United announced it will raise its second-checked-bag fee to $50, effective for tickets purchased on or after September 16 for travel on or after November 10. This gives United the most expensive second-checked-bag fee and, coupled with its $15 first-checked-bag charge, means United's baggage fees are the highest in the industry (see our chart to compare). Delta also charges $50 for a second checked bag, but it does not charge for the first.
In its announcement of the fee, United blames "volatile" fuel prices which are "more than 50 percent higher than last year." While the claim is more or less true (it's actually 44 percent year-over-year, according to the International Air Transport Association), the timing of the new fee seems at odds with an improving market. Jet fuel is down almost 8 percent over the last month, and prices have dropped back to where they were this past March. In short, most of this summer's price hike has vanished, and, unless United knows something we laypeople don't, fuel prices appear to be trending downward.
All this leads me to feel skeptical about United's new fee. The airline is telling us it's hiking fees to offset fuel prices that are ... dropping? As was the case with its failed attempt to scrap meals on transatlantic flights, United's latest move just doesn't add up. If you feel the same way, don't hesitate to let United know. The airline may even reconsider the idea (hey—it worked for those cut transatlantic meals). You can also leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about this, and airline fees in general.