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United Raises Checked Baggage Fees Unless You Prepay Online

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United Airlines increased its checked baggage fees from $30 for the first bag to $35, exempting passengers from the price increase if they prepay for baggage online.

It's identical to JetBlue's baggage fee hike last month. And it means it's likely only a matter of time before other major airlines like Delta, American, and Alaska follow suit.

United's higher baggage fees kick in for travel on or after March 6, 2020. Any flights booked before United's Feb. 21 announcement will pay the previous United Airlines baggage fees.

The higher fees apply to flights within the U.S. as well as Mexico and the Caribbean, according to USA Today – higher fees may apply on many longer flights. Just as with JetBlue, fees for a second checked bag with United are increasing from $40 to $45.

United passengers can avoid baggage fees altogether by holding co-branded credit cards like the United Explorer Card. You and one companion booked on your reservation can check a bag each way for free. But unlike other credit cards with baggage benefits, you have to actually pay for your flight with your United credit card. 


What It Means For Baggage

It's happening again.

JetBlue set off the most recent industry-wide baggage fee hike back in 2018, when it was the first of the major U.S. airlines to increase fees from $25 to $30. Within the following month, nearly all of its competitors followed suit: DeltaAmerican, United, and Alaska all increased. Southwest is the only major airline to give its passengers two free checked bags on every ticket.

With JetBlue and now United raising fees again, it's safe to assume this will spread nationwide.

Why? Because airlines love making more money. And baggage fees are a proven money-maker. Airlines raked in nearly $5 billion in 2018 on baggage fees alone.


Chart, line chart


JetBlue's first move to increase baggage fees again gives cover for its competitors to do the same. United is following suit, and it's only a matter of time before Delta, American, and the rest do the same.


Bottom Line

Welcome to the new world of higher baggage fees. While you can avoid this increase by paying ahead online, many travelers won't know that. So this is nothing but a fee hike, plain and simple. And unfortunately, it's spreading fast to the rest of the U.S. airlines.


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