Travel Hack: Save On Baggage Fees With a Media Pass

If you’re a content creator, you probably know all too well the joys of trying to lug all your equipment with you on an airplane!

Baggage fees are expensive, and when you add in things like laptops, cameras, drones, hard drives, etc., you can end up using your entire luggage allowance just on equipment to do your job — forget about any clothing or toiletries!

However, there's a travel hack I use to get around paying outrageous fees for carrying my gear with me on flights: a media pass.

Did you know many airlines offer media discounts or fee exemptions for equipment as luggage? Don't worry, I read the fine print on this money-saving hack so you don't have to.

Erika Taught Me

  • You can get reduced rates of around $50 per bag for overweight bags if you're media.
  • Each airline has its own rules for how to apply for media baggage rates.
  • You can create your own media pass if you're a self-employed content creator.

. . .

How Media Baggage Rates Work

Most U.S. airlines charge baggage fees of around $30 to $60 per bag — but these bags typically must be under 50 pounds. If you go over that, you could be paying anywhere from another $30 to $300 per bag, each way, depending on the airline and your destination.

Media baggage rates, on the other hand, are usually a flat rate of around $50 per bag — but the difference is you get a weight limit of up to 100 pounds. And you can often bring as many as 25 bags with you. (Although 25 bags at $50 each is still a lot of money, so don’t bring your entire studio if you don’t need it!)

So, if your bag is under 50 pounds, you may not need the media rate at all. But if you’re lugging a lot of extra weight or extra bags with you, getting media approval could save you serious cash.

How To Access a Media Baggage Rate

Each airline has its own policy for how you’ll get approved as media — so you might have to do some digging to hack the system. Some require you to submit your request several days in advance, while others will just ask you to show your credentials at check-in.

You should be able to find out whether an airline offers a media baggage rate on the airline’s website. It's usually lumped in with the sections on sporting equipment or unusual baggage. If you can't find it, contact the airline directly.

They may also have specific rules about what type of media is eligible. Some airlines say that you must be a film or TV company representative, while others don’t give any specifics at all.

If you're taking any connecting flights with different airlines, you'll also want to check that all the carriers you're traveling with will recognize your credentials.

You'll definitely want to reach out to the airline ahead of time and find out what allowances they make for media, rather than be denied last minute with an extra 150 pounds worth of equipment and charged a ton of extra money.

RELATED: Baggage Delay Insurance: How It Works

How To Get a Media Pass

No matter whether you apply in advance or at check-in, you’ll need to prove you work in the media industry. If you work for a company, you probably have a branded media pass or a business card that shows your title and employer.

If you belong to any kind of professional organization, like a media association or union, you may also be able to get a media or press pass through them.

Now, if you’re a content creator who works for yourself (like me!), things may get a bit dicier. There’s no hard and fast rule as to who an airline will consider to be media — so be prepared to provide proof that you have a legitimate content business.

It can be hard to prove your content creation business isn't just a hobby to the airline, so that's why we created a downloadable media pass template. It's completely free! Just customize it with your name, business name, and industry.

Media pass template
Download a PDF version that you can edit

U.S. Airlines That Offer Reduced Media Baggage Rates

When it comes to media rates, no one rule applies to all airlines. Each one has its own rates and own criteria.

Here's how the most popular carriers in the U.S. compare.

Source: AA.com

. . .

American Airlines

  • Rate per bag: $60 domestic; $90 international
  • Maximum weight: 100 lbs

With American Airlines, you can get a special rate and increased baggage allowance for equipment such as cameras, film, lighting, sound equipment, and musical instruments.

For domestic flights within the U.S., you’ll be charged $60 per bag, and you won’t have to worry about any fees for overweight or oversized bags.

American Airlines normally charges bag fees of $30 and up, depending on your destination — but that's only for bags under 50 lbs. Anything over that and American Airlines charges anywhere from $30 to $450 on top of that, depending on where you’re flying to and how many pounds you’re over by. That can result in hundreds of dollars in extra fees fast!

To prove your eligibility, you’ll need to present company-issued identification or a business card and your government-issued photo ID.

Source: Delta.com

. . .

Delta Air Lines

  • Rate per bag: $50 for domestic; $70 for international
  • Maximum weight: 100 lbs

Delta will let you bring camera, film, video, lighting, and sound equipment as baggage for a reduced rate, provided you’re a representative of a television or commercial film-making company.

The reduced media rate is a flat rate of $50 per bag on domestic flights within the U.S., or $70 for international flights. Bags must be under 100 pounds — however, if you’re flying to, from, or through Europe, South Africa, or the UAE, your bag can be no more than 70 pounds.

Delta’s normal baggage rate is $35 for the first bag and $45 for the second, assuming both are under 50 pounds. But for additional bags or anything over the weight limit, you’d owe anywhere from $150 to $285 per bag, depending on your destination.

To use this travel hack on Delta, you’ll need to show your media credentials when you check in. Or, if you don’t want to risk a last-minute denial, you can also submit your credentials via email at least 24 hours before departure.

Source: jetBlue.com

. . .

jetBlue

  • Rate per bag: $50
  • Maximum weight: 99 lbs

jetBlue will allow you to bring camera, film, video, lighting, and sound equipment if you’re representing a television network or film-making company. However, they do note that this is subject to space availability.

Approved media reps will pay a flat fee of $50 per checked bag each way, up to 99 pounds.

The normal charge tops $150 for oversized or overweight bags (on top of its usual bag fees, which start at $35 for North America and $60 for transatlantic).

One thing worth noting is that even as a member of the media, you still won’t be allowed a carry-on if you book Blue Basic. If you want a carry-on bag in addition to your checked luggage, you’ll still need to book one of the higher-tier fares. We can't hack our way out of that one yet.

Another downside is that jetBlue has a long list of routes that are ineligible for media bag fares, including New York to Bermuda, Palm Springs to New York, and Fort Lauderdale to Lima. You'll need to check the jetBlue website for the full list of excluded routes.

To access the media rate, you’ll need to fill out jetBlue’s media submission form and email it at least three business days before your flight. You’ll also need to include a scanned image of your company ID or media credentials.

Source: Southwest.com

. . .

Southwest Airlines

  • Rate per bag: $75
  • Maximum weight: 100 lbs

Southwest is like a unicorn in the airline industry, since it doesn’t charge for your first or even your second checked bag (assuming both are under 50 pounds). But if you’re carrying a lot of equipment with you, you may need more bags or more weight.

While the fee for a third checked bag would normally be $125 per bag, it’s reduced to $75 per item for media camera equipment — that saves you 50 bucks right there!

Plus, you don’t have to worry about any overweight fees on your media bags — which would normally cost you an additional $100 to $125. Just remember that each bag can’t be over 100 pounds.

Source: United.com

. . .

United Airlines

  • Rate per bag: $50 within North America; $70 outside North America
  • Maximum weight: 99.9 lbs per bag

On United, you can travel with a media bag at a flat rate of $50 within North America and $70 internationally.

United’s baggage rates vary depending on your destination, but you can expect to pay around $40 for a first bag under 50 pounds, and $100 to $200 per bag for overweight bags.

To prove your eligibility, you’ll need to show your media credentials and clearly label all your media equipment cases with your company’s information.

TL;DR

If you travel with a lot of heavy equipment, like cameras and computers, you can hack your way to a reduced rate on all that luggage.

Most airlines have media rates for travelers like us. You just need to show your credentials with a media ID (use our handy media pass template to create your own!) and you could save hundreds of dollars on your next flight.

I Read the Fine Print

Want to learn more ways to beat the system through the fine print? Follow me on TikTokInstagram, and YouTube! That's where I share all my best fine print hacks and updates.

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

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Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.