The 'staggering' $5.7 billion in airline fees: By the numbers

U.S. airlines raked in 24 percent more in luggage fees last year than in 2009. Which carrier stuck Americans with the biggest bill?

U.S. airlines raked in billions in baggage fees in 2010, with Delta leading the pack with $952 million.
(Image credit: Douglas O'Connor /Demotix/Demotix/Corbis)

U.S. airlines collected $5.7 billion in fees for checked luggage and changed reservations last year, according to data released by the Department of Transportation on Monday. Here, a by-the-numbers guide to the airline industry's "staggering" haul:

$3.4 billion

Baggage fees collected by U.S. airlines last year. The practice of charging $25 for the first checked bag and more for a second "began as a revenue bridge when travel fell sharply during the 2008-09 recession and fare increases were hard to pull off," says John Crawley at Reuters. Those "ancillary fees" remain, "and are now an important part of the revenue stream for airlines."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up


Percentage increase in revenue from baggage fees from 2009 to 2010. In 2009, the industry collected $2.7 billion.

More than $8

Average additional baggage charge "for each of the 416 million passengers who boarded an airplane last year," says Scott McCartney at The Wall Street Journal. Travelers "hate the nickel-and-diming they get at the airport these days," so maybe the industry would be better off if everyone just paid $8 more for their ticket, says McCartney. "You don't pay extra for a television in a hotel room — it's an expected part of the service."

$952 million

Baggage fees collected by Delta last year, by far the most of any airline. "Delta has sent a very loud message to the rest of the industry: Y'all got a lot of catching up to do," says Chris Morgan at The Consumerist.

$482 million

Baggage fees collected by Delta in 2009

$581 million

Baggage fees collected last year by American Airlines, coming in a distant second to Delta

$2.3 billion

Reservation-change fees collected by all U.S. airlines last year

$699 million

Reservation-change fees collected by Delta last year, again the most of any airline

3.2 percent

Drop in industry-wide reservation-change fees from 2009. "One might suspect that travelers are getting more careful about reservations and are a bit better at avoiding nasty reservation change fees," says McCartney in The Wall Street Journal.

Sources: CNN, The Consumerist, Department of Transportation, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us