Airlines collected a record $7 billion last year in fees on baggage and flight changes, reflecting a steady rise in those fees since 2010, according to a government report that came out yesterday.
The rising fees coincided with a profitable airline industry each year since 2010. Airlines reported $15.6 billion in net income last year, after a record under deregulation of $26.4 billion in 2015, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Lower fuel prices helped. Fuel, which is traditionally one of the larger expenses for airlines, cost the carriers $24.7 billion last year, down from $50.2 billion in 2012, according to the bureau.
When airlines created bag fees, they dropped average fares less than the average bag fees, according to peer-reviewed economic studies that GAO studied. So overall, travelers who continue to check bags with fees added to fares are paying more than when bags were included, while those with just carry-on bags are saving money.
If you have a credit card for your favorite major airline, then most likely you get a free checked bag anyway, so this shouldn’t be an issue for most readers. Alaska, Delta, AA, United, JetBlue, Hawaiian and other have credit cards that provide this benefit. Elite status will also get you free check luggage.