Gary Leff reports United increasing their checked baggage fees.  This move, which hurts the customer experience, is so United can “…continue investing in the overall customer experience,” according to a United comment.  The charge for the first checked bag increases from $25 to $30 and second bag to $40 on domestic flights (even more for flights out of the country).

Yes, that’s right.  United cares so much about the customer experience that they’re announcing a baggage fee increase the Friday before Labor Day (when news media won’t cover it) with no warning, effective for tickets purchased today going forward.  Is that a great customer experience or what?!  Customers LOVE no-notice fee increases, after all.

Here’s why United is doing this

There are two reasons: 1) United (and all airlines) make an absolutely absurd amount of money from these fees, which are taxed lower than airfares (Gary explains why in the article linked above), and 2) because they can get away with it.

It’s the same thing really all of the airlines are doing: absolute castration of the customer experience until they start losing customers.  Jet fuel prices have been so low that they haven’t really seen the impact of these changes to date but it’s coming and airline execs will wonder where all their passengers went.

What does this have to do with American and Delta?

American Airlines 787-8 climbing out after takeoff

Delta is usually the first airline to come out with nasty unfriendly greedy loser charges like this because, frankly, their airline is reliable enough that they can get away with it.

United and American, on the other hand, usually just copy and paste whatever Delta does.  Yes, that’s the type of leadership these airlines pay millions for, CTRL+C and CTRL+V.  You’d think the government would have one of the most obvious cases of collusio…oh, they do.

My prediction

American and Delta executives will most likely match the charges that United is assaulting their customers with.  American will because they are already investing millions of dollars in making the customer experience worse with their ill-named Project Oasis (cramming more seats into narrowbody jets while removing seatback entertainment) so how much worse would an increased checked baggage fee be for the esteem in the eyes of the customers whose opinions they already ignore?  Delta will probably match these simply because they didn’t have to be first, for once.

What I would love to see happen

Can you imagine how awesome it would be for American CEO Doug Parker to come out and say “We understand what our competitors are doing but we think our current checked baggage fee structure is fair and predictable for our customers as is”?  Man, that would be leadership and defending the existing customer experience!  I’d love to write an article about a quote like that someday but I just don’t think I’ll need to very soon, unfortunately, since airline executives listen way more to wall street analysts than they do the customers who pay money to fly on their airlines.


All that said, it’s a holiday weekend here in the USA and many readers will be on the road.  Everyone be safe and have some wonderful journeys!


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