It started with Delta. Continental, United, and US Airways followed quickly. Delta, Continental, and United will now charge $25 and $35 for the first and second bags checked for travel within the United States. If travelers check their bags in online then the price drops minutely to $23 and $32 for each respective bag, a $5 total savings. With these companies banding together, other airlines are inevitably going to follow suit and raise their prices.
Checking bags started as a way to make traveling easier, especially on crowded flights. In the past few years, tighter regulations about liquids and limited carry-ons have forced more people to check bags. Now with expensive fees for each bag, travelers can anticipate other passengers maximizing their two carry-ons.
What does this mean? Travelers should expect added time to boarding and de-boarding planes. If you are one of the last to board, understand that overhead space could reach capacity, forcing you to check bags at the gate. Even with added fees and inconveniences to passengers, airlines do not guarantee the arrival of your luggage because of decreased baggage employees both at the gate and baggage claim.
US Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported $740 million in the third quarter of 2009 in baggage fees. And that was before the recent increase.
On the other side of the airline spectrum, Southwest and JetBlue remain committed to superior service without extra fees. Southwest passengers are allowed two free checked bags, while JetBlue only charges for the second checked bag. While some complain that Southwest and JetBlue have raised ticket prices, there have not been any significant increases or absurdly high extra fees. In fact many airline industry experts believe that if it were not for models like Southwest, these fees would be even more astronomical than they are now.
The best advice for travelers right now is to pack lightly in regulation-sized carry-on or put an identifiable marker on your luggage to ensure a secure and speedy baggage claim process.bag