US Airways, others consider charge for all checked bags

Posted: May 22, 2008

US Airways and several other airlines said today that they are considering joining American Airlines in charging for the first checked piece of luggage to help offset skyrocketing fuel prices.

As oil prices hit a record $135 a barrel, American announced Wednesday that it would start charging some passengers $15 to check a suitcase. Today US Airways and United, along with some other carriers, said they were considering following American's lead.

US Airways and other carriers earlier announced that they will charge some people $25 to check a second bag.

"We are looking into it ourselves," said Philip Gee, US Airways spokesman. "It would take a while to implement, so there's no time line. These things take a while to get the wheels in motion."

Gee said the industry was trying to mitigate the cost of fuel, which jumped $4 a barrel on Wednesday. For US Airways, that's $150 million more a year, he said.

United airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said United is "seriously studying" matching American's fee to check the first bag each way, or $30 round trip, for those flying on a discounted fare.

United led airlines in charging passengers for a second checked bag. US Airways and other airlines followed suit. "We've been moving slowly since 2001, certainly more accelerated this year, to more a la carte pricing," Gee said.

Southwest Airlines said today that it will not charge fees to check a first or second bag.

"In January, we just started charging for the third checked bag, so we don't have plans to change the two free-bag allowance," said Brandy King, Southwest spokeswoman.

Instead, Southwest will boost revenue by offering new products for passengers, and charge for those "instead of charging for things we currently offer for free."

For example, Southwest recently started "business select" for passengers who want to pay an extra $10 to $15 to board the aircraft first and also get a free drink, King said. Southwest does not have assigned seating. "We try to avoid nickel and diming. We don't want to charge for things we currently offer for free."

Southwest has partly hedged higher fuel prices by buying in huge quantities when oil prices were lower. "We are impacted. It is not all hedged. For 70 percent of our fuel, we are paying $51 a barrel. For 30 percent, we are paying full price. It does put us in a better place than other airlines," King said.


Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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