Thursday, June 12, 2008

United Airlines up the ante on checked luggage

Following American Airline's lead earlier this year, United Airlines has announced two changes to its domestic checked-bag policy. The service fee to check one bag for domestic travel will be $15 each way, the second bag will cost you $25 each way and the fee to check three or more bags, overweight bags or items that require special handling will increase from $100 to $125 and from $200 to $250, depending on the item.
United said the changes apply to customers who purchase a ticket on or after June 13, for travel within the U.S. and to & from Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on or after August 18. The $15 service fee does not apply to customers who are flying in United First or United Business or who have premier status with United or any Star Alliance airline. Details on United's checked bag policy are available at

The airlines are blaming high fuel prices to pursue new revenue opportunities, but are afraid to raise the airfares, so instead they are adding surcharges, which amounts to the same thing at the end of the day (for the passenger). The airlines think they are continuing to offer competitive air fares trying to beat each other's lowest fares, thus only beating themselves into bankruptcy. I think it's time to re-regulate the airlines and the entire transportation system in the US, which includes air traffic control and train service for short distances.

United estimates that the new $15 service fee will bring them approximately $275 million a year. How are they going to collect this fee? Everyone will bring more luggage onboard and fill the overhead bins quickly. When those are full, where do the rest of the stuff go? Can you imagine the delays this will cause as the flight attendants will have to collect this fee and check the extra bags brought onboard. Will they charge for early boarding next?

For itineraries that include international flights (except Canada), checking a first and second bag will continue to be free for now, and the cost to check more than two bags or items that are overweight or require special handling varies by destination.