Since late 2014, WestJet and Air Canada have started charging for all checked luggage. Gone are the days of two free checked bags and one free carry-on, now customers are charged upwards of $30 for any bag that they put under the plane. We can moan about it all we want, but for now, these fees are here to stay, so we’ll have to book smarter. In this article we’ll teach you everything you need to know about these fees and how to avoid them.
Note: It’s not just happening to us poor northerners, almost all US airlines now also include baggage fees on top of airfare.
How Much Will These New Fees Cost?
The cost will depend on your status with the airline, the distance you are flying and what class of seat you purchase. You can Click Here to calculate costs with Air Canada and Click Here for WestJet. Typically your first and second checked bags will cost between $25 – $30.
Where Do You Find The Baggage Fees?
Most booking engines like Kayak.com and Google Flights won’t show these baggage charges in their results, meaning you will suddenly see them appear right before you enter your credit card information. It’s best to click the links above to check how much you’ll be charged before you even start searching for flight deals.
When Did Airlines Start Charging For Checked Bags?
Both WestJet & Air Canada started the fees at nearly the same time with WestJet adding them on all bookings made after September 15, 2014 and Air Canada for all flights booked after September 18, 2014.
Why Are Airlines Now Charging For Checked Baggage?
Back in the good ol’ days you would get a free checked bag on all flights and sometimes even 2 bags! Now, we’re charged upwards of $30 / bag. Why?
WestJet and Air Canada claim that the fees used to be hidden in the fare, but now customers who choose to fly with only carry-on luggage can save some money. Coincidentally WestJet’s profits went up 33.8% during the fourth quarter of last year, earning them over $90 million and Air Canada reported their Highest Annual Adjusted Net Income in the airline’s 77-year History.
Despite a recent poll that showed 75% of Canadians believe that the new baggage fees are a “money grab” by airlines, Air Canada and WestJet are sticking to their guns.
Are There Other Fees That Aren’t Included In The Fare Cost?
As I mentioned earlier, flight booking engines don’t include this new checked baggage cost in their search results, so you only find out about an added $25 charge / ticket when you’re about to pay. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only charge you may find at the check-out screen.
If you don’t mind having an uncomfortable seat with no window, or one that doesn’t recline, you can probably still get by without paying extra for picking your seat. But if all of the free seats are taken, or if you want to be comfortable during the flight, you may have to pay an additional charge for your seat!
Not all passengers, fares or flights are subject to the fee, but many economy travellers flying in North America who want to choose their seat in advance probably have to pay. It can cost a lot too: $10 to $47.20 for a return trip on WestJet; $20 to $80 for a return trip on Air Canada. It’s free to book your seat within 24 hours of your flight, but by then seat selection is often limited.
How Can You Avoid The Charges?
This is the ultimate question really. Unfortunately, in Canada we don’t have very many options for airlines, especially when flying domestic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get around the charges. It does however mean that we may have to join WestJet & Air Canada’s loyalty programs which not only offer 1 free checked bag, but also give customers the opportunity to earn points and rewards.
If you don’t want to join a frequent flyer program, you can check out the Canadian credit cards listed below which will give you some baggage bonuses:
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card
- $399 annual fee
- Earn 1 free checked bag on Air Canada flights (primary cardholder only)
CIBC Aerogold Infinite Privilege Visa
- $399 annual fee
- Earn 1 free checked bag on Air Canada flights (including Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge) of up to 23kg (50lbs), must include Aeroplan number at the time of booking
CIBC Aerogold Infinite Visa
- $120 annual fee
- Earn 1 free checked bag of up to 23kg (50lbs) on an Aeroplan reward flight (ClassicFlight or Market Fare Flight Reward) on all flights operated by Air Canada (including Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge
- $120 annual fee
- Earn 1 free checked bag when travelling on an Aeroplan reward flight
When flying international, it’s worth shopping around, but it will be hard to find airlines that won’t charge baggage fees as so many of our international flights are with American or Canadian owned companies.
The States have it a bit easier. For Americans flying to the Caribbean (for example), they can hop on cheap Caribbean Air planes that offer free checked bags and even free meals! But even for our neighbours to the south, there are only 2 US Airlines that don’t charge for checked bags:
- Southwest: Currently allows passengers to check two bags for free (up to 50 lbs apiece). Of course, there are exceptions to this rule when it comes to oversize, overweight, or special items (see this link for details).
- JetBlue: Though not quite as generous as Southwest, JetBlue still allows you to check your first bag for free (up to 50 lbs).
There are however a huge selection of American Credit Cards that offer free checked baggage on flights. They Include Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express, Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard, United Club Card, US Airways Premier World MasterCard & Virgin America Premium Visa Signature.
How Do You Feel About Checked Baggage Fees?
Polls have shown that most Canadians hate these new fees, but how do you feel about them? Are they fair? Will you use the ideas in this post to avoid them or do you know some tips of your own? Please share in the comments below.