White water rafting on the Sarapiqui River
White water rafting on the Sarapiqui River

I decided to try to make heads or tails of the U.S. airlines charging $25 for the first checked in bag to Central American countries like Costa Rica. I limited my investigation to the U.S. airlines, American, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest and United with travel starting from U.S. airports.

I started my research by pulling up the American Airlines main web page and clicked one of the top icons, Travel Information. On the next page, I clicked on the option for baggage followed up by a click on See our checked baggage policies. I was directed to the next page, where I clicked on Find out which countries are included in each region… which lists the countries in Central America that I could be expected to be charged this first baggage fee of $25.00 fee. The noted countries are the seven which comprise Central America, including: Belize; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Nicaragua; and Panama.

To verify this website information, I  attempted to make an airline reservation to the Central American country, Costa Rica. When I reached the final step before being required to present my credit card, under the quoted price of xxx.xx, there is an option to check if my selected trip would obligate me to pay a $25.00 charge. It was confirmed that I would be charged the $25.00 fee.


But on this page, I discovered data which differs from the original page that I had just finished reviewing which indicates that those traveling to five out of the seven countries are NOT required to pay the $25.00 fee for the first checked bag. So, while you are asked to cough up the $25.00 fee when flying to the Central American countries of Belize and Costa Rica, this fee is waived for El Salvador; Guatemala; the 2 airports in Honduras; Nicaragua; and Panama.


The page displays:  (AS OF 4/8/14)

Regions Main Cabin Business Class First Class Notes
Within and between U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands $25* Complimentary Complimentary
Between Canada and U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands $25* Complimentary Complimentary
Between Mexico, Caribbean, Central America and U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada
Or between Mexico, Caribbean and Central America
$25* Complimentary Complimentary Fee does not apply for: BJX, GDL, MEX, MTY, CAP, PAP, POS, SDQ, STI, KIN, GUA, MGA, PTY, SAL, SAP, TGU

'It's $50 for the extra bag, $20 for a reassuring smile and $30 for a ‘have a nice flight.''This same page advertises the following for CITI Advantage cards (note the aster-ix):

“Earn 40,000 bonus miles, up to $100 in statement credits, and your first checked bag is free*!”

NOTE: The qualifying American Airline’s credit cards do not allow for the waiving of fees for the first checked bag for travel to Belize and Costa Rica of Central America. These cities are not itemized on a list as presented below.This explains why a fellow passenger was surprised by a debit of $25.00 on her CITI Advantage Gold card for her one checked bag on American Airlines.

(The AAdvantage Gold cc link to the list And when traveling to these destinations)

The list: (American Airline’s competitors do NOT charge this fee for Costa Rica and Belize when using one of their qualifying credit cards)

'The charges are correct, sir. The airline now charges for emotional baggage as well.'

United Airlines (Baggage Fees updated sometime around  9/18/14.)

I continued my research by checking on the United Airlines website. On their home page, at the top, there is the icon, Travel information where you can click on the words, baggage information. On the next page, you can click on the words, “checked baggage.” On the final page, there is a calculator enabling you to  input any flight data to determine the baggage fees.

There is no list with details for all baggage fees on one page from the U.S. to Central American airports, similar to what Delta and American Airlines provide. But by using the calculator for the different countries, I was able to determine that there are no first checked baggage fees from the U.S. to the following Central American countries(exactly the same as American Airlines): GUA Guatemala; PTY Panama City;  SAP San Pedro Sula; Honduras; TGU Tegucigalpa, Honduras; MGA Managua; SAL El Salvador.

By imputing the flight information of a U.S. city to BZE Belize or SJO San Jose, Costa Rica, I was able to figure out that I would have to pay $25.00 for the first checked-in bag. By using this calculator with the same flight details, I was able key in that I would be paying with a United qualifying credit card to verify that this first baggage fee would be waived as per their rules:

Check up to two bags at no charge

MileagePlus® Club Card member and one companion on the same reservation are each eligible for waiver of service charges for first and second checked bags (within specified size and weight limits). Must be a MileagePlus Club Card member at time of check-in, and ticket(s) must have been purchased using the Card in order to qualify. Applies only on United- and United Express-operated flights, and when baggage check-in occurs with United.

I was able to also locate this calculator on the price quote page before making a payment by clicking on the phrase, Additional baggage charges may apply.

Costa Rica's sea turtles
Sea  turtles

 Delta Airlines (May, 27, 2015)

I started this research by clicking on the icon at the top of the home page, Traveling With Us. There is a pull down menu with the option of clicking on baggage. Then on the next page there is a Related Links menu on the top right which includes the term: checked baggage. When you click on this term, the next page will detail all their baggage fee rules along with the same exceptions for Central America that American and United Airlines listed which one can find by scrolling down their page. Based on their data, I would have to pay the $25.00 fee for one checked in bag on my trip to Belize or Costa Rica from Florida.  It appears that I would not be charged for my one checked bag to Costa Rica with a qualifying Delta credit card; however, I was not able confirm this by making a reservation unless I actually paid with my qualifying Delta card.

Delta Airlines does not charge for the first checked bag to the following Central American airports:

First bag fee does not apply in the following markets if traveling to/from the United States and Canada or within Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean:

Mexico – MEX, GDL, MTY, BJX

Dominican Republic/Haiti – SDQ, STI, PAP

Central America – GUA, SAP, TGU, MGA, PTY, SAL (Guatemala; two Honduras airports; Managua, Nicaragua; Panama and El Salvador.)  Delta passengers are required to pay the $25.00 first checked baggage fee to two out of seven Central American countries, Belize and Costa Rica.)


The following refers to Delta’s rules regarding using their American Express card to have them waive this $25.00 fee:

Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express Baggage Benefit

At the time of check in with Delta for a Delta-operated flight (including Delta Connection), our passengers who hold a Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express – Gold, Platinum, or Reserve – will be allowed to check their first bag for free. The benefit is subject to the weight and size restrictions of your cabin of travel. The benefit extends to up to 8 travel companions on the Cardholder’s reservation for a total of 9 passengers.

Bag Allowance by Credit Card



SkyMiles Credit Cardmembers from American Express
See Terms & Conditions

1 50-lb bag

First Bag Free*

*The benefit applies to up to 9 people traveling in the eligible member’s reservation.

NOTE: ***Both the highly rated low cost carriers JetBlue and Southwest are expanding their routes to include the markets of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean without charging for any checked baggage fees for any international destinations.***

As of the Spring of 2015, Jet Blue has flights to Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Mexico, Saint Maarten, Puerto Rico, Peru, Trinidad, Tobago and Quito.

COSTA RICA Keel_billed_toucan_costa_rica
Visit Costa Rica

After the merger with Air Tran, Southwest has added service to Aruba , Cancún, Mexico City, Mexico, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Nassau, Bahamas, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and San José del Cabo, Mexico ).

This blog was updated on 7/27/16. American Airlines are increasing their baggage fees again. There are now baggage fees for all destinations in Central America and Mexico. See the below link for information.

Related Article:

American Adds More Checked Bag Fees On International Flights … – $25 first checked bag fee now applies to all of Mexico, Central America, … to find new ways to extract more $$…