American Airlines is the latest carrier to increase bag fees, boosting the charge for one checked bag from $25 to $30 on Thursday.
The fee for second bag is now $40, up from $35. The airline said the changes are effective for tickets purchased Sept. 21 and beyond. This is the first increase since 2010, the airline says.
The move comes a day after Delta Air Lines joined the higher bag fee parade. JetBlue Airways started the trend when it increased bag fees on Aug. 27. United Airlines matched JetBlue's fees ahead of Labor Day weekend. Canadian carriers WestJet and Air Canada also boosted fees.
Bag fees have become big business for U.S. airlines since they started charging for the first and second checked bag in 2008 during the recession and oil price spike. Previously, the only bag fee charges were for excess bags and overweight and oversized bags.
Airlines collected $2.4 billion in bag fees in the first half of 2018, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The same figure in the first half of 2008: $300.8 million. United started the bag fee frenzy in May 2008, charging $25 for the second checked bag. A few months later, American upped the ante, announcing a $15 fee for the first checked bag.
Southwest stands alone among the big 4 airlines
Southwest has resisted the trend, despite Wall Street's insistence that it is leaving money on the table. The nation's largest domestic carrier allows two free checked bags and trumpets that policy everywhere. Executives recently said, again, that there are no plans to charge for bags.
Southwest threw shade at United when it bumped bag fees to $30 and $40.
Alaska Airlines, the nation's fifth largest carrier, so far is sticking with its policy of $25 each for the first and second bag.
American throws a bone to some travelers
The bag fee news isn't all bad at American. The airline recently reversed its carry-on bag ban for basic economy passengers. Beginning Sept. 5, the airline started allowing travelers to bring a standard carry on bag in addition to a personal item that fits underneath the seat.
Delta already allows basic economy passengers to bring on a standard carry-on bag for free. American executives said they were losing basic economy customers to Delta, in part because travel sites including Google Flights allows travelers to filter results by amenities, including a free carry-on bag.
United is the only major U.S. airline with basic economy fares that still forbids a standard carry-on bag. Passengers who bring those bags to the gate are forced to check them for standard checked bag fees plus a $25 gate fee surcharge. Total price for one bag: $55. Travelers are better off checking the bag at the ticket counter for $30.