Guest Post: How to Fly with a Free Checked Bag

Recently I had the chance to hang out with the lovely Alice H. of Alice H Photography and Project Mainstream.  As a musician and photographer, Alice travels all over the world for her gigs.  Here’s how she manages to knock off a few dollars from these trips:    

How to Fly with a Free Checked Bag

Traveling can be a hassle, no matter how prepared you are with snacks, pillows, advanced packing skills, and getting to the airport with time to spare. When checking in at the kiosk, with your backpack weighing down your shoulders, a loaded purse tipping you to one side, and your free finger or two dragging a piece of rolling luggage, you may be tempted when the following screen pops up:

“Would you like to check any bags?”

At that point, $25 USD* might sound like chump change for a little bit of physical relief and peace of mind. However, if you add this to your ticket price, it seems like a much bigger difference out of your pocket: imagine the horror of paying $133 for a ticket that was originally $108 (plus difference in tax)! There are, luckily, a few ways you can avoid this fee and fly free of burden, with your bag checked all the way to your final destination.

This may be one instance where overbooking can come to your advantage. From a financial point of view, a plane flying at less than full capacity is a waste of money. Therefore, airlines oversell seats in order to compensate for the potential 5% – 15% passengers that don’t show up. In these occasions, you usually hear the announcement from the gate agent about limited space in the overhead compartments. They will then ask for passengers to voluntarily check their bags to their final destination. This is your chance.

 That one is quite simple, with no effort involved except waiting patiently for the gate agent to make the crucial announcement. But what if the flight is at 2:00 AM, to Macon, Georgia, and it isn’t full?

This next option will take minimal work, with a 10% chance of failure.

If you find yourself in a pickle, where you hate the fact that you’re holding luggage but no one is forcing you to forfeit it, you can simply un-consolidate – if you have two or less carry-ons – and end up with three carry-on items, you’ve exceeded the two carry-on per person limit. You then walk up to the gate and claim that you brought more than two carry-ons, and ask politely if you need or could get rid of one. 9 times out of 10, the gate agent will simply print a tag and wheel your luggage away. If this doesn’t happen, you will most likely be offered a pink or green tag to shove your luggage somewhere else on the plane, which is a bit of a consolation prize.

And there you have it. Without breaking any rules, you could be pocketing $100 USD for every two round-trips you take. That’s the price of some plane tickets themselves! You’ll be traveling more, saving more, and feeling light as a feather.

*Alaska: First checked bag fee: $25

Allegiant: Checked bag fee: $15 to $75 depending on when and where purchased and route flown

American: First checked bag fee: $25

Delta: First checked bag fee: ($0 to international destinations except Canada and Caribbean)

Frontier: Carry on bag: $25 for “economy fares” if paid at time of initial fare purchase; $50 at departure gate; Free for “Classic Plus” fares and for “summit” and “ascent” frequent flyer members

Frontier: First checked bag: $20 – $25 for “Economy”, free for “Classic Plus” fares

JetBlue: First checked bag: $20 online or at kiosk, $25 at ticket counter for Blue fares. Included for both Blue Plus and Blue Flex fares

Hawaiian: First checked bag: $17-$25 (free to some international destinations)

Spirit: First checked bag: $20-$45

Southwest: First checked bag: Free

United: First checked bag fee: $25

Virgin America: First checked bag fee: $25

For more information on fees, check out:

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