Rookie Wednesday: Ways for a rookie to avoid bag fees on Delta Air Lines

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

delta bag fee chart page one

I get a ton of comments and emails suggesting that I must work for our “beloved airline” that is Delta Air Lines. If I did, I would never write a post that talks about strategies that help a flyer to avoid one of the most lucrative revenue sources for the airline (you know Delta is the king of the ring when it comes to bag fees). On top of that, one of the most looked at posts ever on Delta Points by Delta CORP computers is my last post about this topic. But let’s take it even further in a rookie way!

Step one is understanding the bag rules. They are so complex that Delta has a chart. Not a simple chart, a crazy complex chart. A chart so long that even made very small it goes to two pages. Two pages of exceptions, rules and restrictions. I ask you, how many front line reps do you think understand ALL these rules. Then, once you get to some remote stations, how many understand the Skyteam rules that should apply as well? Ugg!

So what can we learn from this? Time to break it down and know this, as a rookie, you can have power over our airline. Medallions really don’t have as many concerns but there are times you run up against limits too so these ideas can help you as well.

  • Reps don’t know the rules. When you look at all the exceptions to the bag rules we can see why a rep may just be confused. You can print to a PDF a copy of the page and save it to your phone or tablet or just print it on paper and bring it along. Why? Once a rep digs in you will not win unless you can prove you are right! My Delta folks always tell me the BEST source for CORRECT information is Feel free to point that out to the front line reps!
  • Get to the airport early. If you are early, and have issues from the above point, you will not be stressed and in no rush to just pay and go! So, for so many reasons, why not get to the airport early!
  • Ask for a Red Coat (customer service specialists who have additional power). If you know you are right, ask for a supervisor or a Red Coat agent. The front line rep may back down rather than have a higher up show them up. The rep may say they are not available and they will make a one time exception for you. Who cares what they say to you as long as you get the bag free!
  • @DeltaAssist. This is another reason to get to the airport early. If you are having a disagreement over a bag fee you could real quick send a DM or direct message to @DeltaAssist and ask them to note the record that you should get the bag free (that is assuming you should). Then ask the front line rep to please check the notes in the record to see that you are, in fact, entitled to a free bag. If they still say no you now have a great “paper trail” when you complain on later for a refund and a ton of Skymiles for what happened to you!
  • Bring it carry-on! Ya know, you could just about bring a steamer trunk on-board a Delta jet. Delta is hopeless at enforcing the carry-on size  (but keep in mind they once in a blue moon do). But, at the gate I have never ever seen a gate agent say no if you then ask them if you can check this bag to your final destination.
  • Mega purse. Boy you want a fight on your hands then challenge a woman’s purse. Just not a good idea for an employee to do. Your purse can be amazingly big before any rep is going to talk to you (and a smaller personal purse can fit inside it).
  • Backpack! Just like your carry-on a backpack should fit in the size check box but most of the time if it is on your back you will get past check-in. Just like HUGE carry-on bags this is a way to get extra for free. Don’t want to bring it on-board? Once at the gate just ask if the gate agent could please check it to the final destination (for free).
  • Your personal item. You are allowed a carry-on and a personal item. Maybe a smaller backpack can be this personal item since most men don’t carry a purse. I am sure your laptop could fit in the backpack so it is your laptop bag. Either way, a big carry-on and big personal item and there may be no need to check a bag at all.
  • If you do have to pay to check a bag after all then max out weight. Your bag can weigh 50 lbs so rather than pay for two small bags bring and pay for one big one! Even if you have to buy a bag it may cost you less than the fee for the second bag and then you have the bag to use on other trips – right.
  • Bend the rules. I had a post about what things you can ask a rep to do for you. But even so, when it comes to bag fees, if the rep says free, it is free. If you have been a medallion in the past why not toss that out there. If your husband/wife is a Delta elite, but you are not toss that out there. If you are almost a Delta million miller toss that out there. If you can show you have been loyal to the airline maybe they will bend the rules for you (as they should IMO).
  • Jacket pockets. I touched on this last round too. If you can stand it, wear a ton of stuff and then pack a bunch of stuff “on you”. Scotty Vest stuff is a bit extreme to me, but it can be done.

All of these are ways to avoid adding to Delta’s fee piggy bank. Clearly, there is much less risk of being held to paying a fee if you just have a Delta AMEX card. I have a post HERE showing all the perks of having a Delta card like the Delta Platinum. The other options are the Membership Rewards Platinum card that will credit you up to $200 a year in fees for things like bags.

Another good idea is to have an empty duffel bag in say an outside pocket of your checked bag so if something happens and you are overweight you can move things. Keeping that in mind you should always weigh your bag before you go to the airport and I always stay 2 lbs short of the max weight because for some reason the airport scales always seem to weigh a little bit heavier in SBN (South Bend) than my scale at home 🙂

That is just about it I think. Clearly achieving any elite level with Delta will give you much more flexibility when it comes to bags. Make Gold Medallion or higher and bags are really not an issue for you anymore. Well almost never. There can be times when you want to fly with a lot of bags. Then, even as a medallion, you can apply some of these ideas on top of your free checked bags! – René

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Paid with my delta Gold biz card. However, used my Alaska Airlines frequent flier for crediting miles. No status. Should I have one free checked baggage for economy domestic travel?

    • @traveller – it does not matter who you are crediting your miles to. If you have a Delta AMEX card you get one bag free. You may have to show the front line rep you have the card so be sure to bring it (good idea anyway to always fly with the card you paid for the ticket with)!

  2. Use a fanny pack too. I place all of my credit cards, ID and cash in it. I also use it hold glasses, cell phone, hair brush and many other items. I have never been asked about it, they consider it a piece of clothing. So I still bring my other carry on items too. Used to fly Spirit occasionally and this even worked there.

    • @Kathryn – oohhhh I like this idea. Yes! There would always be room for one of those up in the overhead (ya just gotta remember to take it with you when you get off)! Thanks – Rene

  3. Haven’t really looked carefully at this rules in a very long time. I found this a little weird:

    Sport parachutes are accepted as carry-on baggage only.


  4. Rene – When I click on your link for the AMEX Delta gold card, I get directed to a page that only offers 10,000 bonus miles, due to already having other AMEX cards. Have you heard anything of that happening to others and is there a way around it to get the full bonus?

  5. I’m a big believer on checking my bags. Even with no status the delta Amex will get the job done . What I’m not a big fan of is the oversized bags people drag on board that eats all the overhead space. I’ll watch people throw multiple bags up and no one enforces the rules.

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  7. Hi,

    Does having a skymiles and buying my ticket with a delta card mean i have a silver membership?


    • @Charlotte – No. You must earn 25,000 MQMs and spend $2500 with Delta (base) or spend $25,000 on your Delta AMEX card.

      • Hi Rene, ok so how can i be a medallion or silver member. Can i use my dads membership?

        • @Charlotte – No you can not use Dads. You need to fly a BUNCH or get Delta AMEX cards and earn via spend.

          • charlotte

            gosh…i will have to pay
            for extra bags then. Thanks so much for your help.

  8. Another question…how do i get a 3rd bag free on an international delta flight?

  9. Pingback: Sunday Reader post: Fighting for a refund & Winning with Delta - Delta PointsDelta Points

  10. Question on combining perks: If I have a Delta AMEX card, and my classs of service / destination would entitle me to some number of free checked bags, are the benefits additive? Example: Say I’m flying First Class from USA to the Caribbean. I’m normally entitled to two free 70 lb bags. If I have a Delta AMEX, do I get my first (50 lb) bag free plus the two 70 lb bags? Or are all three free up to 70 lbs, since the AMEX perk says is, “subject to the weight and size restrictions of your cabin of travel”.

    Are the agents likely to know/understand this? Even the Delta baggage website isn’t entirely clear.

    • @Scott – Only stack-able for Silver Medallions who only get one by default!

  11. This is my first time purchasing or flying as an adult. I had so much trouble with a ticket and so much trouble getting a new one. In spent a whole day on the phone with delta people and basically nothing was resolved.
    Any way, I didn’t pay for any extras or blah this means I’d have to pay $25 to check a bag in? I sure hope that’s not true. I can’t understand what the ticket is telling me.

  12. I have a gold sky miles American Express. I booked an international flight for my family and it said our first checked bag is free which is fantastic. Two days later I booked a flight to California with my miles I have earned and it’s telling me our first checked bag will be $25.
    Is this because I am using miles to pay for the flight? If I show them my card at the airport should we get a free checked bag?

    • @Marisa – 1st bag is free even when on an award. Make sure your AMEX card is connected to your SkyMiles in MY DELTA. You may have to call Delta and yes if they want to bill just show card at check-in.

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