A Billion in Baggage Fees

RENO, Nev. - U.S. airlines have reported a $1.7 billion profit in the first 6 months of 2012. That's thanks to lower fuel prices and rising baggage fees.

The fees were first implemented in 2008, and have continually risen. ranging from $25 to $50. Costs increase for overweight or oversized bags.

Passengers say the $1.7 billion profit proves the fees are no longer necessary.

"They don't really make a lot of sense anymore," Zach Spencer, a Reno resident, said. "I understand when there's higher fuel prices then there are higher ticket prices, but to continue the bag fees really doesn't make a lot of sense."

But industry professionals say without the fees, airlines would not make a profit.

"What people don't realize is those baggage fees are helping keep the airlines afloat right now," Brian Kulpen, spokesperson for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport said.

Baggage fees helped a struggling American Airlines post more than $288 million in profits.

The company though is still battling bankruptcy and labor disputes. American's parent company filed for bankruptcy protection in November. It is now trying to cut annual labor spending by about $1 billion through layoffs, reduced benefits and other changes.

The airline industry is still coming back from a decade of bankruptcies and mergers, but one company is making a profit off not charging.

"I think we shouldn't be paying baggage fees and we fly Southwest because we don't pay baggage fees," Janet Milknaitis, a Kansas resident flying through Reno said.

About 54% of all passengers flying in and out of Reno fly on Southwest. They are the only airline here with a policy of 'Bags Fly free' and travelers say its made their experience more comfortable.

"When you start adding baggage fees you start getting a lot of people who do carry-ons and you get these oversized bags," Elaine Barkdull-Spencer, a Reno resident said.

The baggage fees have become just as much a part of flying as the TSA.

As fuel prices increased, so has airfare. The fees were introduced because passengers showed a reluctance to book tickets if the base fare is too high.