With airlines struggling to turn a profit, they have increasingly turned to ancillary fees to cut costs and drive up revenue. Savvy fare-hunters need to be aware of these added costs, as they can turn a great bargain into an expensive flight. Some airlines now charge for food, beverages or even priority seat selection, however by far the most prevalent (and expensive) is the infamous baggage fee.
Generally fees for the first checked bag run from about $15-$45 each way for domestic travel, which can add as much as 23% on a $200 flight. Ouch! Second checked bags cost even more. Some carriers, such as Allegiant and Spirit, offer discounts if travelers purchase baggage check vouchers in advance, which can save travelers up to $10 each way. Spirit now charges $30-$45 for carry-on luggage. Although they are the first, it remains to be seen whether other airlines will follow suit.
To avoid fees altogether, fly with JetBlue or Southwest, the only domestic carriers still offering free checked luggage. With competitive pricing on almost every route they service, JetBlue is a great option to popular cities including New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. Plus, DirecTV and free snacks on every flight don't hurt either. JetBlue has a fare sale every week on some of their most popular routes.Flight search engines such as Fly.com are great tools for finding the best fares, but they do not account for luggage fees. Keep that in mind while shopping to find the absolute best deals. Make sure to check on your airline's website before purchasing a ticket.