If you’re flying somewhere soon, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news: Several airlines have raised their luggage fees. The good news: You can avoid new airline baggage fees — by wearing the right jacket.
That’s right, a jacket.
Consider what will happen when Linh Tran boards a flight this fall. Tran, an entrepreneur from Atlanta, packs one less bag thanks to his mid-weight jacket made by Scottevest.
“On a multi-week trip, I can fly with only a carry-on and what I’m wearing on my body,” he says.
With fall just around the corner, a lot of air travelers are asking themselves: How do I avoid new airline baggage fees? The latest lightweight and midweight jackets, ideal for the cooler weather, offer a way to circumvent the airline industry’s latest money grab.
And it’s a big money grab, at least according to the readers of my consumer advocacy site. In August, JetBlue Airways raised baggage fees to an industry high of $30 for the first checked piece of luggage, as my colleague Grant Martin reported. Air Canada, United Airlines, and Westjet followed suit.
So which jackets can help you avoid new airline baggage fees?
Tran’s favorite Scottevest model is the Tropiformer, a lightweight jacket that can fold into a carrying case in your back pocket. The body and sleeves are made of breathable and water-resistant fabric. When you remove the sleeves, the back of the vest is a fine mesh.
“I know where everything goes,” he says. “I specifically carry an iPhone, iPad, wireless earphones, passport, cash, ID, extra batteries, and charging cables every time I step on the plane, in the exact same location on my Scottevest gear. Sometimes I even put my laptop in it.”
No kidding. The jacket holds his laptop.
Janis Clark, who co-owns a travel company called Friends on the Fly, says her RFID Travel Vest saves more than luggage fees. It saves her time, too — particularly getting through the TSA screening area.
“Now, instead of fumbling in the line while impatient travelers watch, we remove our loaded Scottevests, blithely place them in the bin and rock our way through security — quickly, easily, unhampered – unless we’re slowed down by that unvested person in front of us who’s still fumbling,” she says.
Eddie Bauer has a travel-specific line called Travex that might allow you to avoid new airline baggage fees, too. The mid-weight Atlas Stretch Hooded Jacket is all about the pockets — all eight of them. They’re made with Eddie Bauer’s exclusive TripZip pocket to secure your travel essentials. The material has two-way stretch qualities for maximum mobility and comfort.
“It’s my go-to travel day jacket,” says photographer Brendan van Son. “It has pocket space to stuff my phone, passport, boarding passes, train tickets, or whatever I need. And, it’s versatile. In travel, there’s nothing quite as important as versatility.”
The Eddie Bauer Atlas Stretch Hooded Jacket is for travelers who prefer a more traditional jacket but want generous pockets and 2018 performance. An Eddie Bauer representative told me the Atlas can reduce luggage by eliminating the need for multiple jackets, thanks to its flexibility.
Mammut’s new Seon Coat is a three-in-one multifunctional coat with a removable synthetic-fiber jacket and is also billed as a way to avoid new airline baggage fees. This is the jacket you bring for serious weather. The coat’s outer jacket relies on a three-layer Gore-Tex material that’s suitable for heavy rain. Synthetic Ajungilak filling keeps you warm when you are strolling through the city on cold days. You can adjust the coat as needed with the detachable hood that doubles as a pillow. The manufacturer modestly calls this “an organized person’s dream coat.” The Seon has pockets that can carry a day’s worth of luggage, maybe a weekend if you’re a creative packer. And that’s probably enough to foil the airline luggage gods.
Sitka’s Lowland Jacket specially designed for travelers, is also worth a look if you want to avoid new airline baggage fees. Like all of the jackets I’ve reviewed here, it looks like a regular jacket. But the Lowland Jacket offers the avid traveler lightweight durability, warmth, and weather resistance with clean and simple style — and it delivers. The company incorporated designs from its hunting line into these new jackets, adding an internal zippered pocket, a zippered chest pocket, and zippered hand pockets. And you know what all those pockets mean, don’t you? More room for you to take what would have otherwise gone into your luggage (and for which you would have paid dearly).
For travelers, the Coalatree Camper Hooded Jacket also offers a solution for anyone who wants to cut their carry-on. Although it’s a puffy jacket, it’s lightweight and it retains 93% of warmth when wet. It also has six thoughtfully designed pockets for gloves, headphones, passports, plus interior side pouch for larger items. It’s hypoallergenic and naturally allergen-free, and also made with recycled materials. The Camper Hooded Jacket is also water and spill resistant, so you don’t have to worry about those rushed coffee-spilling-filled travel mornings.
What jackets should really do
Of course, jackets were not really meant to be used to avoid new airline baggage fees. We should choose them for comfort and aesthetics, not capacity to carry contraband onto the plane. The fact that the airline industry is making passengers use jackets in this way says a lot about the state of air travel in 2018. And it’s not positive.
Oddly, the airline that started all of this, JetBlue Airways, suggests passengers should be grateful for its higher luggage fees. After all, airlines didn’t raise their fares. But the passengers who are buying jackets this fall with the idea of packing fewer bags don’t seem thankful for their predicament.
I don’t know anyone who is.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.