I saw red when a USAToday survey reported that airline baggage fees had hit a whopping $450. The blogosphere quickly churned with news of airlines charging $400 to $450 fees for oversized bags on overseas flights.
Then I took a deep breath and read the story more closely.
It says American Airlines charges $450 for bags weighing 71 to 100 pounds on flights from the U.S. to Asia. Which is true, but who’s taking 100 pounds of anything to the airport these days?
American spokesman Tim Smith tells me in an email that “high-priced ... overweight bags to and from Asia is an anomaly that is beyond rare.” In fact, the airline has seen a big drop in passengers who check a second bag, which carries a fee. And, he says, only 25% of domestic travelers pay any checked bag charges.
United, also cited in the USAToday story, charges $400 for overweight bags (71 to 99.9 pounds) on flights from the U.S. to other continents. The number of passengers who pay that fee is “extraordinarily small,” spokesman Rahsaan Johnson says.
The rates airlines charge for behemoth bags seem to be comparable to shipping rates. Luggage Forward, for example, would charge $349 to ship a 75-pound bag from Los Angeles to London in an estimated two to five business days, according to the website. And a quick quote from UPS online showed a cost of more than $500.
So if you are planning to take 75 or 80 pounds worth of stuff from L.A. to London on, say, United Airlines, why not pack two 40-pound bags and pay $70 for a second checked bag?
Make no mistake, airlines do make money on baggage fees. But look at the rates for checked baggage before you go (every airline posts details of baggage rates online) and pack accordingly.