United Increases Checked Bag Fees

In Europe, some airlines, such as Aer Lingus, BA, Ryanair and BMI seem to think of checked bag fees as just another revenue stream. However, in the US, the carriers are much more careful not to deviate from the norm. So news of a price hike to United baggage fees has come as somewhat of a surprise. While it’s a tiny increase, US airlines should beware. Checked baggage fees are not something to be tweaked and adjusted. Passengers want to know, instinctively, what a bag should cost. So just why have United decided to gamble their reputation in this game? Let’s find out what they have to say for themselves.

The checked bag fees game

A couple of days ago, LLC JetBlue announced they would raise their fees on checked bags from $25 to $30. This made the airline the first in the US to break out of the $25 pack. After a small stock drop, JetBlue obviously needs to raise revenue and rather than let it be known its tickets will increase, decided to go the checked bag route instead.

And while United is not an LLC, the big three in the US – American, Delta, and United are in many ways in competition not just with themselves but with the East coast economy flyer. All of them are scrambling after cash just as the LLCs do. All three all look to one another and wonder what the next step is.

Changes to checked bag fees United

So it just so happens that United has come first out of the gate with this move. Last Friday, it announced it’d be raising the cost of checked bags for all flight tickets going forward. I imagine they let this news drop just before the weekend hoping to fly under the radar, but that hasn’t happened. Here’s what we know about the new United checked bag fees:

  • The fee hike will affect all flights to/from North America, the Caribbean, and Central America
  • It will immediately affect all flights booked after the Friday announcement
  • First checked bag fees will increase to $30
  • Second checked bag fees within the US, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Caribbean, and Central America will increase to $40
  • Second checked bags on flights to/from Canada will increase to $50

I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering – a $5 per passenger fee hike – really what’s the point? If you added $10 on to my return flight to LAX, I probably wouldn’t notice. But seeing $30 where I’m used to seeing $25 is glaringly obvious.

United B789
United B787 Photo: Boeing

The company released a statement for customer facing employees to use in the event of the likely backlash. So if you ask about it while booking, this is what you’ll hear.

“We just announced new baggage fees on August 31. This is actually the first time in eight years we are making an adjustment to some of our checked bag fees. Our hope is to reinvest in a more enjoyable and caring flight experience for you and all of our customers.”

Excuse me for saying it, but I expect they’ll need that extra $5 per person just to deal with extra calls and from customers wanting to vent their frustration at luggage drops. Also, when luggage prices rise more people think twice. Do I really need a full sized shower gel? Probably not. But where United go, Delta and American are sure to follow. So stay tuned for news of their baggage fee rises, expected any day now.