Alaska Airlines is the latest domestic airline to add a first-checked-bag fee. The carrier will begin collecting $15 for flights booked on or after May 1 for travel on or after July 7. However, Alaska will compensate passengers whose luggage is not at the baggage claim within 25 minutes after their flight parks at the gate with 2,500 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles or $25 off a future flight. This is the first time an airline has paired baggage fees with some form of customer protection policy.
Alaska's move leaves only JetBlue and Southwest as the remaining major U.S. carriers that don't charge a baggage fee. During his airline's earnings call this morning, JetBlue CEO David Barger said "there's a fine line between nickel-and-diming and core brand [values]," and said JetBlue passengers appreciate the airline's lack of a first-bag fee. While this is far from a guarantee that the carrier will never charge for the first bag, it does suggest the airline understands what its customers want. And considering Southwest's "Fees Don't Fly With Us" mantra, it's hard to see that carrier ever adding this fee.
As for Alaska, I have to applaud its attempt at a compromise. The compensation policy means passengers will effectively get a refund if the airline misplaces their bag. Of course, a true refund would be better, but $25 off a future flight or 2,500 Mileage Plan miles isn't bad either. What do you think? Has Alaska hit the right note here, or is there more that could be done? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.