Continental is the latest U.S. airline to add a first-checked-bag fee, announcing on September 5 that it will adopt its own $15 charge. The fee affects tickets purchased on or after September 5 for travel within the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada on or after October 7. Continental's move makes it the fifth of the country's six legacy airlines to add the fee, with only Delta holding out. Hawaiian Airlines and Spirit Airlines also charge for the first checked bag.
This news also puts to rest longstanding speculation as to whether or not Continental would add a first-checked-bag fee. Discussion heated up in June when Continental entered into an alliance with United, which had already implemented its own fee, though Continental seemed skeptical of the idea.
At this point, there's little analysis to be done when an airline adds a fee such as this. We all know what's going on: High fuel prices lead to diminishing airline profits, which lead to cost cutting and increased fares and fees. So I guess the question now becomes: As the idea of paying fees for formerly complimentary services becomes more widely accepted, at what point do airlines start pushing these fees up? If the industry as a whole realizes it can get away with charging people for checked bags and beverages, it seems to me that the logical next step is to raise those fees. Let's hope that's not the case.