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United adds fee for checking a second bag

Let the 2008 airline industry nickel-and-diming begin. United announced it will begin charging non-elite economy class passengers for checking more than one bag. The $25 fee is limited to passengers with nonrefundable domestic economy-class tickets who don’t have Premier status or higher in the airline’s frequent flier program or Silver status or higher with a Star Alliance partner.

If you’re flying on the same reservation as a Mileage Plus Premier or Star Alliance Silver or Gold member, you won’t have to pay the fee. You can also avoid the charge if you bought your ticket before February 4 and will fly before May 5, or if you’re on a flight purchased through but not operated by United. You can find more details in the policy FAQ.

Reuters reports the move could make the airline $100 million dollars per year “as the carrier attempts to offset soaring fuel costs.” If fare hikes were the name of the game in 2007, will 2008 be the year in which industry giants match one another’s revenue-boosting schemes that hinge on charging for items and services previously covered in the cost of a ticket?

Perhaps. Come to think of it, what’s left to charge for? On many airlines we already shell out for food, headphones, blankets, pillows, or priority boarding. And this free checked baggage slope is suddenly looking pretty slippery.

So are we heading toward pay toilets here? Seatbelt fees perhaps? Pay-by-the-pretzel snack bags? At this rate, the beverage service, that last bastion of “complimentary” amenities, is looking like an endangered species. So enjoy that ginger ale while you can.

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