Move over, JetBlue: United, Air Canada, and WestJet all announced an increase to their checked bag fees to directly match a fee hike JetBlue introduced just a few days ago. The first checked bag on each airline now costs $30 (Air Canada’s start at $30 and vary), and a second checked bag now costs about $40 on all four airlines.
The new United fees took effect Labor Day weekend. On Air Canada, the new fees affect tickets booked before August 21 or for air travel before October 5, 2018. On WestJet, the fees impact tickets purchased after August 24 (for travel within Canada), or after August 28 (for travel everywhere else).
WestJet also asks travelers to “see an airport agent for the grandfathered fee after October 1st, 2018.” This means the fee hike applies to all WestJet travel after October 1, unless you booked before the cut-off dates above—but you apparently have to ask for that privilege.
More Bag Fees to Come?
Most travelers have grown used to this copycat behavior among airlines, but it’s disappointing to see a customer-favorite like JetBlue leading the charge. Unfair as it may be, we expect this nickel-and-diming to come from legacy carriers like United, which was among the first to add checked-bag fees a decade ago. JetBlue, after all, had zero checked bag fees until 2015.
But all airlines are subject to the same market forces, and JetBlue is not immune. Forbes points out that fuel prices have gone up 40 percent over the past year, and as fuel prices rises, fees and airfares tend to rise as well. Fees don’t go back down after fuel prices decline, of course. Funny how that works.
Now the question becomes whether or not Delta and American will match these fee hikes. Airlines tend to take an everyone-else-is-doing-it approach, so it’s a safe bet one or both will follow suit. Customers only have only one alternative to the bag fee crunch: Southwest, which still allows bags to fly free. But even Southwest isn’t afraid to charge a fee or two.