Much like darkness after sunset or rain after clouds, the reaction was predictable and the mention of two small denomination coins - nickels and dimes – was inevitable after United Airlines said the other say that it would start charging people in the cheap seats to check a second bag. Some were alienated, and one flyer told a discussion group that the policy would doubtless hurt those who could least afford it and that it was “kind of like the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.” She did not suggest a federal baggage-fee subsidy, however. Someone you know and (we hope) like, can be heard discussing the reaction here. United revenue officers think that this sort of 'unbundling' of airline services is the wave of the future, but, they say, in the words of airline official Kevin Knight, “We don’t really know what to sell to our customers” when it comes to ancillary charges. Food on board may be a no-brainer, but, Knight mused, what more?
United isn’t the first to try this approach: Ryanair started this a la carte pricing, Air Canada made it central to their pricing policy and here in the US of A, Spirit Airlines, Allegiant and Skybus have picked up on the theme. With fuel prices refusing to behave themselves, even Southwest Airlines has gotten a little less generous with free space in the bellies of its planes; the other week, the discounter began charging for a third checked bag.
United said that its new policy will apply to people buying the cheapest non-refundable tickets; elite-level members of its loyalty plan, those at Premier or higher in Mileage Plus, or those with Star Alliance Silver status can check a second bag for free; others pay $25 for the second bag, while up to four additional bags will cost $100 a bag. United will allow people on international flights to check two bags. United officials said in a webcast that they expect as much as $100 million in additional revenues this year from the new fees. The policy starts May 5 and between now and then United will be manning the barricades to see if other carriers match it and if the public is really as revolting as feared.