Airlines have been squeezing passengers for years now. To cut costs and increase corporate profits they have been taking away leg room and squeezing more passengers per plane. They also have been adding fees to their fares from everything from change fees to checked luggage fees. If you are smart, however, you can mostly avoid paying baggage fees. Here are a few ways.
If you are a frequent traveler you should join the rewards programs for the airlines you fly. If you stick with the same airline when possible, such as Delta, your travel increases your status. Frequent flyer status programs have many perks, such as upgrades and membership to airline club rooms and free checked bags. If you must check bags, this could save you $50-100 per trip.
Get an airline credit card. Each of the major airlines has its own credit card from Visa, Mastercard or Amex. They let you earn airline miles for your purchases and will give you free checked bags.
You could also just not check baggage by simply using a carry-on. The bags must fall within the size requirements to fit in an overhead rack. The 3 best types to use are backpacks, duffle bags and roll-aboard bags. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Backpacks make good carry-ons because they have individual compartments that can sort your clothing, toiletries and electronics. Many have a built in laptop compartment, which makes it easy to take it out quickly at the TSA screening. However, they don’t hold as much clothing as some other bags.
Duffle bags have the greatest internal volume for a carryon. They also can compress a bit if you have to fly in a plane with a smaller than average overhead bin, such as a CRJ200, 700 or 900 model plane, often used by regional airlines.
Hard sided roll-aboard bags are usually designed to fit the airline rules and size limits. They offer some protection against the crushing of electronics and valuables within your bags. You can find a nice selection of high end roller bags at Lord and Taylor. These however will not compress, which may keep them from fitting in some overhead bins.
Whichever type of bag you use, you can always “Gate Check” your bag. As long as your bag is not oversized, just take it to the gate with you. Before you board, the gate agents will always ask if there are volunteers to gate check bags to your final destination. They will take your bag, give you a tag and you leave it at the bottom of the gangway. An attendant will put it under the plane, straight away. If you just have one leg on your flight, your bag will be waiting for you on the gangway, right when you get off the plane. There is no need to go to baggage claim.