United Raises Checked Bag Fees

Filed Under: United

Update: United raised checked bag fees again in 2020.

A few days ago I wrote about how JetBlue raised many of their fees, including checked bag fees. Among other changes, they raised the cost of a first checked bag on a domestic itinerary from $25 to $30.

It’s interesting to see JetBlue be the first US airline to raise the cost of a checked bag from the standard $25, given that they’re otherwise not the most aggressive airline with fees. However, since they don’t have basic economy, I guess they figured they’d rather start by increasing fees in this way. Their stock isn’t doing well, so I imagine we’ll see a lot more fees from them in the coming months and years.

While the “big three” (American, Delta, and United) don’t typically follow JetBlue’s lead, I expected that they’d do so in this case. After all, when they’re not leading the race to the bottom, they’re following the race to the bottom.

United Airlines has announced today that they’ll be raising the cost of checked bags for tickets booked as of August 31, 2018. I guess it’s not a surprise that they’re announcing this on the Friday before a long weekend, where it will get the least negative press.

United is increasing the cost of checked bags for flights to/from North America, the Caribbean, and Central America. The details are as follows:

  • First checked bag fees are increasing to $30
  • Second checked bag fees within the US, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Caribbean, and Central America are increasing to $40
  • Second checked bags on flights to/from Canada will be $50

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of all of this is what United is telling employees to communicate to customers when they ask why baggage fees are going up:

“We just announced new baggage fees on August 31. This is actually the first time in eight years we are making an adjustment to some of our checked bag fees. Our hope is to reinvest in a more enjoyable and caring flight experience for you and all of our customers.

If you are concerned or have questions about a bag fee you have been charged, I can help confirm if the fee is correct.”

No, this isn’t just what United’s PR team is announcing, but this is what United is telling frontline agents to tell customers.

I really don’t understand airline executives. Does the person who wrote that script really think one — yes, even just a single — employee is going to say that?

“What, I thought checked bags are $25 and not $30?”
“No, it’s now $30. Our hope is to reinvest in a more enjoyable and caring inflight experience for you and all of our customers.”


Now it’s only a matter of time until American and Delta follow…

Are you surprised to see United raise checked bag fees?

(Tip of the hat to @BrianSumers)

  1. Honestly I think if airlines are going to raise fees, the least they can do is not insult their customers intelligence in the process. I mean does United honestly think that anyone is stupid enough to believe that baggage fees are supposed to benefit them in the long run?!?

  2. The customer gets hosed again in the name of corporate greed. To add insult to injury, they’re telling their people to give a ridiculous response when questioned.

  3. Every time we see an increase like this Southwest marketing team usually responds really well. Looking forward to Southwest throwing shade at the big three when the rest raise their prices.

  4. The excuses these airlines write for “enhancing” away benefits and raising fees are so much more insulting than the actual policies. I really cannot understand why any PR department would promote that tripe.

    As for Delta and American matching, well anyone with half a brain would NOT follow and would advertise “lowest baggge fees on any major airline” or sole such. So of course aA will follow – no leadership, no strategy, no ideas of their own. Maybe Delta won’t.

  5. Air Canada and West Jet also just increased their first checked bag to 30$ CAD, wehreas Porter remains unchanged.

  6. This line is as believable as the TSA’s “we’re sorry for the inconvenience but everything we are doing is to keep you safe.”

  7. What surprises me are (1) why would a second checked bag cost more than the first? You’d think you’d get a bit of a discount for volume, not get punished; (2) why do people check bags on a domestic route anyway?….

    The spin of the reinvestment sounds eerily like the “alternative facts” narrative, so if it works for the US government, why not for the airlines? I think the Germans in World War II were the first to really see the importance of language as important euphemisms, but I digress.

  8. “Our hope is to reinvest in a more enjoyable and caring inflight experience for you and all of our customers.”

    Bwahahahaha just laughed out loud. Thanks, Ben!

  9. If the airlines keep going down this path, Congress will change the rules and will start to charge the federal transportation tax on this and other fees that are currently not taxed. The fees are nothing more than an attempt to raise fares without raising fares. It’s going to catch up with them eventually.

  10. @Ray
    Unfortunately, it isn’t just Kirby… United is ruled by a clan of extreme underachievers from Embry-Riddle, aka the fraternity of low IQ airline executives, haha

  11. Yes, I would expect employees to say that. It’s mind numbingly obvious that they aren’t expected to parrot that off word for word, but to convey the idea.

    “This is the first time we’ve raised these fees for 8 years” immediately makes it more understandable as it implies inflation is responsible. “We’re reinvesting the money into a better customer experience” may not be particularly believable, but it will placate some and for those it doesn’t, nothing would.

    In the various jobs I’ve had, I’ve informed customers of MUCH higher increases using the same method and it works. Perhaps those of you calling United stupid etc need to look at yourselves first…

  12. @ Callum — Sure, the “first time in eight years” thing is a reasonable talking point, but if you think any United employee is going to say anything along the lines of “we’re reinvesting the money into a better customer experience,” then well…

  13. If you want to get pissed at someone it was:

    2008: American Airlines was the first legacy carrier to charge passengers a first checked-bag fee and the others quickly followed.

    It’s been downhill ever since. I promise you Delta and AA will match.

  14. Well what? When asked what the money is being spent on, and yes people do ask, you think they’ll say what exactly? “It’s lining the pockets of our shareholders”?

  15. I gave up on United (after decades of travel and hundreds of thousands of miles) when Southwest offered to match status. If we are going to be treated like (choose one or more) cattle, idiots, or chattel, at least give us fun flight attendants and free baggage.

  16. The tax cut will be reinvested in the economy to uplift the poor and you don’t snicker after hearing that stupid shit and you are whining about this?

    Every Republican asshole who complains should be punched in the face. This is how free markets work. It’s not your money it’s the airlines money. You just had it for safekeeping. Don’t fly united.

  17. @Boco – Umm the airlines do not want your second bag, actually they would prefer no bags. That 50Ibs of weight is worth more in cargo weight.

    @Mike – Congressmen or women probably sat at the dinner room table as Kirby checked off the new fees to screw humans.


    Honestly – When is everyone going to wake up to what is really going on?. These corporations are ANTI-HUMAN. I know this is hard for many to grasp, yet they still complain about what is basically anti-humanistic behaviour of these people. Wake up! Obviously conspiracies are not real (lol), the sheeple just call it greed and continue to beg for more! lol!!

  18. @Jordan – Umm the airlines don’t sell out cargo on every route. When they do, it is just oops, we forgot to load your bag and it is on the next flight. But I agree, cargo is worth to airline much more than bags.

    @Ray – I would say Kirby does a good job for shareholders. It just pisses off the flyers, thats all.
    @SQFirst – I don’t think Kirby is siding with that fraternity, if not he is getting rid of them soon.

  19. Will increased checked bag fees mean airlines will put more money into maintaining their aircraft. Last June I had a flight to DC cancelled because the generator was having problems. Three weeks ago our flight to Paris was delayed two hours because an engine was broken. The plane had been sitting at the gate since 1 pm but one hour before take off they decided to see if it was flight worthy. Seriously, it’s unusual to have a flight that is not delayed because of maintenance issues. Unfortunately the increased baggage fees will not go to improving maintenance but will flow straight into the pockets of shareholders like Warren Buffet.

  20. Meh, this doesn’t affect elites, premium cabin pax, or credit card holders. Those of you complaining about this fee don’t fall into the three groups mentioned, so the airlines don’t care what you think. Sorry.

  21. That statement is painful to read.
    I think what UA meant to say was: we are increasing the fee on you, so we can invest into the experience of premium cabin travelers and don’t have to take away their dinner, Saks pillows or champagne!
    United is segmenting their customers – some buy tickets solely on the base fare, regardless of the total cost including ancillary fees. That makes it a lot easier for UA to increase the fees than the fares!
    Some want a premium experience and throw a fit when the champagne is downgraded and this move allows UA to maintain those perks…

  22. @Stu you’re totally right. They don’t particularly care about you unless you fall into one of those three categories.

  23. This move is disappointing, as it will exacerbate the already chaotic boarding area/onboard experience. More people will bring bags that should be checked to the gate and onboard. Policies like this are implemented without looking at the unintended consequences. The passengers, gate agents and flight attendants deserve better than this. We have turned the flight experience into a negative rather than a positive one. Those at the top must know what issues these policies have created, but seem blinded by the dollar to put the bottom line before service.

  24. I still remember the days when checked bags were free. Is it just me, or was the boarding/deplaning experience so much nicer back then, because people were checking their bags rather than taking their rollerboard suitcases on the plane? I usually board first (thanks, Delta credit card) but deplaning is still deeply annoying.

    I also feel like this is turning into the same thing as hotel “amenity fees” – an extra fee that doesn’t show up on search engines. Granted, Google Flights lets you filter for overhead bin space and checked bags and includes that in the price, but the rest don’t.

  25. @Callum, that is what they should say. Because that is what it is. There is no reason for the shareholders and executives to be bathing in money the way they do. That is the point. It’s not like the extra $5 is going to go to paying the flight attendants when they step on the plane v. when the door closes. Right? Oh, and haven’t raised the prices in 8 years? That is a very placating line. Unless you take into account that they weren’t charging a dime before that. But you are correct. They are not stupid, just stupidly greedy. And we are stupid to keep flying them. But when each acts just like the other, there really is no choice.

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