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How to fly without paying Delta’s checked baggage fees

Times are tough for travelers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure – whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

It’s never been easier to find cheap flights with Skyscanner’s Everywhere Search or Price Alerts, but how do you save on the cost of luggage? When you know the rules and rates on Delta’s checked baggage fees, you can arrive to the airport prepared to fly with lighter bags and a heavier wallet.

Disclaimer: Travel restrictions within the United States vary by county, state and federal guidelines. Regulations, potential quarantine periods and travel restrictions may exist at your destination. We recommend reviewing government guidelines for your destination and those issued by the CDC before booking travel.

6 ways to avoid checked baggage fees on Delta

  1. Understand carry-on limits
  2. Know the loopholes
  3. Layer clothes to your advantage
  4. Travel light and share the load
  5. Get a Delta Airlines credit card
  6. Minimize your Delta Airlines baggage fees
A Delta airlines plane crosses an orange and blue sky
Flying Delta is even more enjoyable when you shed the baggage fees.

Read more: Everything you need to know about flexible travel

1. Understand the carry-on limits for Delta baggage

The airline allows one carry-on baggage that must be no bigger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Try not to pack any bulky items, and use accessories to your advantage. Packing cubes will help compress your clothes to create more room and maximize your Delta allowance.

There is NO weight restriction for most routes with your carry-on. You can be strategic about how you pack. Exceptions to the no-maximum weight for a carry-on item include the following international destinations:

  • Singapore, Singapore – Changi International Airport (SIN) carry-on should not exceed 15 lbs (7 kgs).
  • Beijing, China – Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) requires that domestic hand-carry bags should not exceed 10 kgs. Individual carrier rules apply for international flights.
  • Shanghai, China – Pudong International Airport (PVG) carry-on should not exceed 22 lbs (10 kgs).

If you’re planning on swapping your baggage fee for a fully packed carry-on, know this: As one of Delta’s coronavirus policies to reduce touchpoints, airline crew will no longer be assisting passengers to lift their bags into overhead bins.

Common Delta baggage fees

For flights in a domestic, main cabin seat, Delta baggage fees will apply to luggage beyond your free carry-on and personal item. These are set at $30 each way for your first checked bag under 50 lbs. Then, the price rises to $40 for a passenger’s second bag under 50 lbs. A third bag at the same weight restrictions costs $150. Note that these rates are valid for most domestic flights, but fees will vary depending on your origin and destination airports (especially international flights).

Carry-on baggage within the main cabin of a Delta flight is not guaranteed, as it depends on capacity, the type of aircraft used for your route and the discretion of the airline staff.

If in doubt, ask questions at check-in before you clear security. You may be more comfortable on a smaller plane if you stow your baggage in the hold. Delta checked bag fees may be waved if you’re asked to check a piece of luggage that you’re entitled to carry into the main cabin.

A person walking beside two airline suitcases with wheels

Read more: Why and when do flight prices drop?

2. Know the loopholes before you decide your Delta luggage size

Since you are allowed one personal item without incurring Delta baggage fees, it’s important to consider the definition. Delta Airlines describes personal items as:

  • 1 purse, briefcase, camera bag or diaper bag
  • laptop computer (computers cannot be checked)
  • item of a similar or smaller size to those listed above

Additional approved items without Delta baggage fees

The following items do not count as personal items but are still allowed to be carried onto the plane for free:

  • A jacket and/or umbrella
  • Food or drink purchased after clearing the security checkpoint
  • Duty-free merchandise
  • Special items like strollers and child restraint seats or items such as wheelchairs or crutches

Now, technically speaking, your purse, briefcase, camera or laptop bag could be a bigger backpack or even a duffle bag. Airlines are usually more concerned about your “true” carry-on luggage and its dimensions, so they tend to ignore your personal item. Know the rules about Delta baggage size before you travel and ensure your personal item can fit in the cabin.

Two large backpacks lean against a wooden door. They are small enough to avoid Delta baggage fees.
The size of your bag could be the difference between paying Delta’s fees or keeping money in your pocket.

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3. Layer up to lighten up

This next tip may not be hard to believe after a year spent enjoying the utility of sweatpants. Packing multipurpose clothes is a great way to reduce the amount of space you use.

Tops that can be layered might help you avoid packing heavy sweaters. Leggings work well for many different occasions, and since workcation office attire is only formal from the waste up, you can even forget about packing pants. Maybe bring a pair just in case.

Speaking of layering, there’s no rule about how many layers you can wear onto the plane. There’s nothing stopping you from boarding the plane while wearing half your wardrobe. Although, you’re probably better off just wearing bulky items, such as a sweater or jacket. This can help you reduce the size of your carry-on and Delta checked baggage.

4. Smaller Delta baggage fees per person: travel light and share the load

If you want to avoid checked baggage fees on Delta: start traveling light. With the tips above, you should easily be able to reduce the amount of items you travel with.

After you pack your suitcase, seasoned travelers will always recommend that you examine your vacation items and try to remove half. That way, you can move more easily with your luggage and avoid unnecessary Delta baggage fees.

Packing a different outfit or pair of shoes for every day you’re away may be stylish, but it can also be expensive. Your trick to avoiding Delta’s fees is to pack less and budget some time to do laundry during your trip. Looking for more ways to save space? Check out our favorite travel accessories for those who prefer to pack light. Savvy travelers go with the smallest baggage possible.

Remember that Delta baggage allowance is allocated to each passenger. If each traveler in your party shares items and takes their maximum free baggage, then your group may be able to disperse packing in a way that saves on fees while getting everything you need through the gates.

A camera being placed into a suitcase

Read more: See how the baggage fees compare to American Airlines

5. Get a Delta airlines credit card

If you have an eligible SkyMiles credit card from American Express, you receive your first bag free on Delta flights booked with your SkyMiles credit card. The first bag of each passenger on the reservation will have their fees waived at check-in. This benefit must be used with bags that are not overweight or oversized under Delta’s applicable rules.

The types of credit cards that help you avoid Delta baggage fees with the first bag free are the following:

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card / Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card / Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card
  • Delta Reserve Credit Card / Delta Reserve Business Credit Card

Keep in mind that the free baggage policy applies to all tickets booked with a Delta credit card, so reserve your tickets together if you’re traveling with your pod.

Silhouette of a person traveling with luggage that would not be charged Delta baggage fees

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6. Minimize your Delta Airlines baggage fees

Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid checked baggage fees on Delta, but you can take steps to minimize fees. Always pay for your checked baggage online in advance, as you may be charged more if you wait until arriving at the terminal. Also note that you’ll pay even more fees if your checked baggage exceeds the 50 lbs limit. So make sure you’re under that threshold.

Stick to the rules to avoid checked bag fees on Delta and you’ll spare your overall travel budget.

At attention for this Delta deal

Are you an active duty military member? If so, then Delta is showing their thanks by offering an exception to baggage fees for leisure or duty. Travelers that are on military orders receive five bags free at 100 lbs. Off-duty military personnel traveling for enjoyment get two bags at 50 lbs (or three at 70 lbs if flying first class or as premium Delta members).

Don’t start your trip paying more than you should

Although some airlines have made baggage fees a thing of the past, other brands like Spirit have thrived off of these charges as a core part of their business model. Delta’s baggage fees are somewhere in-between. Still, travelers everywhere can agree that free bags are even better than reasonable fees.

Discover where you can go now

Making plans to travel again? Find out where borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your dream destinations begin to reopen.

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What are Delta’s standard baggage fees for economy flights?

Your first checked bag on Delta is $30. The second is $40. A third is $150. These prices are valid for most domestic flights, although fees may vary depending on origin and destination airports.

Is there a maximum weight limit for my carry-on luggage?

One of the best ways to avoid a Delta baggage fee is to fit your items in a carry-on. Technically, there is only a size limit and not a weight limit for carry-on luggage. There are some international exceptions.

Do Delta baggage fees apply to SkyMiles members?

SkyMiles business and personal credit card holders each receive their first checked bag for free. Gold, Platinum or Reserve—one cushy benefit of this travel card is flying your bags VIP.

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