United Airlines Increases Checked Bag Fees (Again)

Filed Under: United

United Airlines is always quick to match negative changes from competitors, and this is no exception.

United raising checked bag fees to $35

United Airlines is increasing checked bag fees for flights within North America, and flights to the Caribbean and Central America:

  • The first checked bag will go from costing $30 to costing $35
  • The second checked bag will go from costing $40 to costing $45 ($50 on flights to & from Canada)

Do note that:

  • This applies for travel as of March 6, 2020
  • These increases don’t apply to tickets purchased prior to February 21, 2020
  • If you pre-pay for your bags online before check-in, then this price increase won’t apply to you
  • MileagePlus Premier customers, and those with an eligible United MileagePlus credit card, continue to receive complimentary checked bags

Presumably the reason the price increase doesn’t apply if purchasing prior to check-in is twofold:

  • The transaction costs are less if you’re paying online, rather than taking up the time of an airline agent, paying in person, etc.
  • Some people will buy more bags than they end up needing

United raised checked bag fees in 2018

This is the second time in 18 months that United is raising checked bag fees. In August 2018 the airline increased checked bag fees — at the time the price of the first checked bag increased from $25 to $30.

A few weeks ago JetBlue announced that they’d raise checked bag fees from $30 to $35 (and wouldn’t apply the increase to bags purchased in advance), so United is exactly matching JetBlue here.

United eliminating bag sizers at gates

Typically when airlines raise checked bag fees, the result is that more people try to travel exclusively with carry-ons.

That’s why it’s worth noting that just recently United decided to eliminate bag sizers at gates. I’m referring to those things at the gate that you’ll sometimes be asked to place your bag in, if a gate agent suspects your bag is too big.

With these having been eliminated at United gates, gate agents are told to exercise their best judgment in deciding whether a carry-on is the right size or not.

Personally this decision seems counterproductive to me, and I imagine we’re going to see more people try to carry-on big bags.

Bottom line

It’s not surprising to see United follow JetBlue’s lead with increased checked bag fees. The US airlines love following one another when it comes to negative developments, and if anything, I’m surprised it took United a few weeks to follow.

I suspect we’ll see American follow soon as well, and probably Delta as well.

On the plus side, at least there’s a way to avoid the price increase by purchasing your bag in advance.

What do you make of United increasing checked bag fees?

  1. At least United lets you pay for bags in advance. American does not, last I checked. It’s annoying when booking flights for others in my company, if I want to cover the entire cost on my card. Have to check them in myself to pay the bag fees. Would rather pay this far in advance.

  2. Thanks Jetblue.

    Ironically, for my personal travel, this only hurts Jetblue. I have a Untied CC, so my bags fly free. That being said, I prefer Jetblue over United and will pick them even if theyre a few dollars more expensive, after accounting for bags.

    But now with the change, it will get harder to say no to the United flight.

  3. My guess (and it’s just that) it took United a few weeks to make the technology work of different prices online vs. at the airport

  4. Might as well Make it $100 straight. I’ll carry on everything and gate check it for free. This is getting out of hand. Now every other airline will follow. Forget seat selection. That’s another $200.

  5. Southwest is fine until they bring back the flying coffins AKA 737 Max. There is no way in hell I’m flying Southwest after that for atleast 2 years.

  6. Remember that airlines don’t pay FAA and other taxes on checked luggage , seat selection etc fees. It is pure profit for them. If they can reduce the airfare by $10 and increase checked luggage fee by $10 , they actually make a profit increase.
    On the passenger side , if they would reduce the fare by $10 , than tax would be less to pay for customers also and would be advantageous for the customer. But again, good luck with that.
    Luckily, the biggest carry on is the size of the opening of the xray machine.
    Im a bit interested how they calculate total weight of luggages. If people decide to bring everything as carry on, There is no known weight unlike checked luggage. I know they get an educated guess with passenger weight, but now they are guessing luggage weight too.

  7. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a major reason why commercial airlines incentivize passengers to check their baggage ahead of time online to better calculate how much room they’ll have for freight cargo? Most passengers know ahead of time if they’ll be checking baggage, so it seems like airlines have a clear motivation to increase the transparency of this information. Not saying that I am happy with the increase…

  8. Wall street: “We noticed that we’re potentially going to be hit hard once Covid-19 spreads. The travel industry globally is going south, especially to APAC countries. If it spreads to the US, we’re going to see dramatically reduced domestic travel.”

    United: (slurring) “WATHC THIS!”

  9. Another deception from corporate America! How surprising?!… When are people going to rebel and expose the very greed that is destroying this country?

  10. It would be interesting to see internal data on the increase of branded airline credit card applications in the month following a checked bag fee increase. Surely those on the fence as to whether it was “worth it” to pay the annual fee will decide, yes, it is…. Especially when faced with a 40% cost increase over just 18 months.
    One of the ugly downsides will be even more people with “credit card priority” getting on the plane early. I pity the poor coach traveler without status, exit row or credit card priveleges at boarding time now. Eighty percent or more of the plane will be in their seats by the time they’re allow on. 😉

  11. Ok it’s already very worse with people bringing 3 (large) bags on board on domestic USA flights. I cannot understand that United is not enforcing this. It not only delays the boarding process, but it also creates aggression. How many times my backpack (with fragile stuff) is crushed by someone trying to fit there obvious to large bag in the overhead bin… I lost count.

    I like United only even when you fly first you need to get in line at the gate very early to get some overhead bin space. Mainly due to lots of people boarding before first class. Also, I notice people just put the bag in the overhead bin at first class and just continue on to get seated in economy. Actually those things make me hate flying domestic US.

  12. @Eric.
    It is frustrating but the airlines only have themselves and their greed to blame here. You charge more- customers will automatically swing toward lower cost options.

    Also, I’m very against this complicated by-zone boarding. It should be by ROW, from rear aircraft to forward (indeed this used to be the case). It’s also more democratic that way because one half of the plane gets to board before the other (guaranteeing overhead space), the other gets to disembark first (saving time).

  13. The last time I needed to travel with a lot of luggage on a short-haul, I bought first class for the same price as three heavy checked bags would’ve cost. At 70 or 80 bucks for two bags, United domestic first is becoming a checked-luggage play.

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