Reduce airline baggage fees

Hands up everyone who would love to reduce airline baggage fees.

I know you can’t see me right now but I’ve got both of my hands up.

We’re all used to paying to check in a bag for short haul flights, but now fees to check in a bag are becoming increasingly common for long haul flights too.

And to make things that bit more interesting, the bag fees vary depending on the airline, the route and which online travel agent you book through.

You don’t want to pay more than you have to so in this article I’m going to show you how to get the best price on the baggage fees for your next long-haul trip.

Note: this information is only valid before you’ve bought your ticket. If you’ve already booked your flights then check directly with the airline to see if a bag is included or how much it will cost to add.

Step 1: Check If You Get A Free Bag

Not all airlines charge to check in a bag and some airlines only have bag fees for some of their long-haul routes. So, the first thing to do is to check if the fare you’re looking at includes a bag or not.

The easiest way to do this is to search for your flights on Google Flights then click through the links to the airline website. The airline booking page will show whether a bag is included in the fare.

If a bag is included, breathe a sigh of relief as all you need to do now is search for the cheapest fare on Google Flights and Skyscanner or Momondo (use my two-step search process to do this).

If a bag isn’t included read on to find the cheapest way to travel with your bags.

Step 2: Can You Travel With Hand Baggage Only?

I know travelling with hand baggage only is an obvious way to avoid bag charges, but it is still the best way.

That said, there aren’t many long-haul flights I’ve taken where I’ve travelled with hand baggage only, but this might be an option for shorter trips.

So, before paying to add a bag to your booking, pause for a moment and consider whether you really need to take a larger bag with you.

Most airlines flying long haul from the UK have quite a generous hand baggage allowance. The notable exceptions to this are TUI Airways which has a 5kg hand baggage limit and Thomas Cook Airlines which has a 10kg hand luggage limit.

If you’re definitely going to check in a bag, keep reading.

Step 3: Does Everyone Need To Check In A Bag?

When there’s more than one of you travelling together think about whether all of you need to check in a bag.

If some of your travel group won’t check in a bag then it’s cheaper to book the lowest fare you can find (use my two step search process to find the lowest fare) and then add the bag(s) to your reservation after you’ve booked.

When everyone in your travel group does need to check in a bag you can potentially save some money depending on how you book your flights and add the bag fees.

This involves working out the cheapest fare + bag fee combo from a couple of places. It does take a few minutes, but you can save £20+ per bag if you find an online travel agent charging a lower bag fee than the airline.

Keep reading to find out how to find the cheapest fare + bag fee combo.

Step 4: Find The Cheapest Fare With Google Flights And Skyscanner Or Momondo

If you’re not sure how to do this I’ve written this article about the two-step search process I use to find the lowest fares.

If the fare in Google Flights is the same as the lowest fare in Skyscanner or Momondo (or within a few pounds) then book your flights directly with the airline from the links in Google Flights. Remember to add your bags whilst you’re booking to get the best price.

If the fare is cheaper through Skyscanner or Momondo then work out two prices:

  • The cheapest online travel agency fare + online travel agency bag fee (step 5 below), and
  • The cheapest online travel agency fare + airline bag fee (step 6 below).

Then compare these and book the cheapest (step 7 below).

Step 5: Work Out The ‘Online Travel Agency Fare + Online Travel Agency Bag Fee’ Price

Click through the links in Skyscanner or Momondo to get to the booking page for the online travel agency offering the lowest fare. If the travel agency is able to add bags to your booking their fee will be shown on their booking page.

Not all online travel agencies are able to add bags to the reservation. Some of those that do have very high bag fees – check the fees carefully as sometimes they show a one-way bag fee to make it look more attractive. The best online travel agencies for low bag fees are usually TravelUp and TravelTrolley.

When you’ve found the bag fee, make a note of the fare and bag fee from the online travel agency.

Repeat this process and check the bag fee for the next cheapest online travel agency on Skyscanner or Momondo (check TravelUp or TravelTrolley if they’re in the list) and note the fare and bag fee.

If the first travel agency you check doesn’t offer bag fees check a couple more in the fares list on Skyscanner or Momondo. If you still don’t find one that offers bag fees then book the lowest fare you’ve found and add the bags afterwards with the airline.

Step 6: Work out the ‘Online travel agency fare + airline bag fee’ price

Next use the information below to check how much the airline charges to add a checked bag to a booking.

I’ve included info for most airlines that offer long haul flights from the UK but double check on the airline’s baggage fee pages (using the links below) as the fees do change at short notice. (If you see a fee that has changed let me know so I can update this!)

The fees below are only used when you already have a reservation and you’re adding bags to that reservation.

British AirwaysUS, Canada, Mexico & long haul from Gatwick £80 return
All other flights £120 return
Virgin Atlantic£90 return
American Airlines$120 (around £90) return
Delta Airlines$120 (around £90) return
United Airlines$120 (around £90) return
Air Canada120 Canadian Dollars (around £70) return
Westjet60 Canadian Dollars (around £35) return
Air FranceVaries by route. Air France don’t publish the fees on their website.
KLMVaries by route. Click here to go to the KLM bag fee calculator.
Thomas Cook Airlines£80 return
TUI Airways£70 return
Aer LingusBoston, Hartford, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia & Toronto £100 return
All other routes £140 return
Iberia€90 (around £74) return
Swiss€100 (around £88) return
Austrian€100 (around £88) return
Lufthansa€100 (around £88) return
TAP Portugal€150 (around £128) return

Add the airline bag fee to the lowest fare you’ve found on Skyscanner or Momondo to get the ‘Online travel agency fare + airline bag fee’ price.

Step 7: Compare the prices

Compare the lowest price from step 5 with the lowest price from step 6 and book with the cheapest of these.

Conclusion

Charges for checking in a bag vary wildly depending on the airline and your destination.

If there are bag charges for your airline and route, consider packing light and taking only hand baggage to avoid the fees altogether.

Otherwise, work out the cheapest combination of fare and bag fee from the airline and online travel agencies. This does take a few minutes but can save you £20+ per person.

I’d love to know how this works for you. Share this article using the social media buttons below and add a comment to let me know how much you’ve saved using this process.

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