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In the era of extraneous airline charges, it can be surprisingly expensive to fly. Yes, you can often find incredible fare sales that seem too good to be true. For example, I’ve flown from Missoula to Denver for as little as $20 (one way) on Frontier airlines. But once you tack on the cost of checking a bag, carrying on a bag, (and even requesting water on some of the super-budget airlines) the fees add up quickly.
My parents still tell the story of how a gate agent on a Frontier flight stopped them and made my father pay for his small carry-on a few years ago. And the gate attendant was not friendly about it (that’s the part that upset them the most). Subsequently, they won’t fly on that airline anymore.
Which is why I love….drumroll…Southwest airlines! I know, I’ve talked about Southwest somewhat extensively. Love them (because of their friendly staff and accommodating baggage policies) or hate them (because of their polarizing boarding process), it’s definitely worth taking a look at how the fees compare to other airlines.
And there is an amazing offer available for all the Southwest personal cards. Until February 11, 2019, you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass and 30,000 Southwest points by applying and spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card – Has the lowest annual fee
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card – No foreign transaction fees and you’ll get 6,000 Southwest points every year on your cardmember anniversary
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card – You’ll earn 7,500 bonus Southwest points every card anniversary, $75 in annual statement credits for eligible Southwest purchases, and 4 upgraded boardings per year
For all 3 card offers, the Companion Pass is promotional and will be valid through December 31, 2019. You really can’t beat the Southwest Companion Pass because when you have it you can bring along someone else (on cash or points bookings) for just the cost of taxes and fees!
If you’re like me, the type of person who attempts to avoid extra charges by showing up at the airport and nervously hoping that the desk agent doesn’t call you out for that tiny daypack you didn’t pay for ahead of time, you understand how stressful and frustrating it can be to try and “beat” the system.
We all know this – checked bags are expensive. Delta charges $30 for your first checked bag and $40 for your second. United charges $30 for your first bag and $40 for your second bag. Worse, some “low-cost” airlines (looking at your Frontier) will charge as much as $60 one-way for a carry-on items checked at the gate! And for me, this additional expense is tough to justify.
It feels like paying money for a space that would be available anyway.
Why I Love the Southwest Airlines Baggage Policy
When I traveled to Mexico City last January for a five-month stay, I knew I’d need more than just a small carry-on. And I didn’t want to pay for every individual bag; that just felt a bit too much. Plus, the larger issue what that my husband was bringing his mountain bike with him. He’d purchased a special bag (actually two bags) so that he could take the bike apart to fly with it, but we knew that charges for a bike could be really hefty.
Some airlines charge $150+ one-way for over-sized luggage. We definitely wanted to avoid such an expensive charge.
Between us, we had five bags to check, two carry-on duffle bags and two backpacks (for our computers and personal items). First, I’ll say this. I know that traveling with nine bags seems extreme. I’d never brought so much with me before. But we were going to be in Mexico for five months, living with friends, not traveling around. So we had space. And having spent a good amount of time in Mexico a few years ago, we both knew what we could and couldn’t find there. Plus, we were both working remotely and needed the right set up for that. Hence…nine bags.
Here’s how the math worked out:
Person 1: Two checked bags, one carry-on bag, one personal item. This was all included, free of charge.
Person 2: Three checked bags, one carry-on bag, one personal item. After your first two complimentary checked bags, you’ll pay $75 for each additional bag, including sporting equipment and bags weighing up to 100 lbs.
We brought nine bags with us to Mexico and paid only $75 each way! This felt like the deal of a lifetime in a world where a carry-on bag can cost $60 one-way. I couldn’t be happier with how this all worked out on Southwest airlines.
For comparison, if we had flown on United Airlines it would have cost us $70 per person for our first 2 checked bags per person. And it would have cost us $150 for a 3rd checked bag – that’s $580 in baggage fees round-trip! But we only paid $150 round-trip with Southwest, which saved us $430. That’s easily enough for a round-trip flight.
Baggage Limits to Consider
Before you go, it’s important to review the bag size and weight limits. That’s pretty standard with most airlines. With Southwest, each ticketed passenger can check two bags for free. Checked bags can’t exceed 50 pounds or be bigger than 62 inches (length + width + height). If your bag weighs more than 50 pounds, it will be considered oversized and you’ll need to pay $75. If it weighs more than 100 pounds, you’ll have to ship it as air cargo. So it’s definitely crucial to know the size and weight of your bags before you show up at the airport.
What’s the most you’ve had to pay to check your bags? Would you be more likely to book a flight with an airline that offers one or two free checked bags?
It’s not something that I ever thought would motivate me to choose one airline over another, but I’ve definitely saved money by flying on Southwest when I traveled to Mexico. Of course, you could always get a credit card that saves you on checked baggage fees.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!
And don’t forget, until February 11, 2019, you can save even more on your Southwest flights by earning the Southwest Companion Pass and 30,000 Southwest points with any of Southwest personal credit cards after being approved and spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening: