We've heard a lot about projected gains from baggage fees, but here's some raw data for you to chew on, courtesy of Scott McCartney at the Wall Street Journal's Middle Seat Terminal blog:
"The U.S. airline industry collected $566.3 million in baggage fees in the first quarter, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That was up 13.6% from the fourth quarter, and more than four times what was collected in the first three months of 2008."
Individually, American led the way with $108.1 million in revenue from baggage fees, followed by Delta with $102.8 million and US Airways with $94.2 million. Of the ten airlines ranked, JetBlue and Frontier had the lowest totals of any major domestic carrier, taking in $12.6 and $12.5 million respectively (Hawaiian had the lowest total, $8.3 million). Notably and unsurprisingly absent, of course, was Southwest.
McCartney points out that Delta actually collected $162.6 million when its revenue is combined with Northwest's. He also notes that, "US Airways collected more in baggage fees than United Airlines or Continental Airlines, two larger airlines but with more elite-level fliers and international passengers who escaped baggage tolls."
I'll echo McCartney's point that revenue of this magnitude not only cements bag fees as an essential and immovable part of flying, but could also embolden airlines to raise fees in the future. And given the volatile economy and the uncertain state of the airline industry, it may not be long before carriers find themselves in desperate need of more income. Judging from these numbers, they won't have a hard time finding it.