Milecards

Baggage fees decline in 2014; Spirit leads bag fees, United leads change fees

The Department of Transportation released new data on baggage and change fees collected by U.S. airlines in 2014, and MileCards.com has analyzed that data, combining it with passenger traffic statistics reported by the airlines to reveal which charge the most fees on a per passenger basis.

Sources: Change fees (DOT), baggage fees (DOT)

Key findings include:

Total U.S. airline change and baggage fees grew 3%, with Spirit charging the most

Spirit remained the king of fees in 2013, charging almost $20 per passenger, but growth was modest at about 5% over 2012. Allegiant saw the biggest growth in 2012, over 20% to about $17 per passenger. American saw its total fees per passenger decline 5%, on a 10% decline in bag fees. This was helped in part by 2013 being the first full year its AAdvantage credit cards offered a waiver of checked bag fees.

TotalFeesPerPassenger

Change fees grew 11% in 2013, with United charging the most

Now at $2.8 billion, or $3.80 per passenger, Change fees continue to rise along with demand for business travel and grew 11% in 2013. United and Delta had the highest change fees per passenger at $5.43 and $5.10, and both levy $300 Р$400 fees for some international tickets. They offer the most international flights among U.S. carriers, making their travelers more exposed to these high fees. Only Southwest offers a policy of no change fees for all of its tickets, though its AirTran subsidiary still levies some fees.

Change Fees

Leisure oriented airlines like Allegiant, Hawaiian, and Spirit collected fewer change fees per passenger than global airlines, with their passengers less likely to change plans at the last minute.

Baggage fees declined 3%, airline credit cards may have helped

These fees now total $3.3 billion, or $4.52 per passenger. While Frontier is adding fees for carry-on bags this year, joining Spirit and Allegiant, overall bag fees have remained flat over the last four years, with a decline of 3% in 2013 from 2012’s record $3.4 billion. This follows a tripling of fees from 2008 – 2010, when most domestic carriers added a $25 first checked bag fee.

Bag fees per passenger

Since 2010, United, American, and Delta have each added a waiver of first checked bag fees for holders of their primary mile earning credit cards. In exchange for the annual fee, members are allowed to avoid fees of around $25 per first checked bag for themselves and their traveling companions on every flight.

Coinciding with this, the bag fees collected per passenger have declined 10% on United, American, and Delta, while the average bag fee for remaining airlines has climbed 7% per passenger since 2010.

In the launch year of each airline’s checked bag fee waiver, fees collected declined significantly for United, Delta, and American, underscoring the impact of the credit card benefit for consumers.

This year, US Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and Virgin America have each added a first checked bag fee waiver to their primary mile earning credit cards, which should further temper fee pressure.

One of Virgin America’s credit cards also offers a waiver of change fees, a first for the industry.

Summary tables – 2014

Total fees

Total Fees Per PassengerTotal ($000s)
Spirit$19.70$244,506
Allegiant$17.11$121,501
Virgin America$14.34$90,748
Delta$10.16$1,673,253
US Airways$10.06$854,920
United$9.92$1,381,334
American$9.44$1,026,729
Hawaiian$8.89$87,965
Frontier$8.13$82,420
JetBlue$7.25$220,750
Alaska$6.79$186,011
Southwest$1.56$168,896
Other$0.80$25,108
All$8.32$6,164,141

Change fees

Change Fees Per PassengerTotal ($000s)
United$5.43$756,513
Delta$5.10$840,070
Virgin America$5.09$32,223
JetBlue$4.81$146,434
American$4.79$521,032
US Airways$3.85$327,329
Alaska$3.28$89,978
Spirit$2.62$32,545
Hawaiian$1.81$17,931
Frontier$1.30$13,194
Allegiant$1.27$9,048
Southwest$0.23$25,356
Other$0.08$2,416
All$3.80$2,814,069

Bag fees

Bag Fees Per PassengerTotal ($000s)
Spirit$17.07$211,961
Allegiant$15.84$112,453
Virgin America$9.25$58,525
Hawaiian$7.07$70,034
Frontier$6.83$69,226
US Airways$6.21$527,591
Delta$5.06$833,183
American$4.65$505,697
United$4.49$624,821
Alaska$3.50$96,033
JetBlue$2.44$74,316
Southwest$1.33$143,540
Other$0.72$22,692
All$4.52$3,350,072

Summary tables – 2010 – 2014

Bag fees ($, 000s)

2010201120122013
Alaska$126,890$157,013$151,475$96,033
Allegiant$55,325$53,562$89,556$112,453
American$580,663$593,465$557,385$505,697
Delta$952,250$863,608$865,879$833,183
Frontier$62,115$54,862$70,173$69,226
Hawaiian$54,008$56,590$67,829$70,034
JetBlue$57,019$64,078$70,788$74,316
Southwest$181,935$196,705$178,982$143,540
Spirit$81,503$133,970$168,229$211,961
United$657,772$630,233$638,003$624,821
US Airways$513,623$506,339$516,206$527,591
Virgin America$36,075$33,482$57,410$58,525
Other$36,293$16,731$17,802$22,692
All$3,395,471$3,360,638$3,449,717$3,350,072

Change fees ($, 000s)

2010201120122013
Alaska$58,891$10,598$23,210$89,978
Allegiant$4,625$5,777$7,428$9,048
American$471,369$495,158$517,708$521,032
Delta$698,611$766,795$778,399$840,070
Frontier$16,685$16,562$14,217$13,194
Hawaiian$18,192$17,356$18,285$17,931
JetBlue$113,997$124,536$133,771$146,434
Southwest$50,416$49,964$42,870$25,356
Spirit$23,120$25,927$27,763$32,545
United$561,876$573,960$644,514$756,513
US Airways$253,077$275,643$297,693$327,329
Virgin America$18,151$15,851$30,644$32,223
Other$8,366$2,030$1,728$2,416
All$2,297,377$2,380,157$2,538,230$2,814,069