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Top U.S. airlines for extra fees in 2012: Delta Air Lines leads the way

@jasonclampet

May 14, 2013 10:37 am

Skift Take

As ticket prices have been pushed lower and lower, fees have become the difference between profit and loss for all but a few airlines in the U.S.

— Jason Clampet

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George Frey  / Reuters

A worker loads supplies onto a Delta plane a day before the annual Thanksgiving Day holiday at the Salt Lake City international airport in Salt Lake City. George Frey / Reuters


According to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, for the third consecutive year Delta Air Lines beat out all other U.S. airlines in checked baggage and reservation change fees. Out of a total of more that $6 billion in fees collected by all reporting U.S. airlines, Delta took home more than $1.6 billion.

Delta’s share of fees is in line with its share of U.S. traffic; it carried more passengers than any other U.S. airline in 2012. But the second most-used airline, Southwest, is much further down the list in slots seven (baggage fees) and six (change fees). United, American, and US Airways round out the top four.

The real go-getter on the list is Spirit which, despite not being among the top 10 in passenger numbers among  U.S. airlines, Spirit manages to rank as number five in baggage fees and number eight in change fees.

Unless another airline comes up with a clever new fee in 2013 — we’re looking at you Spirit — Delta will likely retain the top spot in 2013, before likely being unseated in 2014 by the new American Airlines once its merger with US Airways is completed.

Overall, baggage fees rose just 3.5% in 2012 over 2011 numbers and change fees rose 7.5%.

Total revenue for all passenger airlines for the full year 2012 was $159.5 billion. All U.S. passenger airlines collected a total in 2012 of $3.5 billion in baggage fees and $2.6 billion from reservation change fees. The additional fees kept airlines from reporting a loss for last year, according to the BTS, “For the full year 2012, the 10 largest airlines reported net income of $201 million, up from $0.5 million loss in 2011.”

Baggage fees in 2012

Dollars in thousands (000)

Airline 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 2012
Delta 198,352 231,351 233,123 203,053 865,879
United 156,761 194,587 187,282 166,917 705,547
American 139,239 149,194 138,260 130,692 557,385
US Airways 124,333 136,230 129,364 126,279 516,206
Spirit 38,023 44,036 43,483 42,687 168,229
Alaska 33,165 38,452 44,086 35,772 151,475
Southwest* 7,716 50,523 46,066 40,170 144,475
Allegiant 16,069 20,751 25,758 26,978 89,556
JetBlue 17,203 17,132 18,938 17,515 70,788
Frontier 17,201 17,908 18,770 16,294 70,173
Hawaiian 16,114 16,513 18,137 17,065 67,829
Virgin America 12,913 14,809 16,214 13,474 57,410
Sun Country 4,183 3,422 3,626 3,242 14,473
AirTran* 4,183 0 0 0 4,183
Mesa 310 941 1,062 1,013 3,326

Change fees in 2012

Dollars in thousands (000)

Airline 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q 2012
Delta 192,282 201,025 200,417 184,674 778,398
United 160,170 174,977 171,873 153,923 660,943
American 127,336 133,647 129,214 127,511 517,708
US Airways 74,474 76,503 76,215 70,501 297,693
JetBlue 34,641 33,404 32,835 32,891 133,771
Southwest* 0 11,439 10,983 10,048 32,470
Virgin America 6,345 7,078 8,497 8,724 30,644
Spirit 6,815 6,848 6,779 7,321 27,763
Alaska 7,481 6,171 4,877 4,681 23,210
Hawaiian 4,644 4,350 4,750 4,541 18,285
Frontier 4,081 3,447 3,448 3,241 14,217
AirTran* 10,400 0 0 0 10,400
Allegiant 1,870 1,908 1,698 1,952 7,428
Sun Country 423 417 447 413 1,700
USA3000 28 0 0 0 28
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Schedule.
Note: The merged Southwest and AirTran began reporting jointly in 2Q 2012. Previous numbers, including 1Q 2012, were reported separately.

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