The Premier Baggage program unveiled by United Air Lines yesterday is something of a mixed bag. For $249 a year, you (plus up to eight people traveling with you on the same reservation) get to check up to two bags per person, per flight for free all year.
United charges $20 for the first and $30 for the second checked bag. As Flying with Fish points out, that means the following:
- The Premier Bag Program could pay for itself in 4.98 flights with United(2.5 roundtrips), assuming you take two bags every time.
- For single-bag travelers, it is 12.45 flights per year. Any traveler who flies that much in a year would likely earn status in the United frequent flier program. Elite members get that same allowance free of charge.
- But the plan offers the traveler and up to eight passengers flying on the same reservation to check two bags. If you routinely travel with others, that can work out.
Fish’s conclusion, which we agree with, is that the plan isn’t for Frequent Fliers, as advertised, as they’d get it anyway, but for less frequent fliers with large families. who take one to two trips a year on United.
As the LA Times pointed out, at the end of your subscription year, United will automatically charge your credit card for another year’s subscription “unless you have opted out of the auto-renewal feature.” So, United may make a bit of money on inattentive people as well.
We’d rather have airlines looking at other fee options. If we have to live with these fees, our preference would be offering something akin to NYC Pay-Per-Ride and Unlimited Options. If you prepay for a certain number of bags, you get a discount. Or you can buy unlimited for a period. It will require some system retooling, however. But it is a much better system than prepaying to avoid paying $5 extra, at least in our opinion.
Why are airlines seemingly locked into only offering only one version of their product? Why not three or four options? Regardless of how it appears on the backend, why can’t an airline offer bundling the way their own vacation stores do? For example, buy a package including a bag, premium seating, and priority checkin for less than the price of buying each of these services separately?
The counterargument is that options like this complicate things, and passengers want simple options. There are already too many fares. But, accepting the process is overall complex, simplifying it by offering bundling is allows you to group options in a way that will make logical sense to customers, and ultimately is the same to the airline.
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