I’ve heard the reports but wanted to hear it from United Airlines directly. As a frequent flier, I rarely check luggage, but when I do it’s usually two pieces. Paying an extra 25 bucks each trip — for about 10 trips a year — could make a dent in my travel budget.
I got United’s customer service on the phone, and the American English-speaking agent confirmed that it’s true: United will charge passengers on domestic flights (meaning the US and Canada) $25 for a second bag for each leg of a trip. In other words, checking two bags on both the outbound and return flight will incur the fee twice, for a total of $50. The fee goes into effect May 5th, and bags are limited to 50 pounds each. You may think twice about bringing t-shirts in every color on your next vacation in Hawaii.
Hungry for revenue, the other major airlines will most likely follow. The less-for-more approach seems to be an increasing trend. I understand that major airlines are staring down sky-high fuel prices, but can’t they tack on a few bucks to the fare to cover it? The same logic applies to the “buy on board” program. Why not just add $5 to the ticket price and make sure there are enough turkey sandwiches to go around?
However, travelers are not entirely vulnerable to these nickel-and-dime tactics. There are several possible ways to skirt the fee.
- Pack more in one bag without exceeding the 50-pound weight limit;
- Pack more carry-on luggage;
- Have a fellow elite traveler check the second bag (this would violate airport security rules);
- Have a fellow traveler whose bag is under weight pack more in their bag (this would also violate airport security rules);
- Bring a bag that exceeds carry-on limits to the gate and check it there;
- Book a refundable ticket (the limit is only on non-refundable tickets).
But my favorite way to skirt the fee is to become a frequent flier member. A second bag will remain free for elite members of United’s MileagePlus program, meaning people who fly 25,000 miles per year or more. Consolidating air travel onto one airline has many benefits, and a free second bag is now the newest on the list.