Personal Finance

A Quick Guide to Airlines With Free Baggage

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Airfare can be expensive, even if you book a sale fare or deal. Many airlines find ways to increase revenue by charging extra fees beyond the ticket price. Bag fees are one of those expenses that can add up quickly if you’re not careful.

If you want to spend less on your next trip, you may be wondering if there are any airlines with no baggage fees. The answer is yes.

In this article, you’ll find:

Which airlines have free checked bags?

In many cases, you may bring a small carry-on bag or backpack onboard, but checked baggage may come with an extra charge. If you’re someone who doesn’t typically pack light, you may be searching for airlines with free bags, regardless if you want to check or carry on your luggage.

In that case, there’s only one domestic airline with free checked bags across all cabins and regardless of your elite status level: Southwest Airlines.

Travelers appreciate Southwest Airlines because it is transparent about its pricing and charges minimal extra fees. In fact, Southwest Airlines charges relatively few fees overall.

That’s right. The Southwest baggage policy states that any passenger can check up to two bags at no extra cost. Checked bags must not exceed 62 inches (L + W + H) or weigh more than 50 pounds to be checked for free. Bags above 62 inches (and up to 80 inches) and weighing 51 to 100 pounds will be charged an overweight and oversize baggage fee of $75 per bag each way. For customers who want to check a third bag, a $75 fee will apply.

Nerdy tip: Some airlines offer free checked bags on some routes, for example, on longer international routes. It’s best to check with each airline for each trip as this varies.

You won’t find another U.S. carrier offering a similar perk for all flights. If you like to check your bags and fly often, it may make sense to fly with Southwest.

Which airlines offer free carry-on bags?

Some people opting for the cheapest flight may travel light, but they still get hit with extra fees because some basic economy fares don’t include overhead baggage space. That means they’ll have to pay to check a small roller suitcase.

Here are some airlines that have free carry-on bags, no matter which type of fare you’re flying on:

  • Alaska Airlines: All travelers can bring one carry-on bag plus one personal item for free.

  • Hawaiian Airlines: All travelers can bring one carry-on bag plus one personal item at no extra cost. Carry-on bags must also be under 25 pounds.

  • Delta: All passengers can bring one carry-on bag plus one personal item without paying extra fees. Personal items can be a purse, small backpack, briefcase, laptop bag or a bag of similar size.

  • American Airlines: All tickets (including basic economy) include a free carry-on bag and personal item at no extra charge. Personal items must not exceed 8 x 14 x 18 inches.

  • Frontier Airlines. There are few budget airlines with free baggage included; however, if you purchase the Works or the Perks ticket packages from Frontier, you will get both a free carry-on bag and a free checked bag.

The following airlines allow free carry-on bags for all passengers excluding those with basic economy fares:

  • JetBlue: All tickets (excluding basic blue fare) include a free carry-on bag and one personal item at no extra cost. Personal items must not exceed 17 x 13 x 8 inches.

  • United Airlines: All tickets (excluding basic economy fare) include a free carry-on bag and one personal item at no extra cost. Personal items must not exceed 17 x 10 x 9 inches.

Nerdy tip: Carry-on bags, including wheels and handles, on any airline must not exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

Other ways to skip baggage fees

Fly bags for free with elite status

If you earn elite status with an airline loyalty program, you may be able to check your bags for free. Here’s a look at several airlines that offer free baggage perks for elite status members based on your membership tier:

  • Alaska Airlines: MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold 100K Mileage Plan members can check two or three checked bags for free depending on status level.

  • Hawaiian Airlines: Premier Club and Pualani Gold members can bring two checked bags for free. Platinum Pualani members can check three bags for free.

  • Delta: Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members get waived baggage fees.

  • American Airlines: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum AAdvantage members can check at least one bag (or more depending on membership level) for free.

  • JetBlue: Mosaic TrueBlue members can check two bags for free.

  • United Airlines: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K Mileage Plus members can check at least one (or more depending on membership level) bag for free.

Spend on airline credit cards with built-in baggage perks

If you’re looking to avoid paying checked baggage fees when flying and haven’t earned elite status with your favorite airline, you may want to consider applying for an airline credit card. Many airline credit cards offer free checked bags as a perk.

Here’s just sampling of the card options out there:

  • JetBlue Plus Card: First checked bag is free for the cardmember and up to three traveling companions on the same reservation when you use the card to purchase the tickets.

  • United℠ Explorer Card: First checked bag is free for the cardmember and one companion on the same reservation when you use the card to purchase tickets.

The bottom line

It’s rare to find U.S. airlines with free checked baggage. Southwest Airlines is the only airline without any bag fees. For other airlines, you’ll need to earn elite status or book your tickets with an airline credit card. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to pay up to check a bag, especially if you buy a basic economy fare — which doesn’t even come with overhead baggage privileges.

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