United Airlines on Wednesday said it will raise its check-on baggage fees to match those at US Airways (LCC), Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Continental Airlines (CAL).The obvious way to avoid these charges is to carry only the necessities. Of course, that is easier said than done. Because you are only allowed two carry-on bags, it's important to think strategically:
A unit of UAL Corp. (UAUA), United will raised the fee for the first check-on bag to $25 from $20, and $35 from $30 for the second bag. The new fee applies to tickets purchased on or after Thursday for travel on or after Jan. 21. Delta and Continental raised their fees last week, matching US Airways. AMR Corp.'s (AMR) American Airlines has yet to raise its checked-on luggage fees.
- If you don't think you are likely to need something on your trip, leave it at home. Over time, the money you save on checked baggage fees will easily pay for the occasional "emergency" purchase.
- Pack a collapsible bag into which you can put any smaller carry on -- such as a purse -- in case they strictly enforce the "2 carry on maximum." (On an aircraft, it's actually far easier to store three small carry-on bags than two regulation sized carry-on bags. Nevertheless, over the holidays I came across a gate attendant who lacked common sense.)
- Ship it. The cost of checking a bag has made even overnight delivery services an affordable option.
- Sometimes checking one bag (and coughing up the fee) makes the most sense. But you will want to avoid paying even more to check a second piece of luggage. So if you must check one bag, make sure it is expandable. (You don't want to have to check a second bag on your return trip. Ensure one of your carry-on bags is expandable to the size of a checked-bag.)
- Take any jacket you would have packed in checked luggage and carry/wear it on board.