Baggage Fees: Why You Should Love Them

When I’m at a restaurant with a group of people, often times there is a discussion on the best way to split the bill. It always seems that the person who had the most expensive meal suggests that we simply split the bill evenly to make it easy. This makes perfect sense from his perspective. If each member in the group pays the same amount, those that choose less expensive meals will end up subsidizing his meal and making it cheaper while they don’t get the benefit of paying less since they ordered a less expensive meal. If you have ever been in a situation like this, my guess is that you weren’t too happy when that person made the “split the bill evenly” suggestion.

This is why I find it interesting that so many people hate airline baggage fees. The vast majority of airlines charge an extra fee for baggage these days. Only Southwest and Jetblue don’t charge for a first bag (and only Southwest doesn’t charge for a second bag), so there’s a good chance that you will run into the possibility of having to pay a baggage fee if you fly in the US. The thinking of most people is that the baggage fee (or any other fee) should be part of the airline price so they don’t have to pay any more than the ticket price. Essentially, they are arguing that the bill at the restaurant should be split evenly no matter what each person orders.

I, on the other had, can see that baggage fees (and specific other optional airline fees) are actually to the advantage of the passenger. These fees exist because the airline industry is so competitive that airline tickets are basically at the lowest price possible. If individual fees like the baggage fee didn’t exist, then the price of tickets would have to be more expensive for all. You have a choice as to whether you pay the baggage fee whereas you wouldn’t have this choice it if was already included in the airline ticket price.

When you look at if from this perspective, airline fees quickly become a good thing. Instead of paying more for an airline ticket, I can pick and choose those things I’m willing to pay for and those I’m not. For people who know how to travel light (like me) or have learned to pack well (video), they simply don’t pay a baggage fee. In the same way, I choose not to pay for food when I fly (I bring my own snacks for the trip).

So the next time you see all the optional airline fees on top of your ticket listed, don’t get angry or upset. Remember the dinner with friends analogy and view the fees as a challenge to avoid as many as you can knowing that by doing so, you’re getting the best airline price possible.

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4 Responses to Baggage Fees: Why You Should Love Them

  1. My English Castle says:

    But Jeffrey–You’re assuming the airline is fair, aren’t you? If so, wouldn’t everything be based on weight? My 50lb daughter’s tickets are the same price as my 200lb husband’s ticket. Wouldn’t tickets be the same price whenever you bought them instead varying wildly from day to day?

    I think they do this because they can. If they go the route of many European airlines and start weighing hand luggage too, it might be a step towards fairness, but this is a well-thought-out profit scheme, and I doubt it keeps prices low. Competition can, but I disagree that this does.

  2. jeffrey says:

    @My English Castle — No, not that everything is fair — that they must keep airline ticket prices low to be competitive. Airlines that would normally charge higher ticket prices, but due to competition keep their ticket prices low, and then make up the difference with such fees. For those who understand the system, it will save them money.

  3. Jennifer says:

    This is the same reason that I like it when the gov’t raises taxes on things like cigarettes or junk food, or brings out the lottery to raise funds rather than enacting an across the board tax increase. Since I don’t use those items, I don’t have to pay. It’s an elective tax that keeps my rates low and only the people who use those goods have to pay.

  4. Gail says:

    After taking my first flight in close to 20 years a week and a half ago, I do believe that baggage fees are the least of peoples worries when it comes to air travel. We ‘flew’ as we thought it would be easier for me to get to my son’s wedding than driving due to my physical condition. Our journey was to consist of two flights in and two flights out. Two of the flights ended up getting cancelled. Well the second leg of our journey in the flight was cancelled due to plane problems and we were put on a shuttle bus for 2 1/2 hours to get to our destination. On the way back due to poor weather and yet another cancelled flight it took us over 12 hours to home where the drive would have been about 5 hours! I can understand broken airplanes and poor weather but the treatment we received (or lack of treatment as the paying passenger) was rotten and I have no intentions of ever flying again. Especially as I found out that all passengers with artificial joints or metal parts are discriminated against in the security checks. I was subjected to complete pat downs and being put in a scanning having to balance with my feet too far apart and my hands up and over my head–things I can barely do. The wedding was wonderful and after having saved all we needed to be able to go comfortably, I was very upset to have such a miserable trip.

    However, when we got home and I had rested up, I did what every frugal person should do and complained to my credit card company and they have a temparary hold against paying the airline until they answer the charge of not giving us what we paid for. I also wrote the airline a week ago and haven’t heard word one from them yet.

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