United will now charge an extra $5 for bags checked at the airport, meaning passengers will have to pony up $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second unless they check their bags online. The rule is effective May 14 for travel before June 10. If you book your ticket prior to May 14, you will not have to pay the new fee.
US Airways unveiled a similar policy in March, and even though that provides a precedent for United's move, I'll say now what I said then: It's a trap! Despite United's attempt to publicize the new policy, I have a hard time believing this is anything more than an attempt to snare $5 from people who either don't know they can check their bags online or who simply assume the most logical place to pay your baggage fee is at the airport when you physically drop off your bags.
That said, with two airlines adopting this policy, I'm starting to get an uneasy feeling that more will follow, and pretty soon this airport/online bag fee structure will be the standard. I guess that, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, especially if it saves time at the airport, but the policy unfairly punishes people who aren't Internet savvy or, worse, don't have computers in the first place. But at least United doesn't have the audacity to call the $5 charge a "service fee," as US Airways did.
Readers, let's hear it. What do you think of United's move? Leave a comment below with your opinion. Thanks!