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Airlines Collected Record Baggage Fees In 2012

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MIAMI - JUNE 12:  Passengers wait to check in with their baggage at the United Airlines counter at the Miami International Airport June 12, 2008 in Miami, Florida. United Airlines announced it will begin charging many passengers $15 to check in their first bag on top of the $25 fee for a second bag that is already in place. The airline industry is trying to off set the high cost of fuel with new fees.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Passengers wait to check in with their baggage at the United Airlines counter at the Miami International Airport June 12, 2008. United became one of the first airlines to charge customers for their 1st checked bag. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – U.S. airlines collected more than $6 billion in baggage and reservation change fees from passengers last year — the highest amount since the fees became common five years ago.

These fees, along with charges for boarding early or picking prime seats, have helped return the industry to profitability.

Airlines started charging for a first checked suitcase in 2008 and the fees have climbed since. Airlines typically charge $25 each way for the first checked bag, $35 for the second bag and then various extra amounts for overweight or oversized bags.

In November, discount carrier Spirit Airlines introduced a fee structure that requires customers pay as much as $100 for carry-on bags paid for at the boarding gate.

The nation’s 15 largest carriers collected a combined $3.5 billion in bag fees in 2012, up 3.8 percent from 2011, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Reservation change fees totaled $2.6 billion, up 7.3 percent.

Travel industry officials complain that the complex fee structures have made it difficult for travelers to know the true price of air fares, especially when purchased online. Federal regulators have considered forcing airlines to reveal prices for baggage and other fees to online sellers like Orbitz and Expedia.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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