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United Airlines, Matching Its Competition, Hikes Checked Bag Fees

What’s the point of having “competition” among airlines if they all raise prices in lockstep?

Perhaps United Airlines believed that it could minimize news coverage of the deed by announcing it on a Friday. But we caught it: The airline has hiked baggage fees for all flights in North America, from $35 to $40.

That’s for one bag. If passengers need to check a second bag, United jacked up the price of that, too, to $45 in advance online and $50 at the airport.

The surcharge kicks in almost immediately. It will affect all tickets purchased from Saturday, February 24, 2024 on.

United Airlines is also extra sneaky about disclosing its standard bag fees in plain English on its website. Instead of listing those baggage fees for airfare shoppers, it forces customers to input specific flights into a baggage calculator form to retrieve a result.

Customers can save $5 (and obtain yesterday’s price) if they pay for checked bags at least 24 hours before a flight. If travelers forget or wait until they arrive at the airport to pay for a bag, the discount offer is null and void.

Earlier this week, American Airlines raised its own fee for a single checked bag to precisely the same amount: $40. 

JetBlue also recently hiked its bag fee, to $45. 

Alaska Airlines, which is not considered one of the major legacy carriers, pumped its own first-bag fee to $30 in January, making it a relative bargain.

Like most airlines, United also grants free bags to some passengers with special status such as higher-tier loyalty. 

As of this writing, Delta Air Lines, which is considered one of the Big Three airlines, is still charging $30 for the first bag. The smart thing would to do would be to hold the fee there so it could claim to offer a better product than its competition. After all, Southwest Airlines is famous for charging no checked bag fees.

What do you want to bet that Delta won’t do that?