High Airline Baggage Fees? Fight Back

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Airline baggage fees are just one of the burdens travelers carry when flying, but lately those fees really have been getting out of hand.

Airlines, it seems, are making a quiet killing out of taking your suitcases, golf clubs, pet kennels and other travel bags and storing them on the plane for that two-hour flight to Chicago.

The U.S Bureau of Statistics is out with a ranking of airlines and baggage fees, and the results are eye-opening.

Altogether, U.S. airlines earned about $3.5 billion on baggage fees last year, with some of the biggest names in the business cashing in on what used to be, only a decade or two ago, a free service for air travelers. (Reservation change fees are the second-highest secondary cost to air travelers, at $2.6 billion.)

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Here's how The U.S. Bureau of Statistics ranked airlines on baggage fees last year:

Delta: $869 million
United: $706 million
American: $557 million
U.S. Airways: $516 million
Spirit: $168 million

Alaska Airlines , Southwest , Allegiant , JetBlue and Frontier make up the rest of the top 10, with USA 3000, Mesa and AirTran falling to the bottom of its list of 16 U.S. airliners. Those three all charged less than $5 million in 2012 for baggage fees, the agency reports.

A baggage fee is a relatively new trend for air travelers, spawned by rising costs of fuel and narrowing profit margins by airline companies squeezed by increased competition and fewer air travelers. Total U.S. domestic flights declined by 13.9% from 2007 to last year.

That's why airlines are demanding you cough up anywhere from $25 to $45 per bag to fly — and that's just for a one-way flight.