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Travelers furious over American Airlines' plans to charge $15 fee for one checked bag
By Carol Pucci

Seattle Times



An American Airlines employee scans baggage Wednesday at San Francisco International Airport. Starting June 15, American will charge $15 for the first checked bag for many passengers. Industry watchers expect other major U.S. airlines to follow American's lead.
Related

Steamed travelers sound off
Your thoughts about charging for luggage?
What you'll pay

$15
American Airlines' charge to check a bag, one way

$25

Many major carriers, including American, charge this to check a second bag, one way

$50-plus

Many major carriers' charge to check an overweight bag
Carry-on rules

IF YOU PLAN TO FLY with only a carry-on bag, be aware that:
Airlines allow one carry-on bag (generally no bigger than 9 inches high, 14 inches wide and 22 inches long 45 linear inches and weighing no more than 40 pounds) plus one personal item, such as a purse, briefcase or laptop computer.

Liquids of no more than 3 ounces can be carried on board but must be packed separately in a quart-sized clear zip-top bag, and removed from your carry-on for security inspection. Larger amounts must go in checked bags. For rules on what can be carried aboard, see www.tsa.gov/travelers
First went the free meals, pillows, blankets and peanuts. Then came the extra fees for booking over the phone, flying your pet and checking a second bag.

Now, for the first time, a major U.S. airline says it will begin charging many passengers to check even one bag, a move that's angered customers amid predictions that it will spread to other carriers and cause havoc during the peak summer-travel season.

Hit hard with record-high fuel costs and an aging, gas-guzzling fleet, American Airlines, the nation's largest carrier, said Wednesday it will begin charging some domestic economy-class passengers $15 each way for the first checked bag.

Last month, American, which flies about 5 percent of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport's passengers, announced it would join other major carriers (except Southwest) in charging $25 for second bags checked by domestic coach passengers who are not premium members of their frequent-flier programs.

"Frankly, I expect the other Big Six carriers [United, Delta, Continental, US Airways, Northwest] to match American's move with lightning speed," Joe Brancatelli said in an e-mail message he sent to subscribers of Joesentme.com, a newsletter he publishes for business travelers. "And, frankly, I expect absolute chaos at ticket counters around the nation."

He's not alone in that. Fliers unhappy with American's move are posting on blogs and other sites around the country, making the same predictions.

Customers such as Brian Jones, 29, a Seattle network engineer who flies five or six times a year, expressed frustration.

Jones said he and a friend each had to pay American Airlines $25 for checking a second bag on the way home from Los Angeles recently after a Mexican cruise.

"They wouldn't give you the ticket unless you paid right there ... Now they want to charge you $15 for the first bag. That's ridiculous. I'll switch airlines."

A spokesman for Seattle-based Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air, which carries nearly half the passengers traveling through Sea-Tac, said the airline has no plans to charge for a first checked bag.

Delta also said it had no plans to follow American's lead, but United said it is considering it. As fuel costs go higher, airlines say they have fewer and fewer choices when it comes to new sources of revenue.

"They're going to do everything possible to change the way people travel in every possible way," said Susan Foster, a Portland.-based author of "Smart Packing for Today's Traveler."

"Some European carriers charge for every bag. ... I think the U.S. airlines are watching that very closely ... and they're following them in small steps. Our days are numbered."

American said its new policy means customers who purchase economy-class tickets before June 15 may check one bag for free and a second bag for $25 each way. Customers who buy tickets on or after June 15 will be charged $15 each way for the first checked bag and $25 for the second.

The fees won't apply to those traveling on full-fare coach or business-class tickets, international travelers and passengers who hold premium status in the frequent-flier program.

American said it would not charge to check a car seat or stroller if a parent is traveling with a child, but other baggage charges would apply. Details are posted on the airline's Web site at www.aa.com.

Millions affected

Unlike the second-bag fee, which affected a small number of travelers, a huge percentage of travelers check one bag, Brancatelli noted.

He predicted that if other carriers go along with American's policy, many will try to slim down carry-on weight (40 pounds or less). That could translate into longer waits at security checkpoints where carry-ons are inspected.

And that could just be the start of the problems.

"Aircraft have limited storage area, so this will overload the carry-on bin capacity and produce major 'bin rage' as competition accelerates for this space," Foster predicted. "Anticipate delays," she said, if bags have to be taken off the plane and checked at the gate before takeoff.

Airlines around the world have been hit hard by skyrocketing jet fuel prices, which have climbed 80 percent in the last year.

"Our company and industry simply cannot afford to sit by hoping for industry and market conditions to improve," Gerard Arpey, chairman and chief executive of American and its parent AMR, told company shareholders at their annual meeting Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Major U.S. airlines face liquidation should capacity cuts and fare increases fail to cover rising fuel costs, the chief of an industry trade group said.

Oil at $130 a barrel "is simply a number around which we cannot survive," James May, president of the Air Transport Association, told reporters in Washington. "It will inevitably lead to failures in the business."
mmbcross
My first reaction is..why the bloody hell don't they just raise the airfares? Everybody else has raised prices. On second thoughts, the idea of charging for luggage is not such a bad idea. Raising airfares punishes us all. Charging for luggage just punishes those that carry more weight, hence cause the airlines to use more fuel. I rarely check a bag unless I'm going on a protracted stay, so the idea seems fair to me. Note they do not charge on international flights. Nevertheless, the airlines will have to get their thing together in regards payment. I can just image the pandemonium at check-in. Can you pay in advance online for your checked luggage?

We have all got used to paying for our food on the plane, we will just have to get used to paying for our luggage.

Hopefully the next thing they will think of will be giving us a discount for wearing less clothing on board.

Ah! How about a pay by weight system. Anyone over 180 lbs pays $ 0.10 per pound per mile surcharge. Fatties pay more than skinnies. Everyone weighs in when they check in. It only seems fair, doesn't it? It will also encourage my suggestion above of wearing less!
wakingdream
Travelers furious? Sorry, but I pretty much laugh at the idiocy of it all.

What do people think, that airlines and transport companies are just going to suck up the cost of fuel and we'll enjoy paying the same prices? We're seeing this kind of thing all the time, only it seems when it's right in your face that people get mad. Hello. Do these people come from this planet? Getting a fridge delivered? Or a new sofa sent over? It will cost you quite a bit more than before. Goods we're buying are more b/c of the rising cost of transportation. I'd say $15 per bag is a pretty good deal! Most people need to learn to scale back what they travel with anyway. Back to that need/want scenario again. Furious. laugh.gif Oh geez.
starlagurl
Hahaha, yeah, you know what else is not a big deal? Packing light enough that you can carry your bags on!

Who wants to lose their bags anyway? I have been taking my bag on carryon for a few years now, since they lost my bag on my way to the Bahamas *cry*

Never again will I be wearing polar fleece in the Caribbean! I now pack everything I need in my carryon!

Screw that noise.

The next trip I went on was a 10 day trip to St. Martin and I packed everything in one carryon.

*gives the airline baggage handlers the fist* I stuck it to the MAN that time, and also, had a very easy time carrying my stuff around.
kitkatgo
FYI,

I just got an email from American Airlines, the extra charge for checked baggage only applies to domestic economy tickets. (That's what it says, so I can only assume they mean it doesn't apply for international--shrug). But anyway, it also does not apply for Gold level members and above.
mmbcross
Hey everyone! We have royalty in our midst. Kit is a Gold Level AA member. If you have an extra suitcase on your next domestic American flight, just drop her a line and she will use her influence to get it though at reduced cost. Cheers!
starlagurl
I still think it's sad though...
kitkatgo
QUOTE(mmbcross @ May 28 2008, 05:15 PM) *

Hey everyone! We have royalty in our midst. Kit is a Gold Level AA member. If you have an extra suitcase on your next domestic American flight, just drop her a line and she will use her influence to get it though at reduced cost. Cheers!


Royalty...funny, Martin. All I get out of Gold is a quicker line and now free checked bags. Woo hoo. rolleyes.gif

But you can call me Queen Kitkat now if you want. queen.png It does have a nice ring to it...

wink.png
sianeth
Yeah, Ryanair and Easyjet and all the no frills airlines flying across Europe brought this in a while back... my first reaction was SCAM!

I'm definately in favour of the shove everything in hand luggage option, or alternatively - wear as many clothes as possible on the flight - does anyone else find it absolutely freezing when they whack on the air con?!
starlagurl
OMG Sian you're awesome. I'm crying laughing.
sianeth
So do you think I should do it on my next flight and upload a picture?! Fight back against the system - woo!
starlagurl
Yes! OMG, I will pee my pants if you do that.
kitkatgo
QUOTE(sianeth @ May 29 2008, 01:18 PM) *

So do you think I should do it on my next flight and upload a picture?! Fight back against the system - woo!


You go girl!

And I DO want to see a picture. lol That would be hilarious!

We could even have a little game...Guess How Many Pieces of Clothing Sian is Wearing.

rofl.png
starlagurl
Yeah, and I'll post a picture of my peed-in pants!
kitkatgo
sick.png
starlagurl
I couldn't help it.
kitkatgo
It's ok, we still love you. wub.gif

starlagurl
Even though I pee my pants???
mmbcross
I have just been quoted a fare from Miami to London. The actual air fare is US$ 255.00. The taxes and fees are US$ 654.03. Totally ludicrous. That's 255% over the published fare. How come travellers are accepting this lamentable state of affair?
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