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Carriers: Bullseye on American Flyers

July 23, 2009 – Yesterday I read that Delta increased its fee for checked baggage and it got me to wondering. What are the policies at non-U.S. airlines and what do economy travelers pay for baggage when they live outside the U.S.?  I had a very sneaking suspicion that U.S. travelers are being squeezed the most by the biggest U.S. carriers. Well, I found out that if you’re living in the U.S. and traveling within its borders, (all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) or to Canada, when it comes to checked baggage, you’re screwed. And if you’re Canadian, flying on certain U.S. carriers in most of North America gets you admission to the party.

Traveling overseas on U.S. passenger air-carriers may reduce or completely eliminate checked baggage fees as long as they do not go over the weight or size requirements. American, United and Continental do allow for two free checked bags for some international travel routes that originate in North America.  Up until July 1 of this year, Delta allowed all passengers originating travel in the U.S. on many of its international routes at least two checked bags at no charge. Now, on tickets purchased on or after May 23, 2009 on flights between the U.S. and Europe, economy passengers will be charged $50 for a second checked bag.

Foreign carriers have by far the most liberal baggage policies. On Virgin Atlantic, economy passengers flying to destinations in the U.S., Caribbean, Kenya and Nigeria are allowed two checked bags, no charge.  For all other destinations, the limit is one bag.

Air Canada and Qantas have the most liberal policies of the airlines I checked. Air Canada allows two bags for economy passengers and three bags for those traveling First Class. Qantas’ policy was the most eye opening. While travel to and from the U.S., South America and Canada via the Pacific was similar to other airlines with a maximum of two checked bags, all other international travel as well as all domestic routes had no limit to the number of complimentary checked bags allowed. Way to go Aussies!

What is really disheartening as an American or anyone who lives in the U.S. is that the same domestic carriers that charge us extra for checked baggage and make us suffer full flights (due to capacity cuts) with overhead luggage space that disappears as fast as an ice cold beer on a hot summer day, targets us and only us with these fees. Any traveler that books with them who originates their trip outside the U.S. but travels through it or to it, is exempt from these charges and policies.

You really should check out your airlines checked baggage policy before you book because the restrictions are numerous, the penalties for overweight bags high and the newest fees could make any bargain fare worth re-examining more closely.


Most airlines have baggage policy information available on their websites. Air France has a an area on its site that determines your complimentary checked baggage allowance after you fill in your travel information, i.e. departure and arrival airports.











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