Get the details on fees and bag rules by airline and destination.
The only constant when it comes to airline baggage rules is that every airline allows a free personal item for each passenger—but that’s where the similarities end. Carry-on bag sizes, for instance, can vary by a scant centimeter or two between airlines.
And then there are the fees. Particularly on domestic flights, airlines commonly charge a fee for carry-on bags on basic economy tickets. Be sure to read the fine print—it may be cheaper for you to opt for a more expensive main economy ticket that includes a carry-on or even a checked bag rather than book basic economy and pay the extra fees. And check out an airline’s “package” deals that include other so-called “extras,” too, like seat selection or early boarding.
In the category of “it goes without saying but bears repeating,” the information laid out in the tables below is, in some cases, representative of an airline’s baggage rules. We assumed a baseline of basic economy when that was an option since basic economy fares often do not include luggage. Additionally, in the sections for international routes, the information listed is assuming flights that either start or end in North America. The goal here is to give you a ballpark figure to begin your travel planning and budgeting process, and we encourage you to visit a specific airline’s website for more detailed information that applies to your itinerary.
Long gone are the days when the cheapest ticket on a domestic flight included a checked bag. Nearly every domestic airline charges for a checked bag in economy (with Southwest as one notable exception; it allows two free checked bags with every ticket). If you fly basic economy, most of the major airlines still allow a free carry-on, but not all of them do. For example, on JetBlue, you have to pay for anything more than a personal item, like a small backpack, that can fit under the seat. The fees on airlines like Sun Country, Spirit, and Frontier are so egregious, that we don't even send our members deals on those airlines; after you add in all the fees, it's generally cheaper to fly on another carrier.
It's a mixed bag when it comes to bag allowances on short-haul international flights from the US to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Central America. In main economy, most airlines allow a free carryon, but will charge you for a checked bag. If you opt for basic economy, most airlines will charge you for a carryon as well, and some of them will be sticklers for the size and weight limits of that carryon. Go over, and you may be forced to check the bag at an even higher rate.
While basic economy has spread to most of the airlines flying from the US to Europe, so far it's less common on routes to Asia, South America, and Africa. Several of the airlines flying these routes not only allow economy passengers a free carryon, but two free checked bags as well. Not so on flights to Europe. If you're in economy you'll generally get a free carryon and one free checked bag, but if you're in basic economy, you could be paying $30-$100 for your first checked bag—each way. Often, upgrading to regular economy costs as little as $75 each way, so if you want to pick your seat and check a bag (plus have other perks like free changes) spending more to upgrade to main economy can be worth it.