New Baggage Charges Sweep Airline Industry

In about a month, all but the most frequent flyers with United, US Airways and Delta will need to break out their credit cards at check-in and slap down an additional $25 each way if they plan on checking a second piece of luggage.

Citing the rising cost of jet fuel – which has jumped 49% in the last 12 months – United, the nation's second largest air carrier, was the first to announce this plan, which it will implement on May 5th. United expects to offset nearly $100 million in costs per year. After hearing this news and seeing the lack of impact it had on ticket sales for United, US Airways and then Delta quickly followed suit with similar policies to take effect in early May (see full policy information below).
Photo Courtesy Le Point
Hundreds of thousands of skiers and snowboarders fly the friendly skies each year to sample the snow of distant resorts, generally with their gear and clothes in two pieces of checked luggage. Consumers are very price sensitive to the cost of airline tickets, and while these charges won't be directly listed when travelers are shopping for flights, they may become a factor in their decisions of where to travel and what to bring.

"United is one of the leading air transportation providers to skiers and recreational tourists coming to Colorado," writes Rob Perlman, President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, in a letter to United Airlines. "On behalf of the tourism and ski industries of Colorado, I strongly suggest that the transport of recreational equipment as separate pieces of luggage be exempt from the policy and not subject to the fee." The only response from the airline was a form letter thanking them for the contact. None of the airlines responded to repeated contacts from Transworld Business.

"This new charge may encourage more people to hold onto their old skis or boards and just rent newer gear when they go on vacation," says Rick Kahl, editor of Ski Area Management magazine. "That trend has been underway at destination areas for several years, and this gives folks one more reason to join it. It’s not the cost that has been driving the trend, it’s the hassle. And that, combined with the added cost, will probably fortify the trend."

It is widely believed that other airlines will follow suit if these new policies do not affect ticket sales. Stay tuned to Transworld Business for an in-depth look at industry experts' responses to this change and their thoughts on how it will change the snowboard industry.

Photo Courtesy Delta

Delta Airlines

Delta will begin charging $25 for a second checked bag for passengers traveling on or after May 1st. This fee applies to all domestic Delta flights.

Those travelers who are members of Delta’s frequent-flier program and who log at least 25,000 qualifying miles of travel per year, as well as first and business class passengers, will still be allowed to check up to three bags at no additional charge on Delta and Delta Connection-operated flights only.

US Airways

Beginning May 5, 2008, US Airways will begin assessing a $25 fee for a passenger's second checked bag each way. Travelers who purchased tickets on or before February 26, 2008 are exempt from this policy change.

Customers may check one bag for free and a second bag for a $25 service fee each way. Oversized bags or those weighing more than 50 lbs. now start at $50 per bag each way and increase depending on weight and the number of bags. This policy applies to all flights within the U.S., to and from Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.

The checked bag fee does not apply to:

* All Dividend Miles Preferred members (Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Chairman's Preferred)
* Confirmed First Class and Envoy passengers at time of check-in
* Star Alliance Silver and Gold status members
* Active military personnel in uniform with ID
* Unaccompanied minors
* Passengers checking personal assistive devices

United Airlines

United's new checked bag policy applies to tickets purchased on or after February 4, 2008, for travel beginning on May 5, 2008. require special handling also have new prices.

For customers who have at least Premier status in Mileage Plus or Silver status with Star Alliance, there are no changes to the number of bags they can check for free.

This new checked bag policy also applies to travel beginning within the U.S. and to/from Canada, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Thomas.

For international flights (except Canada), checking a second bag will continue to be free and the cost to check more bags or bags that are overweight or need special handling varies by destination.

As Transworld Business works to follow this new policy and its affect on the snow sports industry,  feedback from readers would be helpful and greatly appreciated. Let us know what you think in our Snow Forum.