2 More Airlines to Charge for First Bag June 13, 2008 By MICHELINE MAYNARD For weeks, American Airlines stood alone in facing the ire of passengers over its decision to begin charging $15 to check the first bag. But it now has some company. United Airlines said Thursday it would put the charge into effect Friday, two days earlier than American. The $15 fee, for passengers flying on leisure fares booked in advance, is on top of a $25 fee for checking a second suitcase that airlines began charging recently. And US Airways said Thursday it also was matching the $15 fee, effective July 9. The charge would apply to flights to and from Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, making its program broader than its rivals. In addition, US Airways said it would begin charging most passengers $2 for nonalcoholic drinks, including bottled water, and $7 for alcoholic beverages, on Aug. 1. Passengers on the US Airways Shuttle and trans-Atlantic flights will still receive complimentary beverages, the airline said. Airlines are attributing new fees and surcharges to high fuel prices, up 91.5 percent from this time last year, according to the International Air Transport Association. With record-breaking fuel prices, we must pursue new revenue opportunities, while continuing to offer competitive fares, by tailoring our products and services around what our customers value most and are willing to pay for, Uniteds chief operating officer, John P. Tague, said in a statement. Some passengers said they were sympathetic to the plight of the airlines. I can understand why theyre doing it, to a degree, said Harry Sanders, an engine inspector for Nascar who flew on United for this weekends race at the Michigan International Speedway. Congress needs to get off their backsides and do something about the energy situation in this country. The new suitcase fees are likely to make the fight for tight space in airplane cabins more fierce, as passengers try to stuff more carry-on luggage into overhead bins. Milissa DuPage, a United passenger who works for a pharmaceutical company, said Thursday that she would begin carrying on her bag, which she usually checks to avoid the security rules banning carry-on liquids. I guess Ill just have to get everything under three ounces, said Ms. DuPage, of Harsens Island, Mich., while waiting at the baggage claim area of Detroits airport. Then I wont have to sit and wait for it like I am now. The full effect of the new policy probably will not be felt for a few more days. For example, 75 percent of Americans passengers traveling through Labor Day have already bought their tickets, and therefore do not have to pay the bag charge, said Mark P. Mitchell, the airlines managing director for customer experience. The carriers are also exempting premium members of their frequent-flier clubs, as well as passengers with full-fare tickets, those traveling in business or first class, and overseas travelers. Spirit Airlines, a low-fare airline that flies mainly east of the Mississippi River, already collects baggage fees, with discounts for reserving space on its Web site. United and American said they planned to eventually allow passengers to pay the fee on their Web sites. United said it also was raising fees for passengers checking three or more bags, for passengers who check heavy bags and items that require special handling. At the Detroit airport, Renata Wasserman of Ann Arbor, Mich., and her husband Arthur, a math professor at the University of Michigan, redistributed their clothes between their two bags to avoid a $100 overweight fee. On tickets purchased after Friday, that fee will rise to $125. They might as well raise the overall fare, so at least you know what youre paying, said Mrs. Wasserman, who was flying to Krakow, Poland. Pretty soon theyll be making us pay to go to the toilet on the plane. United said its new bag fees would generate revenue of about $275 million a year. American has not given a revenue estimate, but if all 25 million people likely to be affected by the charge do check a bag, the airline would raise about $375 million. Its really trying to find the right match of what customers value and are willing to pay for, said Mr. Mitchell of American. Those who want to avoid it are already becoming resourceful. A Colorado Springs girls softball team sent its bats, balls, and uniforms ahead to a tournament this weekend in a car driven by one of the mothers, rather than ship them on United. We used to check all that, said Andrea Kinkaid, a parent who arrived Thursday on a United flight. But fees would have been well above the $500 in gas that it cost between Colorado and Michigan, she said.