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United Airlines Luggage Policy

Overweight BaggageUnited Airlines has a new, “simplified” checked bag policy for customers using nonrefundable domestic economy tickets. As of May 2008, customers traveling on nonrefundable domestic economy tickets will be charged $25 for checking a second bag. Rules differ for passengers who have Premier status or higher in the Mileage Plus or Star Alliance program, who will still be allowed two checked bags free of charge.

For all customers, the cost to check up to four additional bags will be $100 per bag. This is a new streamlined system, where before charges ranged from $85-$125 per bag. So you may be paying a little more or a little less than you would have previously. Items requiring special handling (large, overweight or fragile) will now be either $100 or $200, depending on the item.

“This change enables us to continue offering customers competitive fares, and it fits with our overall strategy to tailor our products and services around what our customers value most and are willing to pay for, as we have with our popular Economy Plus seating,” said John Tague, executive vice president and chief revenue officer. “Our customer research shows that only about one in four customers check a second bag, and 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.”

United estimates that this change will generate more than $100 million annually for the company in cost savings and new revenue. That’s an interesting figure when the airline claims only one in four customers currently check a second bag. If you do the math (disregarding the changes in overweight baggage or third or fourth bags), that means 4 million customers per year would have to be assessed the extra fee to make up that $100 million. That’s a lot of people shelling out their hard earned dough, especially when they can fly on other large, American air carriers without the extra charge.

This new checked bag policy applies for travel beginning on May 5, 2008, within the U.S. and to/from Canada, San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. If you purchased your ticket before February 4, 2008, you will not be charged the fee. You can pay at any airport Easy Check-In kiosk with a credit card or at the check-in counter with a credit card, check or cash.

For itineraries that include international flights (except Canada), checking a second bag will continue to be free and the cost to check more than two bags or items that are overweight or require special handling varies by destination.

What do I think will happen? I think travelers will continue to check one enormous bag for free. They will then lug a second gigantic bag to the gate that is obviously too large for the overhead bin and gate check it. If they overworked gate agents aren’t checking, they’ll be able to sneak on that second bag for free.

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