United Continental is tightening its baggage policy between Australia and the US/Canada, limiting passengers to one free bag instead of two.
For tickets purchased from today, for travel after August 15th, a second bag will cost US$70 on top of the ticket cost.
Its announcement was couched in some of the worst PR weasel-words we've seen: United justified the extra charge by saying "This announcement follows the industry trend of providing more options to travellers so they may customise their travel experience by paying only for the products and services that they want and value."
That's right, United Continental is giving customers the option to pay a new $70 fee.
Just to be sure we weren't misunderstanding this new "choice", we asked if the airline had dropped all its fares by $70 to give passengers the option of saving the money if they didn't actually need a second bag.
United Continental's PR representative said the airline was unable to answer the question as "fares are changing all the time".
The move is somewhat surprising given United Continental's economy class service between Australia and the US is so far behind other airlines -- there's not even seat-back inflight entertainment.
The CEO of United Continental admitted to Australian Business Traveller that it is "unacceptable" and pledged upgrades to aircraft, however they haven't materialised yet.
As a result, United is forced to compete on price with other airlines, offering the lowest prices to the USA in most cases.
Avoiding the new fee
If you hold an "elite" status in the airline's frequent flyer program, Mileage Plus, you won't have to pay the second bag fee.
This includes Premier, Premier Executive and 1K rewards members.
First and business class passengers will also be relieved to know that they still get two free bags.
Airlines still offering two bags to the USA
Other airlines are still offering two bags to the USA in general. A selection of the most commonly-flown airlines to the US are listed below:
Qantas still offers two 23 kg bags in economy and two 32 kg bags in business. Silver/gold/platinum Frequent Flyers and Qantas Club members get a rather amazing three 23 kg bags, or three 32 kg bags in business/first class. More...
Delta provides two bags up to 23 kg between Australia and the USA, or two 32 kg bags for business class. More...
V Australia offers two bags up to a combined total of 32 kg for economy, or two bags of 32 kg each for business class. Velocity Rewards silver and gold members get an additional bag, but the same weight allowances for their class of travel apply. More...
American Airlines provides two bags up to 23 kg for economy class passengers. First/business class passengers can check up to three bags up to 23kg. More...