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More airlines hike baggage fees

Attention air travelers: That tug at your wallet is about to happen again, as many major airlines raised their checked-bags fees this week.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Attention air travelers: That tug at your wallet is about to happen again, as many major airlines raised their checked-bags fees this week.

On Tuesday, Delta Air Lines Inc., the world's biggest airline, announced it was raising its fees to check your first bag on a domestic flight by $8 and the second bag by $7. That will mean $23 for the first bag and $32 for the second.

It will continue to cost you even more if you don't pay the fees in advance on the airline's Web site. Delta is calling that add-on a surcharge — $2 for the first bag and $3 for the second. You will have to pay the surcharges if you check your bags at an airport ticket counter, kiosk or curbside.

The new fees are for travel on tickets purchased on or after Jan. 5. Tickets purchased before then, regardless of when the travel begins, are subject to the current fees — $15 for the first bag and $25 for the second.

The domestic bag fee increases apply to travel in coach within the 50 states, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Elite frequent fliers, first class fliers and certain other customers, including active military personnel on deployment, are exempt from the fees.

A Delta spokeswoman called the airline's fees "competitive" with other carriers.

U.S. carriers began in earnest imposing fees on checked bags and other once-free amenities in 2008 to help combat rising fuel prices. The fees continued, and in some cases increased, even after fuel prices plummeted. Now, oil prices are on an upward trend again, though are nowhere close to their peak at $147 a barrel.

The upward trend in fuel prices comes at a time when airlines were hoping to gain some positive momentum from the improving U.S. economy. U.S. carriers, including Delta, over the next two weeks will be releasing their fourth-quarter and year-end 2009 financial results.

On Wednesday, United Airlines followed suit with baggage fee increases.

United will now charge $25 to check the first bag and $35 for the second. That's $5 more than before. It takes effect on tickets bought beginning Thursday for travel after Jan. 21.

The new fees are the same at Continental and Delta. Airlines discount the fees by a few dollars for travelers who pay online in advance instead of at the airport.

An American Airlines spokesman says they have not changed their fees, but they're studying the moves by the other airlines. Southwest Airlines does not charge to check the first two bags.

And on Friday, US Airways raised baggage fees for travelers who check their luggage online.

The higher online fees match those set in recent days by Delta, Continental, and United.

US Airways said it will charge $23 to check the first bag online, and $32 to check the second. That's an increase from the previous online checked bag fees of $20 and $30.

The fees to check bags at the airport are unchanged at the level set by US Airways in August — $25 for the first and $35 for the second. The increase in the past week by Delta, Continental, and United, brought their fees paid at the airport to the same level as US Airways.

The increase takes effect for tickets purchased Monday for travel beginning Feb. 1.

American Airlines still charges $20 each way for a first bag, and $30 for the second.

Southwest Airlines passengers can check two bags for free, and JetBlue passengers can check one for free.

Baggage fees began in 2008 as airlines struggled with high fuel prices. Baggage fees brought in $1.98 billion in revenue for the 10 largest airlines that collected them during the first three quarters of 2009, according to the Transportation Department. Almost $310 million of that was at US Airways Group Inc. alone.

Collecting more fees has not made airlines profitable, though. Next week airlines will report their most recent financial results. Southwest is the only big airline that analysts expect to report a 2009 profit.