Airlines' bag fees weigh down customers

Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:40am EDT
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By Kyle Peterson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. airlines are slowly ratcheting up their bag-check fees, like US Airways Group Inc did on Wednesday, but analysts warn that carriers risk alienating customers with excessive fees.

US Airways said that on domestic flights it would charge $20 to check a single bag and $30 to check a second bag. The carrier said it also would charge $50 to check a second bag on its transatlantic flights.

Late Wednesday, Continental Airlines Inc also unveiled plans to charge some economy ticket holders $50 for a second checked bag on transatlantic flights. Travelers who buy nonrefundable or discounted fares are among those who would be subject to the fee, a company spokeswoman said.

The airline said the fee does not apply to elite members of the airline's frequent-flier program, those traveling on full- fare economy tickets and other groups.

The fees are consistent with those implemented by rival airlines such as AMR Corp's American Airlines, which added a fee last week for a second bag check on some international routes.

Airlines view the new fees as fair and necessary to bolster revenue as the industry grapples with weak demand and volatile fuel prices. But for many travelers on long, extended trips, the charges, while technically optional, are unavoidable.

"Airlines are fighting for scraps here. These are penny ante policies that often catch consumers by surprise," said Joe Schwieterman, transportation expert at DePaul University in Chicago. "It's made traveling with two bags punitive for many flyers."

The airline industry, facing losses that have threatened the survival of many carriers in the last few years, have begun unbundling items and services that used to be included in the ticket price.   Continued...

<p>An airport employee keeps an eye on luggage after a computer glitch crippled the baggage handling system at the American Airlines' Terminal 8 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport July 30, 2008. REUTERS/Joshua Lott</p>