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US airlines made nearly $7 billion in bag fees last year despite mishandling nearly 3 million of them — see how carriers compare

Southwest Airlines passengers stand around dozens of bags during the carrier's December 2022 meltdown.
US airlines earned nearly $7 billion in baggage revenue in 2022, with American making the most among all carriers.Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • US airlines earned a collective $6.8 billion in baggage revenue in 2022.

  • Luggage fees have been on the rise for years as airlines unbundle their fares.

  • American Airlines generated the most revenue but had the worst mishandled bag rate of any carrier.

After taking significant losses in 2020 and 2021, US airlines finally earned a $1.6 billion profit in 2022 according to stats from the US Department of Transporation — a sign the strong travel rebound is not slowing down.

However, the mere $1.6 billion is a far cry from the nearly $15 billion the industry earned in 2019 before the pandemic halted international travel and forced carriers to make drastic changes.

But surging post-COVID demand coupled with inflation and rising oil prices has airlines desperate to beef up their operations — and their revenue streams.

One strategy has been to raise baggage fees. Major US carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, have been unbundling their fares for years as a way to better compete with low-cost competitors.

Adding a carry-on or checked bag commonly costs $25 one-way pre-COVID — but that has risen as high as $35 in 2022.

The strategy has paid off, with airlines collectively earning about $6.8 billion in baggage revenue last year, according to DOT stats. This compares to $5.3 billion and $5.8 billion in 2021 and 2019, respectively.

This year's $1 billion increase from 2019 is despite carrying 72 million fewer passengers. However, carriers faltered when it came to handling the luggage, resulting in nearly 3 million bags lost, destroyed, or delayed across all airlines in 2022.

The DOT records the annual rate of mishandled baggage across 10 mainline and low-cost US airlines — take a look at how these numbers compare to luggage revenue in 2022.

10. Southwest Airlines

A Southwest Airlines aircraft.
A Southwest Airlines aircraft.REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski//File Photo

Baggage Revenue: $67 million

Bags Enplaned: 121,394,275

Mishandled Bags: 655,053

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.54

 

9. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330
Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock

Baggage Revenue: $87 million

Bags Enplaned: 6,192,423

Mishandled Bags: 23,435

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.38

8. Alaska Airlines

An Alaska Airlines plane in flight.
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor/ GC Images

Baggage Revenue: $327 million

Bags Enplaned: 27,287,135

Mishandled Bags: 196,003

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.72

7. Allegiant Air

Allegiant Air
Allegiant AirDaniel J. Macy/Shutterstock

Baggage Revenue: $331 million

Bags Enplaned: 6,621,329

Mishandled Bags: 10,295

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.16

6. JetBlue Airways

A Jetblue aircraft.
A JetBlue aircraft.Courtesy of JetBlue

Baggage Revenue: $625 million

Bags Enplaned: 15,350,805

Mishandled Bags: 104,132

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.68

5. Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines
Frontier AirlinesCarlos Yudica

Baggage Revenue: $744 million

Bags Enplaned: 9,852,249

Mishandled Bags: 41,499

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.42

4. Spirit Airlines

A Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 passenger jet taxis at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 passenger jet taxis at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Baggage Revenue: $933 million

Bags Enplaned: 12,976,167

Mishandled Bags: 64,831

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.50

3. Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-900ER aircraft
Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-900ER aircraftAlex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Baggage Revenue: $979 million

Bags Enplaned: 95,002,043

Mishandled Bags: 505,932

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.53

2. United Airlines

United Airlines flight at San Francisco airport.
A United Airlines plane taking off from San Francisco International Airport.Courtesy of United Airlines

Baggage Revenue: $1.1 billion

Bags Enplaned: 70,768,183

Mishandled Bags: 467,084

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.66

1. American Airlines

American Airlines jet at LaGuardia
An American Airlines plane on the runway.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Baggage Revenue: $1.4 billion

Bags Enplaned: 104,679,672

Mishandled Bags: 919,211

Rate Mishandled Per 100 Bags: 0.88

Breeze Airways, Eastern Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and Silver Airways were not included in the DOT's 2022 mishandled baggage report, but collectively earned about $150 million in luggage fees.

Breeze Airways A220-300 aircraft.
Breeze Airways A220-300 aircraft.Breeze Airways/Business Wire

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