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United Airlines is cutting baggage allowances with immediate effect for business and first class passengers across its network. Business class passengers' luggage limit is now two bags of 32 kg each, down from three bags.
The airline is now charging business class passengers a sky-high extra baggage fee — $200 for Australia-US flights — for third and subsequent bags, on all tickets purchased after 14 February.
The new international business class luggage limits apply for all United fights, including the long trans-Pacific legs from Melbourne and Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
First class passengers travelling within the US will also see their luggage allowances cut from three 32 kg bags to two.
Star Alliance Gold cardholders and United frequent flyers who've reached the Gold tier or above will receive an extra bag in business class. But with no local Star Alliance airline in Australia, it's unlikely many of the affected passengers will have a frequent flyer card to fall back on.
Read more: Need Star Gold status fast? Aegean Airlines' hidden gem of a frequent flyer program means that a one-way Melbourne-New York flight would take you to Gold.
United's checked bag limit calculator will outline how much extra you'll pay for a third bag, although note that you'll need to tick the box to get the fine print about additional charges and frequent flyer benefits — there's no change to the icons around the number of bags you'll get free.
While most business travellers will avoid checking luggage whenever possible, the reduction is a blow to passengers travelling with conference materials, promotional items or professional equipment.
And passengers will be frustrated that United is bringing in such a potentially expensive change without notice.
Have you ever travelled with three checked bags on business? How much notice should an airline reasonably give of this big a change? Share your thoughts with fellow readers in a comment below.
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