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Ridiculous baggage fees are keeping these budget airlines afloat

Ridiculous baggage fees are keeping these budget airlines afloat
[Photo: Calle Macarone/Unsplash]

There are two types of travelers: Those who happily check their enormous bags and sail through the airport baggage-free, and the rest of us—who would sooner stay home than pay to check a bag. Turns out that some airlines are incredibly dependent on that first type of traveler, so dependent that they are banking on them keeping their airlines afloat.

A new data report from mileage hacker site Upgraded Points shows that while baggage fees make up 3% of the overall operating revenue for airlines, some low-cost airlines heavily rely on customers forking over baggage fees.

For the report, they looked at the most recent data released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for the year that includes April 2018-March 2019. Those quarterly reports show that Spirit reportedly makes 19% of its revenue from baggage fees, thanks in part to the fact that it doesn’t let you even carry on a bag without forking over some cash. Similarly, Frontier reportedly makes 16% of its revenue from bag fees, while Allegiant makes 14%.

One thing helping them rake it in is the fact that those three airlines have the highest average baggage fees: $26.61 (Spirit), $21.17 (Frontier), and $19.78 (Allegiant). The biggest jump in baggage fee-based revenue was seen on Sun Country, where it jumped from 3.7% to 7.2% within a year (specifically between Q2 2018 and Q1 2019) coinciding with its move to a low-cost carrier model.

While low-cost airlines may charge customers for bags, they also typically charge less for tickets. If you don’t want to pay to roll your own bag on board and finagle it into an overhead bin, you may have to pay more for your ticket up front or opt for an airline that doesn’t charge to check a bag. For instance, Southwest doesn’t charge baggage fees for the first two checked bags, and its baggage fee revenue made up less than 1% of its overall operating revenue.

Basically, airlines are going to get your money; it just depends on how you want to give it to them and how much clothing you are willing to wear while boarding the plane.

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