luggage sits on a conveyor belt ready to be picked up

Airline Luggage Policies

With so many different airlines to choose from and so many carry-on and checked baggage rules, it can be hard to know what fees to be prepared for. Luckily, most of the major American airlines follow the general rule of thumb where you get at least one personal item to carry onto the flight with you for free. After that, that answers are all in the details.


One of the most lenient, United allows you to two carry-ons consisting of a bag and a personal item. As for luggage, baggage over 100 pounds will not be accepted unless it is an assistive device. The price varies from flight to flight but is considered basic if it is below 70 pounds and additional bags are charged a service fee. If your bag is over 70 pounds, expect it to be charged an oversized bag fee.

American Airlines

Like United, you are allowed one personal item and one bag for free within certain size and weight limitations. Checked backs are $25 for the first, $35 for the second, $150 for the third and $200 for the fourth. If your bag is over 50 pounds but under 70, it is considered overweight and will be charged $100. If it is between 70 and 100 pounds, the charge increases to $200.


As the previous two listed, you are allowed one personal item and one bag at no additional cost. If you are a BusinessElite, First, or Business class passenger, your first three bags are checked in for free so long as they are under 70 pounds. Economy seats charge $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag with both required to weigh 50 pounds or less.


One of the less expensive airlines, Southwest is also one of the friendliest. Carry-ons are limited to the usual one personal item and one bag. Your ticket includes 2 pieces of checked baggage so long as they are 50 pounds or less. If you do have to bring a third bag or more, expect to pay $75 per each additional bag.


You are only allowed one personal item for free on Spirit. Carry-ons start at $35 at booking and then increase to $45 during online check-in, $50 at the airport desk, and caps out at $100 at the gate. The baggage fees are no better, following the same formula by starting at $30 and steadily increasing to $100. More than one checked bag results in even higher fees.

Virgin America

Virgin allows you one personal item and one carry-on bag that can weigh up to 30 pounds. If you have a ticket for the main cabin, you will be charged $25 for each checked bag up to the tenth. If you have an upgraded main cabin ticket, the first bag is free, and if you are first class, your first two checked bags are free. Bags over 50 pounds are considered oversized and cost $50 instead of the standard $25.

Last Updated: October 17, 2014