The Airline That Made The Most In Bag Fees Also Lost The Most Bags

by SharonKurheg

The DOT collects all kinds of information about airlines and reports that info to the general public on a regular basis. From a statistics point of view, it’s a way to keep an eye on the airlines, look for patterns, etc. From a personal point of view, it’s an excellent way to see that airlines don’t give a crap about you or your stuff.

In May 2008, American Airlines was the first major U.S. carrier to announce they would begin charging a fee for all checked bags. Most other airlines soon followed suit, claiming pains from the 2008 recession, oil was $150 per barrel, etc.

Of course, the recession eventually ended, and oil prices went back down to a then-reasonable $50/barrel. But, of course, the checked bag fees continued because why kill off that cash cow, right? In fact, they slowly increased $5 here, $10 there, and eventually went from that $15 per bag in 2008 to anywhere from $25 to $60 for your first bag, depending on the airline, bag weight, destination, etc. Oh, and crude oil right now? About $87 per barrel. So….yeah.

Anyway, heaven bless Southwest, who STILL doesn’t charge fees for the first OR second bag.

But back to the DOT, bag fees and lost bags. Because coincidentally enough, the airline that made the most money in bag fees in all of 2021 also happens to be the airline that has lost the most bags in the first half of both 2021 and 2022. Know what airline that is? American.

In 2021, the DOT determined that U.S. airlines made almost $5.3 billion in baggage fees. Obviously, not every passenger paid baggage fees – they may have only had carry on (although some airlines even pay for overhead space), or they may have had a special credit card that allowed their baggage fees to be waived. On the other hand, some people checked and paid for more than one bag – and that second/third/fourth/etc. bag, when applicable, sometimes costs significantly more than the first one.

Here are the Top 5 baggage fees collected from major U.S. airlines in 20201:

1. American Airlines – $1,224,288,000 (over a BILLION dollars!)
2. Delta Air Lines – $873,070,000
3. United Airlines – $869,626,000
4. Spirit Airlines – $635,038,000
5. JetBlue – $517,202,000

Meanwhile, the DOT also keeps tabs on how many bags each airline mishandles (“mishandling” includes bags that were mutilated, or temporarily or permanently lost). Unfortunately, mishandled bags are at an all-time high this year; every U.S. airline listed in the August Air Travel Consumer Report (here’s a link to the PDF of it) has “mishandled” a higher percentage of bags between January and June 2022 than in comparison to the same period last year. But the airline that had THE MOST amount of mishandled bags during that time frame? American. And that’s for BOTH years! Here are the Top 5 for January-June 2022:

1. American Airlines – 300,590 mishandled bags
2. Southwest Airlines – 264,285
3. Delta Air Lines – 230,142
4. United Airlines – 150,173
5. Skywest Airlines – 86,530

To be fair, that’s the total number of bags mishandled. When you compare the number of mishandled bags to how many bags were enplaned, American is still #1 (32,311,510 bags enplaned = 0.93 mishandled bags per 100 enplaned bags), but they tie with Republic Airways (4,491,748, of which 300,590 were mishandled = 0.93 mishandled bag per 100 enplaned bags).

Want to compare? Here are the Top 5 for the same time frame in 2021:

1. American Airlines – 177,248 mishandled bags
2. Southwest – 138,568
3. Delta Air Lines – 69,376
4. United Airlines – 50,754
5. Skywest Airlines – 44,132

So yeah….not only did American collect the most in baggage fees, they also lost the most amount of bags. Something is definitely messed up with THAT!

Feature Photo:

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1 comment

M.Casey September 9, 2022 - 5:18 pm

SkyWest Airlines operates through partnerships with United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines carrying more than 36 million passengers in 2021.


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