- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Packing light is going to pay off on at least one major carrier: United Airlines plans to charge most passengers $25 to haul a second checked bag.

UAL Corp., parent of the world’s second-largest airline, said yesterday it expects the new charge to generate more than $100 million a year. That is a significant stream of revenue for an industry facing rising fuel costs and a seemingly never-ending contrail of low-cost competitors.

About 25 percent of passengers check a second bag, said John Tague, United’s executive vice president and chief revenue officer.

“With this new policy, customers who check extra bags may continue to do so for a service fee, which enables us to offer competitive fares to everyone,” Mr. Tague said.

Passengers who book a nonrefundable, domestic economy-class ticket will have to pay the new fee — unless they have accrued 25,000 miles in United’s frequent-flier plan. The charge is scheduled to go into effect May 5 for tickets purchased yesterday and thereafter.

United probably won’t be the only airline to charge a fee for second bags, according to one analyst. Airlines are always searching for more creative ways to bring in revenue instead of just raising fares.

David Stempler, president of the Airline Travelers Association, a Washington passenger rights organization, said he expects other airlines to follow suit.

“So many of the large airlines are struggling with this baggage issue,” Mr. Stempler said, adding that when one airline reduced the baggage weight limit from 75 to 50 pounds, others followed suit.

He called the latest surcharge “the price passengers have to pay for considering only low fares” when choosing an airline.

Fliers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport yesterday were not happy about United’s new baggage policy.

“If they are going to make me pay extra to check my bags, I might just look elsewhere to airlines that won’t charge for that,” said Chance Bell, 22, a student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

“It depends on the type of trip, whether business or personal, but I would definitely consider flying with another airline if it meant cheaper travel,” said Laura Anderson, a traveler from Denver.

Delta Air Lines said yesterday it had no plans to alter its baggage policy. American Airlines declined to comment. Last week, Southwest Airlines Co. began charging customers $25 to check a third bag.

Many airlines also have imposed fuel surcharges on passengers in recent weeks. Most major carriers have instituted a $20 surcharge, while some — including Delta and Continental airlines — have doubled it to $40, according to FareCompare.com.

The United baggage policy will apply on domestic flights and those going to Canada; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

United will charge all customers $100 per bag for up to four additional bags after the second bag. Shipping large, overweight or fragile packages will cost either $100 or $200.

FINE PRINT

United Airlines’ plan to charge a $25 fee for a second checked bag affects customers who:

•Book domestic flights

•Purchase nonrefundable economy-class tickets

•Have fewer than 25,000 miles in United’s frequent-flier program

Source: United Airlines

VANISHING ACT

Airlines have been taking perks away from passengers to save money.

Northwest charges $1 for a bag of nuts.

American charges $2 for a bottle of water.

SkyBus charges $2 for a soda.

Continental and Delta charge $1 to $2 for headsets.

Some airlines charge $2 per bag for curbside check-in.

United charges $5 for a snack box.

Allegiant and Air Canada charge $2 for a pillow and a blanket.

United and Northwest charge $15 to $25 for window and aisle seats.

Some airlines charge between $5 and $45 to make a reservation by phone.

Some airlines charge $75 to cash in frequent-flier miles without advance notice.

Some airlines charge between as much as $85 to bring a pet aboard.

Source: The airlines

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