Friday, May 2, 2008

Airlines Now Charge You to Check Bags

Starting next week, airline passengers will pay extra to check their bags. This is a kind of green travel -- it is the airlines taking more green out of our travel pockets.

Instead of raising ticket prices, airlines are raising the cost of taking a second suitcase. Starting Monday, May 5, it will cost you $25 to check a second bag on these airlines:
  • United, Delta, Continental, US Airways, Northwest
  • American (starts Monday May 12)

If you are traveling next week, expect extra congestion and extra tension at the check-in counters as unsuspecting travelers get hit with excess baggage charges.

Why are the airlines doing this? To help cover their increased fuel costs, which are enormous. And, by discouraging us from traveling with two bags, the airlines also are cutting the weight of their planes, which will help squeeze a few more miles out of each gallon of jet fuel.

The $25 charge for a second bag does not apply to everybody -- only to the passengers in the cheap seats -- kiss your discounted economy fare goodbye. Full-fare economy, business and first class passengers are not being hit with the $25 excess baggage charge. Ditto, members of an airline's frequent flyer club.

The rules are pretty complicated. Check your airline's website for updated information. But don't expect much information.

American Airlines has a teeny tiny box tab on its baggage allowance website page that says 'important updates" that's easy to miss. And I couldn't find anything at all about the new baggage charges on the United or Continental websites.

That's just plain dumb and asking for trouble. I pity the poor airline check-in personnel next week. They are in for a lot of abuse that's not their fault.

Bad enough the airlines are dumping $25 baggage charges on us. It is shameful they are not informing us better. So much for friendly skies!

Learn to travel light. Check one large bag instead of two smaller ones. But remember to keep that one large bag to 50 lbs. or less, since you also will be charged for excess baggage for any bag that weighs more than 50 lbs.

Or, just stick to carry-on. Then you won't have to worry about being the owner of one of the one-billion (yes, billion with a 'b') bags that are delayed worldwide each year.