United’s Annual Baggage Subscription
There’s nothing like searching the Web for the cheapest airfare, and then realizing that baggage fees wipe out any shred of a bargain. Now, United Airlines has rolled out a plan that would let customers purchase an annual “subscription” to check their luggage, lessening the hassle of baggage fees.
The idea, which starts at $349 a year, is one of two such subscriptions announced Monday by Chicago based United, which has been intently studying and implementing the extra charges that airlines call “ancillary revenue.” Unit ugg ed says it is the first in the industry to roll out such annual subscriptions.
Here’s how the United baggage plan works. The basic plan covers flights in the continental United States. For $349, a traveler can check one standard sized bag per flight. Two bags per flight costs an additional $30 a year. An additional traveler on the subscription costs $100 a year. For a family sized reservation of up to nine people, the extra charge is $300.
So, for two people traveling with a bag each, the total charge would be $479 a year. An individual traveling in North America and Central America must add $100 a year to the basic subscription. Global travelers add $450 per subscription, meaning that the tab to go anywhere in the world with a bag is $799. domestic flight works out to the same price as checking about 13 bags, at the $25 per bag charge that United typically imposes. (You can calculate baggage costs on United’s calculator here.) Essentially, if you make more than six round trip flights per year on United, the subscription is probably worth it.
United’s second subscription plan is for people who book in its Economy Plus section, offer a little more leg room and seats nearer to the front of the cabin. That $499 a year plan is also customizable according to the destination and number of travelers. (There’s $50 initiation fee, but right now, United is waiving it.)
“The Economy Plus and checked baggage subscriptions offer our customers more of the comfort and convenience they value year round,” said Scott Wilson , United’s vice president of merchandising and e commerce. “We are pleased that, as we launch these services, we are able to provide new options for customers to tailor their travel experiences.”
United has been thinking about the subscription program for several years, ever since airline fees became a standard practice ugg within the industry. Ancillary revenue is a big deal for the carriers. Airlines collected an estimated $36 billion in fees last year, and carriers around the world are pushing to increase that revenue by double digits this year.
Cut rate carriers such as Ryanair and Spirit are coll ugg ecting far more in fees than passengers spend on plane tickets. However, major American carriers actually saw thei ugg r ancillary revenue drop in 2012, according to the IdeaWorks Company, increasing the pressure to find new ways, like those at United, to collect fees.