From May 5 both United and US Airways will begin charging some economy class domestic passengers when they check in more than one piece of baggage.
At present domestic passengers are allowed to check in two pieces (each weighing a maximum of 23 kg) free of charge. But from May 5, an extra fee of US$25 will be levied for each extra piece.
The carriers say the move reflects the soaring cost of fuel (because more weight means their planes burn more fuel) and the hope is that this move will encourage passengers to pack more lightly.
It also reflects the increased costs of having to reunite passengers with lost and delayed baggage. Trade body IATA reckons mishandled baggage costs the world’s airlines US$3 billion. And interviewed in the trade magazine Air Transport World, Catherine Mayer, VP airport services for SITA (the firm providing the airline tracking systems) says, “It’s estimated 30 million bags are mishandled annually, a figure that is rising.”
But a United spokesman was keen to stress that “the new fees apply only to passengers booking the cheaper non-refundable economy class fares. Passengers holding full fare, premium class or who are high ranking loyalty cardholders either with United or other Star alliance carriers will still keep their two-piece allowance.”
What about international transatlantic passengers? These passengers, even when booked in economy class, are entitled to two piece of checked luggage for the transatlantic sector. Says United, “If they make a direct connection from an international to a domestic service (or vice versa) they will not be liable to pay the fee for the second piece.
The big question is when will the others follow suit?
Report by Alex McWhirter