — they are just things that you should inform yourself about especially if you don’t fly often:

    1. Bring less.

    2. Fly a no-fee airline.
    if that’s how your loyalty swings, and they can get you to where you want to go, then by all means.

    3. Look for loopholes. (elites, military get exemptions/discounts on bag fees, etc)
    Well, these aren’t exactly “loopholes”. They get exemptions because they pay a lot/fly a lot/have political reasons.

    4. Ask someone else to pay.
    Who really, is going to choose their hotel based on the bag fee?

    5. Get creative.
    (on just packing smarter)

    6. Exploit policy differences.
    it’s not that you’re exploiting them, they just don’t charge the fee if you connect between two different airlines that have different bag policies. It’s not like you’re going to choose which airline based on that, you’ve already bought the ticket.

    7. Mail it.
    this goes along with packing less. If you don’t need something to be with you immediately on and off the plane, then consider shipping it, if it’s a lot of stuff. But for something that has to be there with you, at all costs, paying the baggage fees are still a bargain.

    and then this great line:

    None of this ought to be necessary. If airlines could figure out how to make enough money from their fares, then they wouldn’t need to nickel and dime those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to be elite-level frequent fliers, unaccompanied minors or active duty military.

    Well, coach passengers have demonstrated that you/we are unwilling to pay much more for airline services, so they have to come up with such fees. The airlines are being innovative.

    Unless the industry consolidates and 1-2 airlines fold and no new replacements come in to take their place, this pressure on fares will continue and there will be fees.

    and more:
    How do we fix this? I can think of two solutions. First, air travelers can buy tickets on airlines that don’t charge outrageous fees, like JetBlue and Southwest.

    Give me a break. Good luck finding a flight with JetBlue or Southwest to London, or Beijing.

    Chris Elliott, come up with some new, less tired old stuff to say. This passes for new information in July 2009? This guy covers travel issues full time. This is the best he can come up with?

    • serialportme says:

      @kepler11: @ kepler11 – Thanks for spending the time to consolidate. I read the article and thought the same thing.

    • redfox1 says:

      @kepler11: Ha ha, what kind of tip were you hoping for? “1. Slip onto the tarmac just before takeoff, and bungee your suitcase to the roof of the plane…the secret door code is 12345.” I only fly once a year or so…I found the article informative.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @kepler11: Well…just a few months ago, he was rehashing the “tip” that you can kissass to the gate agent to get a bump to J or First Class… and he brings up the irrelevant “Rule 240” every so often.

      The only reason Southwest can get away without a bag fee is because they don’t show up on Orbitz or any other GDS….so people can’t directly price-shop in a spreadsheet format. They have many reminders on their website about the lack of fees, which an airline like Delta can’t exactly do on Orbitz. The rest of the airlines have to undercut each other by at least a penny to show up on top in search results.

      jetBlue can get away without a fee because they have built up a certain reputation that makes them a little less of a commodity product, and people are willing to pay more to ride them. Also, 85% of their reservations are done through their own website, vs. about 25% for the legacy carriers.

    • god_forbids says:

      @kepler11: How could you miss the best gem of the whole article:

      And second, our government can say, “enough!” It wouldn’t take much. The Transportation Department could rule that the price of an airline ticket must include at least one piece of checked luggage, and that would pretty much end this debate.

      *Link to DOT contact page*

      I mean, really?! What a hack this guy is. I feel dumber for having read his article.

  3. H3ion says:

    Do you ever wonder why some travelers look as though they had packed all of their household goods into their luggage while others get by with a gym bag? BTW, does the luggage limit apply to all passengers, including infants? That is, if Mom, Dad and baby are all flying, do they get three baggage allowances?

    • Liam Kinkaid says:

      @H3ion: If the child is a lap child, and not in a seat of his/her own, I’d say that the child should be considered carry on. And, as such, should be securely stowed in either the overhead compartment or completely underneath the seat in front of you.

    • Munchie says:

      @H3ion: Just an FYI to the uninitiated. Women wear clothes based on how they are feeling. They usually pack so much because they have no idea how they will be feeling during the trip.

      Other than the standard above there are a few other over packers with their own reasons.

  4. sir_eccles says:

    The article only briefly mentions weight but it is worth noting that weight limits were changed a few years back from 70something to I think 50 pounds now. While airlines like JetBlue don’t charge you for the first bag they will charge you severely for overweight bags, likewise for oversize bags.

    As much as one likes to travel light there are those times when you just have a lot of luggage.

  5. Benguin says:

    I used that loophole by accident last time I flew from Toronto to the US. I was ready to pay a checked baggage fee, but Air Canada doesn’t have one, even though I was connecting to United who does. Yay me.

  6. redkamel says:

    I would like to see an article comparing a volunteer “bad packer”, and their reasons for doing so, to a “good packer”

    Why do people need so much baggage? I am by no means a minimalist, yet I go carry on only for almost every trip, or add 1 bag check for 3-4 week trips (if I have to). Do people not realize they can wear clothes for different things on vacation, and some sort of laundry is usually available? I literally have no idea why people carting around so much stuff and risking losing all their stuff at the airport.

  7. juri squared says:

    For those of you wondering why so much baggage, here’s what I did last weekend! I am an artist and I flew to LA to sell my stuff at a convention. Therefore, I had to mash all my merchandise, art supplies, and booth setup into a suitcase. I managed to fit everything into one just-small-enough checked bag and one carry-on.

    Then I weighed the big suitcase and it was over the 50lb limit. (Paper weighs a lot when there’s a lot of it!) It was too late to mail anything (my bad) and the overweight fee on Delta was $90. So I split my stuff into two checked bags. That still cost me $40 each way.

    Lessons learned: mail paper to destination, in a flat-rate Priority Mail box; streamline heavy display; avoid Delta like the plague.

    • PatrickSF says:

      @juri squared: It might not apply to your kind of art (although it might), but you can get an impressive discount when mailing things as “media mail” via USPS. Granted, it arrives when it arrives (it’s like 13th Class Mail or something), but for things that qualify, it’s worth checking out, from a cost-savings perspective.

  8. hills says:

    What’s this he wrote about USAir exempting ALL of its frequent fliers?! I am ff and a mastercard usair holder, but I’ve never had a baggage fee waived…. I thought that was just for the elite frequent fliers…..?

  9. trujunglist says:

    The only time I’ve ever had my bags lost was when I switched carriers and asked them to send it through. In fact, every single time I’ve done that without rechecking the bag, it was inevitably lost.

  10. CompyPaq says:

    If I were an airline, I would charge $10 more/ticket and eliminate checked baggage fees. I would gain recognition for not charging fees and would come out ahead because everyone would have to pay it whether they checked luggage or not.

    • god_forbids says:

      @computerwiz3491: Yes but then nobody would fly on your airline because you are $10 more. Air carriage is now a commodity business that schleps cattle cars full of frugal misers who only care about the $$$, service or comfort be damned. Welcome to America.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @god_forbids: I think you’re a tad too pessimistic. If that were the case first class would no longer exist on most airlines.

        • god_forbids says:

          @jamar0303: Yes, I am pessimistic by nature. I’ll work on that :D

          Considering the massive reductions in first class cabin space, as well as the merging of 1st and Business, there really isn’t a ‘luxury flyer’ option on the aircraft most carriers use for domestic flights. And international airport lounges are lightyears better than domestic, all of which points to Americans being cheap A(AA)-to-B(BB) flyers.

    • econobiker says:

      @computerwiz3491: If it works for telephone companies (regulatory recovery fee) and car rental companies (service charges) why not the airlines.


      *Fees and additional charges may apply…

      Fear the asterisk, always fear the asterisk.

  11. OneTrickPony says:

    You know what I would like to see? A “True Cost to Fly” feature added to comparison-shopping sites like Travelocity and Expedia that would allow you to specify certain conditions (e.g., I’m checking baggage, I’d actually like to be served food on this 6-hour cross-country flight, this reservation is for an unaccompanied minor, etc.). As it is, it’s really hard to find the best deals when all the airlines have different policies and rates for such things.