Airline passengers who say they are increasingly feeling the squeeze now have a new number to quantify their pain: $899.5 million. That's how much the major U.S. airlines collected in checked-bag fees in the second quarter this year, a 3 percent increase from a year earlier, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Monday.
Airlines also collected 4.7 percent more in fees for reservation changes and cancellations during that same period, for a second-quarter total of $753 million. Still, those numbers each account for a small piece of airlines' revenues for the period, in which they racked up a combined net profit of $3.6 billion. Ticket fares were up 8.18 percent for the quarter.
"Bag fees seem to be the biggest headache," said George Hobica, president and founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, which maintains a list of airline fees. Consumers can keep their fees low by flying one of the few airlines that doesn't charge for checked bags, or by getting an affiliated credit card on United, Delta or American to get checked-bag fees waived, Hobica said. Another option is to ship bags ahead of time with UPS, "especially on shorter routes since charges are by the mile whereas airlines charge the same on a short flight versus a long one."