Courtesy: American Airlines

Airlines are charging more for checked bags, but losing fewer. Travelers still need to prepare for a lost baggage claim. The five-second step you need to take before you leave home for the airport.

Legacy carriers earn most from baggage fees

Spring break planning is in full force for families who live in cold weather cities. Getting to that warm destination by plane likely means paying for baggage.

Airlines made $3.1 billion in baggage fees in 2016. It’s not discount airlines bringing in the money. They make the top 5, but the legacy carriers hold the top three spots.

  1. American
  2. Delta
  3. United
  4. Spirit
  5. Frontier

Fewer lost bags

Airlines are passing on the cost of checked baggage to fliers, but there is an upside. Airlines are losing baggage less often. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there were 2 reports of lost bags per 1,000 passengers in November 2016. That’s the lowest rate since these statistics were first calculated 30 years ago.

It’s not just checked baggage fees that you need to pay attention to. Some airlines charge you to carry-on luggage. Discount carriers are gaining traction, and this a la carte pricing method is picking up steam. You have to be careful with these airlines. While you can get terrific deals, you need to pay attention to more than just the base airfare. Consider if you’ll have a carry-on or checked bag and add that to the cost of your ticket.

You may have no choice but to pay the fees if your carry-on bag is too small. Airlines are enforcing carry-on baggage sizes.

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Packing for a trip

Even with fewer lost bags, prepare for a lost bag. Don’t pack essentials in your checked luggage. Put medication or other essential items in your checked luggage. Take a picture with your phone before you zip up your bag. That way you can prove what’s in your bag. Lost baggage claims are not fun. Airlines sometimes ask for receipts. This frustrates fliers. A picture goes a long way to speeding up your claim, and getting you an appropriate refund.

Baggage fee disclosure

The government wants to make sure you know about these fees when you’re booking travel. Travel agents and airlines must disclose the fees at all points of sale. This would include fees for checked baggage and carry-on bags. You can comment on the proposed rule here.

This may not make it through the next administration, but transparency is the push behind this move.