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Pay check-in baggage fees now

June 24, 2009

Fed up with airline fees? Well, brace for more. As if charging $15 to check a bag weren’t enough, US Airways and United beginning this summer are asking passengers for $5 more if they pay their baggage fees at the check-in counter. (You can avoid the $5 fee if you pay your baggage fee from home. The airlines call it the “online discount.”)

Rather than raise ticket fares in the middle of a recession, airlines are piling on fees to make money — fees for bags, fees to get through the line faster, even fees for certain seats.

United Airlines alone expects to rake in more than $1 billion this year in fees ranging from baggage to accelerated frequent-flier awards. That’s more than 5 percent of its revenue.

That revenue stream is causing airlines to become more creative, each watching the other to determine whether passengers accept the fees or revolt. As recently as last year, most fliers came across a fee only if they checked three bags or sent a minor child across the country. Most people, most of the time, traveled fee-free.

But that began to change last spring. Spiking jet fuel prices and passenger resistances to higher fares started airlines looking around the cabin for things they could charge extra for. Passengers are finding it’s a lot easier for the airlines to add the fees than to take them away.



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