Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

US Air follows United with $25 fee for second bag

We all knew this was coming. Today, US Air announced that it's following United's lead in charging $25 each way for a second checked bag on all its flights, beginning May 5 (with a few exceptions that don't apply to most passengers). Like dominos, more U.S. carriers are sure to fall in step with this new rule.

When United first announced its rule change a few weeks ago, I debated its fairness via email and in the online travel communities. Interestingly, reaction is mixed amongst travelers. Some applaud the new rule, thinking (naively, in my opinion) that it'll force people to pack better and bring less stuff with them. Others (like me) don't believe the airlines' claim that the change is due to rising fuel costs, and think it's just another way for them to make a buck. Why not give travelers checking only one (or no) bag a $25 discount as incentive to pack light, instead of charging those who check a second bag?

My biggest objection is that it's going to make the boarding process more hellish than it already is. People will try to avoid the extra fee by carrying on bigger bags and more stuff than they already do. Consequently, we'll have to wait even longer for people to stow all their personal items, and overhead compartment space will be ever harder to come by.

This rule also discriminates against parents and certain recreational travelers. People traveling with children are more likely to need to travel with more luggage, and travelers going on golf, ski or scuba vacations have no choice but to check a second bag to carry their sporting gear.

Finally, it just seems like a misguided effort to solve the weight/fuel issue. The fairest solution would be to give every traveler a base weight allowance, with fees applicable for anyone exceeding those allowances. When you get to the airport to check in, you place your carry-on bags, your checked luggage and YOURSELF on the scale.

With a base allowance of 300 pounds, for example, Traveler A—a small woman who weighs 120 pounds—can check two 50-pound suitcases and take a couple of heavy carry-ons, and still stay far under the allowance. Traveler B, a 250-pound ex-linebacker, can check one 40-pound suitcase and have 10 pounds left for carry-ons without paying extra. Traveler C, an obese 340-pound person, will have to pay extra even without checking or carrying on any bags.

Sure, this proposal is not politically correct, but I challenge anyone to tell me it isn't fair. Under US Air's and United's new rule, my slim girlfriend who checks two bags will be penalized for extra weight, while a 300-pound person who checks one bag will not. Which person adds more total net weight to the aircraft's load?

If you feel like I do, voice your objections to US Air and United now. Then start flying another airline.

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Blogger Gonzo DNA said...

A sound proposal, Mr. Strickland. Of course, I, too, am skinny, so naturally I agree.

February 27, 2008 4:01 PM  

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