United has joined Delta, American, Continental, and US Airways in charging for the second checked bag on international flights. Passengers will pay $45 online or $50 at the airport for flights from the U.S. to Europe, and $27 online or $30 for flights from the U.S. to Mexico and the Caribbean. The new fee will apply to tickets purchased on or after September 30 for travel on or after December 15.
At least United is giving travelers some advance warning on this one—most carriers have been implementing the fee the same day it's announced. But United passengers have until September 30 to purchase tickets sans the new fee. It's a sad day when that's a silver lining!
With more and more carriers adding second bag fees on international routes, is it only a matter of time before they add fees for the first bag? That's the exact path the industry took toward adding first-bag fees here at home: Start with the second bag, in some cases even raise the initial second-bag fee, and then move on to the first checked bag.
For now, I doubt we're on our way toward paying first bag fees on international flights. I have a hard time seeing airlines add cost and hassle to an already struggling market. But I admit I'm a little nervous.