Bypass the Airline Baggage Fees

November 4, 2008
Special Feature

Checking your luggage when you fly is a hassle, especially when you have to deal with long baggage inspection lines. Now it's getting expensive, too.

Checking your luggage when you fly is a hassle, especially when you have to deal with long baggage inspection lines. Now it’s getting expensive, too. It was bad enough when virtually every major U.S. airline started charging you to check a second bag on domestic flights; recently several airlines have started to charge a fee for the first checked bag. Trying to avoid the extra fees by stuffing everything into one bag won’t help; if the bag weighs more than 50 pounds, most airlines will sock you with an excess baggage fee that can be as much as $100 or more.

These baggage fees are making shipping services like FedEx and UPS look a lot better as an alternative to checking your luggage. As airline fees go up, rates for shipping your luggage ahead get more competitive and, in some cases, may actually be cheaper. If your time is worth more to you than a few extra dollars, however, the big advantage of using a shipping service is that you can avoid those baggage inspection lines. You’ll also save time at your destination, since you won’t be spending time hanging around the baggage pick-up carousel.

There are some caveats. The shipping service option works best if you’re a plan-ahead person, since rates go up steeply if you need faster delivery. Shipping a 40-pound bag from New York to San Francisco, for example, will set you back about $50 for five-day delivery. If you need three-day delivery, it will cost about $120. You also have to bring the bags to a designated shipping location or arrange for a pickup, which will cost extra, and delivery service on weekends and holidays may not be available.