How much does your checked baggage cost an airline?

A friend of mine recently sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal about the true cost an airline incurs flying your luggage. In the relatively new era of baggage fees, it’s probably fair to question just how expensive it’s been for airlines to handle baggage.

The answer: $15 a bag. The WSJ arrived at this number through some good deductive reporting, since most major airlines claim they do not actually know the per-bag breakdown of their baggage costs (which, of course, is complete bull).

What’s in that $15? Well, about $13 per bag in labor costs and another $1-$2 in fuel costs (I’m really summarizing here — the article does a much better breakdown of costs).

So it’s not a coincidence that most major carriers are charging $15 for your first piece of checked luggage. Yet for some reason, airlines themselves are loath to admit this, most saying they set their baggage fees not strictly based on costs.

One airline official seem to suggest that the costs for flying your luggage might actually be lower, since in a very defensive response to a question from the WSJ he told the newspaper, “I hope you would agree that we are allowed to make a profit.”

Thanks, Ed.