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Two airlines increased baggage fees. Which ones are next?


JetBlue forged the path, increasing its checked-baggage fee by $5. United followed. So, the obvious question is: Who is next?

“I think the odds of all the airlines turning on us, with the exception of Southwest, are pretty high,” said Madhu Unnikrishnan, editor of Skift Airline Weekly, which covers the airline industry. “If one does it, the others do it.” (Southwest, the lone holdout, allows two free checked bags that fall within its weight and size restrictions.)

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In mid-January, JetBlue raised its fees to $35 for the first checked bag and $45 for the second bag for passengers flying in select seat categories. However, travelers can avoid the extra charge by paying for up to two bags at least 24 hours before their departure. They can pay the $30 or $40, respectively, on the airline’s website or with its app. Passengers who booked a flight before Jan. 16 are exempt from the increase.

Last week, United announced a similar fee hike on United and United Express flights departing on or after March 6. Passengers can save $5 by purchasing their bags in advance online. The discount applies to domestic routes as well as flights flying from the States to the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America. Travelers who bought their tickets before Feb. 21 are exempt.

Alaska and American Airlines said they could not comment on future pricing plans. Delta did not respond to a query about a possible fee increase.

Unnikrishnan attributes the rise in fees to several factors, such as declining cargo revenue. He said airlines are also trying to save money by encouraging passengers to do more pre-departure duties themselves, such as paying for checked bags online and printing out baggage tags. Previously, airline agents performed these tasks for customers.

“They are pushing more people to check in off-site and are rewarding customer behavior for it,” he said.

Baggage fees are also a windfall for the airlines. U.S. carriers amassed more than $4.3 million from such fees during the first three quarters of 2019, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

To avoid checked-baggage fees, passengers have two options: Fly Southwest or travel only with a carry-on.

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