Are Airline Checked Bags a Thing of the Past?

This post was inspired by an article by CBC: Afraid to check a bag? Canada’s missing baggage woes explained.

Are you afraid to check-in your bag at the airport as much as I am? Today, I would like to share my overall thoughts on checked bags.


But first, let’s go back in time regarding the history of checked bags.

Back in the day, basically prior to the turn of the century, airlines usually did not charge for checked bags. Furthermore, because travel was less common, many people who did go abroad would buy gifts for everyone back home. Guess what? They needed as much luggage space as possible.

At the turn of the century, major airlines started phasing in fees for checked bags. Starting with oversized and overweight bags. Then it eventually filtered down to any checked bags. Now, some airlines are even charging for carry-ons.

The idea is that passengers should pay for their fair share (i.e. pay for what they use). In a sense, there is an argument to be made that fair is fair!

What is happening now?

Over time, it seems as though packing habits have evolved due to the added fees. You can probably find tonnes of videos on YouTube and elsewhere with people showing how to pack compact and light. This way, we can avoid checking-in any luggage and move around with a carry-on only.

There are ways around the fees depending on the type of ticket you booked (e.g. long haul, Business, class, First class, etc.). There are also many co-branded airline credit cards that offer free checked bags.

Furthermore, if you have been following the news, airlines and airports have been in a fairly chaotic state of a late, so missing or lost bags has been quite common. Whether it has to do with more weather delays, staff shortages, you name it.

Basically, the days of all-inclusive, smooth sailing are over, so I believe that more thought is being put into packing light, as well as avoiding checked bags and fees, than ever before.

Personal Experience

For me, I had the old school mentality from the start. Whenever I travelled, I was more than happy to buy things that I could not get in Canada or things that are cheaper than here. I was one of those people who departed with a half empty luggage and came back with a full house.

All of that changed during a trip to Hawaii (see post about my luggage experience). Basically, I went to Hawaii with a half empty luggage, believing that I would load it up before coming back. Unfortunately, on the way to Hawaii, my luggage did not make it to my connecting flight. Long story short, it took 30 additional hours for my luggage to arrive. United Airlines did transport my luggage to my hotel on their dime. Unfortunately, we had a snorkelling outing booked the first day we were there, but had no bathing suit or change of clothes. United Airlines came through for us and gave us a $100 daily spending limit (total for 2 people) to purchase items to use for the day. We pretty much maxed out the $100 spending and received a cheque 10 weeks later.

I am more than happy with the outcome. I still have the bathing suit, flip flops and towel (all labelled Hawaii on them) from that $100 spending limit as a souvenir. So I do not regret what happened at all and would do it all over again. However, since that day, I never checked-in another bag.

By the way, yes, I did fill up my luggage before coming back!

My Strategy

Going forward, even with adding 2 kids to the family since Hawaii, I can confidently say that I do not plan to check-in any bags in the future. Even on road trips we pack everything into carry-ons only. As the kids get older, our plan is to just have more carry-ons. One per person, the kids can roll their own luggage.

Personally, I rather avoid the whole check-in process at the airport. Instead, I rather spend more time in the lounge during departure, and more time at my destination on arrival. Not to mention bypassing the risk of having delayed or lost bags. And yes, even a free checked bag option is not going to change my mind…

What are your thoughts on checked bags? Please let us know in the comment section below! 


  1. My question to the airlines really is why it seems so difficult for them to track and pinpont where a passenger’s bags are.

    Every bag is tagged with a barcode. In this day an age where one can track a parcel as it moves across the globe, why is it so difficult for airlines to tell you where your bag is, if it is delayed? With the numerous stories of lost bags and waylaid bags and with people tracking their own bags using Airtags, can someone explain to me why the airlines seem so archaic when it comes to bag-tracking technology? I’ve had delayed bags in the past and whenever I go to the baggage claim counter, the agents there seem to have no up to date information as to exactly where my bag might be.

    1. That is a great question Ken. With so much advancements in technology, it should be getting easier to track bags. Feels like we are going backwards in time.

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