Saying they’d lose money without the fees, the country’s major airlines collected $3.4 billion in baggage check fees last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The fees are typically $25 each way for the first piece of checked luggage.

They also charged $2.3 billion to change reservations, down about 3% from 2009.

The agency has not yet calculated other miscellaneous airline costs for 2010, such as charges for in-flight food and beverages and in-flight Wi-Fi services.

Delta Air Lines collected the most in baggage fees, $952 million, followed by combined United/Continental at $655 million, American Airlines with $580 million and U.S. Airways at $513 million. Airlines began charging baggage fees when the recession hit in 2008 and demand, particularly among business travelers, dropped significantly.

While demand has picked up and ticket prices are back on the rise, airlines now say the added fees are needed to offset high fuel prices. In other words, the fees are not going away.

“If it weren’t for the fees, the airlines would most likely be losing money,” Jim Corridore, airline analyst with Standard & Poor’s, told the Associated Press.

Read more here.

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