Up, Up and Away Go Checked Bag Fees as United Matches JetBlue’s Price Hike

Travelers at Tampa International Airport on Sunday, May 20, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

Last week, JetBlue AirWays increased its checked bag fees by $5, making it the highest in the industry.

Five days later, United Airlines followed suit.

Now, both airlines charge $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second bag.

Air Canada and WestJet hopped on the bandwagon after JetBlue’s announcement, too.

Judging from past airline fee and fare increases, the checked-bag hikes will likely continue to trend until most major airlines get onboard. (Southwest, which allows two free checked pieces of luggage, remains an exception.)

Delta Air Lines had no immediate comment, and American Airlines said it can never comment on future pricing. Airlines are federally prohibited from being in cahoots with each other on pricing, so it’s a waiting game for travelers.

How to Avoid United Airlines Baggage Fees

We are Penny Hoarders.

Hear us roar.

Or shall I say, hear the wheels of our carry-on luggage roar… down the terminal.

Most major U.S. airlines still allow one personal item and one carry-on bag for free.

United is one of them.

Pay attention to dimension requirements and you can get onboard with a backpack and a roller bag for free. That’ll save you $60 round trip, unless you’re on a baggage-restricted basic economy ticket.

Traveling with one bag can be done, believe me.

Another option is to join a loyalty program if you fly regularly.

These programs allow up to three free checked bags if you reach the top tiers of elite status.

The catch is they’re usually bundled with airline-branded credit cards that require minimum spending and mileage to reap rewards, like United’s MileagePlus programs and United AIrlines personal credit cards.

You eventually end up paying for the bags in a roundabout way. It’s actually cheaper to pay for checked bags in most cases.

However, the cards and programs can be opportune for jetsetters and business travelers even though they don’t make sense for those who take one or two trips a year.

Many travel credit cards offer free checked baggage perks.

These are different from airline-specific credit cards and loyalty programs and generally come with an annual fee ranging from $25 to $450.

The fee is usually waived for the first year and can pay for itself with the right perks.

Like airline loyalty programs, travel credit cards make sense for some travelers and not others.

If the money you save in perks is more than the annual fee, then it’s something you should consider. If the overall savings isn’t greater than the annual fee, you should probably skip this route on your way to avoiding United Airlines baggage fees.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’d rather carry a suitcase than emotional baggage.