Many passengers have voiced their opposition to the proliferation of bag fees airlines have been adding in recent years. Could those same passengers now be speaking with their packing habits?
U.S. airlines took in less revenue from bag fees in 2011 than they did in 2010, according to a report last week from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).
The revenue decline was slight – down to $3.36 billion in 2011 from $3.4 billion in 2010 – but also came despite an increase in the number passengers flying and a continued proliferation of fees.
Fees for “excess” or “oversize” baggage is nothing new, but fees first and second checked bags did not become the norm until four years ago. Since 2008, the industry had been recording large year-over-year increases in the amount of revenue collected from such fees. The decline for 2011 came after a 42% jump between 2008 and 2009 and a 24% rise between 2009 and 2010.
The Associated Press suggests that indicates “more passengers are packing light to save cash when they fly.”
Individually, Delta collected the most bag-fee revenue of any U.S. airline, taking in $863.6 million in those fees for 2011. AP writes “that was more than the $854 million in net income that the world’s second largest carrier posted, highlighting how vital the fees have become.”
American Airlines collected the second highest total ($593.5 million), which AP notes saved the financially struggling company from an even uglier result than the $2 billion net loss it reported for 2011.
US Airways collected the third-highest revenue total at $506.3 million.
The Arizona Republic points out that “United and Continental, which merged in 2010, would have taken the second spot if their figures were combined.” United collected $276.8 million in bag-fee revenue last year while Continental’s take was $353.4 million.
Of course, bag fees have been back in the news in recent months thanks largely to the only two U.S. carriers that charge fees for stowing carry-on bags in their overhead bins.
Allegiant in April announced it would become the second airline to add such a fee. And Spirit, the first to charge for carry-ons, announced it would raise its carry-on fee to as much as $100 each way for customers that fail to declare their carry-ons before arriving at the gate.
How did Spirit fare relative to other carriers in terms of bag-fee revenue in 2011?
AP says “Spirit, the only U.S. airline that charged for carry-on bags last year, was eighth (out of 17) on the list, raking in $134 million in fees. That was double what the next airline collected. JetBlue brought in just $64 million even though it has nearly four times the traffic of Spirit. JetBlue does not charge passengers for the first checked ba
The airline that took in the least bag-fee revenue in 2011? That would be leisure carrier USA 3000, a small operation that ceased its flight service earlier this year. Among the biggest U.S. carriers, Southwest collected the least. Backing up its “bags fly free advertising campaign, the carrier collected $32.6 million — likely from items like extra or excess baggage — in 2011. That placed it 14th out of 17 the airlines including in the BTS report.
For those curious, those following Southwest were Sun Country, regional carrier Mesa and now-defunct USA 3000.