Those Annoying Baggage Fees Mean Billions in Airline Revenue

On the needle-thin Canadair regional jet, I was cramped and unhappy. That’s because in my carry-on bag the sunscreen I’d brought with me was rudely confiscated by the TSA at Bradley’s security check. They even took a nearly flat tube of toothpaste. “But that’s way less than three ounces,” I complained. “We have no way of measuring that,” said the TSA agent like a dumb robot.

But I was intrigued when I read in Scott McCarthey’s Middle Seat column in the Wall Street Journal that airlines have made a bundle on their new baggage fees. In fact US Air should earn between $400 and 500 million more from such ‘ancillary revenue.’  The fees are becoming the only reliable profit center for struggling airlines.

Despite the majority of flyers like me, who insist on bringing their rolling totes with us and then never being able to fit them in the small overheads of the plane, these fees are still being paid by many, many travelers.

For United Airlines,the total take for ancillary revenue will be a whopping $1.2 billion this year! That’s more than even the airline’s own cargo division hauls in. It also enough to pay a full one quarter of United’s yearly payroll.

Airlines are saying that they expect an uptick this summer, but aren’t sure yet. But one thing is for sure, they’re not going to roll back these lucrative baggage fees any time soon.

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