Why Does US Airlines Charge a Baggage Fee?

Airlines in the United States began charging baggage fees in 2008 to offset the high cost of aviation fuel, which had risen to account for roughly 30 percent of airlines' operating budgets, notes CNN Money. After oil prices dropped, however, airlines did not remove their baggage fees, using the fees to help offset reduced travel during the recession. In 2015, the fees remain and have become part of "a la carte" pricing, which travelers pay for options they use.

In a February 2015 USA Today editorial, the president of Airlines for America, an industry trade group, argued that because of charges such as baggage fees, airlines have become "modestly profitable" and thus able to improve services. Changes as varied as on-board Wi-Fi or the purchase of new planes increase passenger comfort and safety. Another representative of the same trade group told CNN in 2103 that charging separate fees for services gave passengers choice about what services they wanted, rather than forcing customers to pay for things they did not use.

U.S. Airways and American Airlines charge $25 for the first bag, with increasing fees for each additional bag. Fees also change depending on travel region and flight length. First class and business class passengers, frequent flier premium members and U.S. military personnel receive at least one checked bag free of charge.