Just How Expensive Is That Oversized Bag, Anyway?

Airfare Question of the Month
by , SmarterTravel Staff
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Bags lined up for departure (Photo: iStockphoto/Vera Bogaerts)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on April 16, 2009. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, Airfare Question of the Month, baggage, Delta, Jessica Labrencis, Southwest.

Dear Jessica,

What happens if I need to check a bag bigger than my airline's limit will allow?


Dear P.M.,

In the past year or so, many cash-strapped airlines have begun to crack down on excess weight and size limits, enforcing fees in both areas more rigorously than in the past. On a recent trip, in fact, my airline attempted to charge me $50 for an extra three pounds over the 50 pound limit. Needless to say, I scrambled to move shoes and hardcover books into my carry-on bag to avoid the extra fee.


Most airlines now charge about $15 just for checking the first bag, even those that meet weight and size requirements. Second bags generally cost $25, and from there, you'll generally be charged $15 to $200 per bag. Then, if your bag exceeds your airline's weight limit (usually 50 pounds), you'll have to pay anywhere from $25 to $175 extra, depending on the airline. If your bag exceeds size limits, you'll be charged an extra $39 to $175 pounds.

Thus, if you're checking a too-large, too-heavy (51 to 70 pounds) bag as your first bag, you could end up paying anywhere from $75 (Southwest) to $280 (Delta ), which could total more than your flight. You could actually be charged as much as $475 on Delta if you check a too-large (more than 71 inches), 80-plus-pound bag as your third item.

Check our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees before you fly to calculate exactly how much that extra bag (or a few extra pounds) will cost you.

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