After JetBlue increased checked luggage prices, United Airlines is also charging passengers more to check luggage. The Chicago-based airline announced Friday it is increasing baggage fees by $5 to $30 for the first checked bag for all flights to or from North America, the Caribbean and Central America purchased on or after Aug. 31, 2018.
While United is the second U.S. carrier to make the move — and the first among the four major airlines — it’s still possible to beat the checked bag fees. The United℠ Explorer Card offers one free checked bag to the primary cardholder and one traveling companion on the same itinerary. Meanwhile, the United MileagePlus® Club Card offers two free checked bags to the cardholder and a traveling companion, along with United Club℠ membership to the primary cardholder.
» Learn more: Leave these seven annoying fees behind on your vacation.
What fees are changing?
For all tickets purchased on or after Aug. 31, passengers will pay $30 for the first checked bag on Basic Economy, regular economy or Economy Plus.
The second bag fee will also increase, based on where travelers are going. The second bag will cost $40 for flights — up from $35 — within the United States, to and from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and Central America. A second checked bag on flights to and from Canada will cost $50, up from $35. But second checked bag fees on flights to and from Mexico will not increase.
“As we continue to make investments that make travel on United better, we are making adjustments to our checked bag fees in select markets — most of which have not been changed for the past eight years,” a United spokesperson said in a statement. “These changes allow us to continue investing in the overall customer experience in today’s marketplace.”
Asked whether their checked baggage fees would increase, both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines declined to comment.
» Learn more: Check out our best travel credit cards for your wallet
How can I avoid paying for checked bags?
Despite the price increase, United passengers can still get at least one checked bag for free. Your options include:
- Purchasing a Travel Option bundle or premium fare
For those who need to travel with a checked bag, United offers bundled Travel Options add-ons. These additional purchases may include a standard checked bag, upgrades to Economy Plus, and United Club trip passes. Travel Options are priced based on the route and fare. Another option includes paying for an upgraded business-class or first-class fare, which includes two free checked bags.
- Earning United MileagePlus Premier status
United confirmed the changes will not apply to United MileagePlus Premier elite members. Passengers who have United MileagePlus Silver elite status — earned after flying 25,000 elite qualifying miles or 30 elite qualifying segments and spending $2,500 in elite qualifying dollars on fares and upgrades — get one free checked bag on United flights.
- Holding the right United credit card
Some United credit cards offer at least one free checked bag as a benefit to cardholders. The United℠ Explorer Card grants one free checked bag to cardholders and one companion traveling on the same reservation, while the United MileagePlus® Club Card gives two free checked bags to the cardholder and one companion on the same reservation. To qualify for the free checked bag, the cardholder must include their United MileagePlus number in their reservation. The United℠ TravelBank Card does not offer a free checked bag benefit to cardholders.
- Look at other airlines
Currently, JetBlue and United are the only two airlines charging $30 to check one bag on domestic itineraries. Southwest Airlines currently offers two free checked bags and no change fees for members of its Rapid Rewards frequent-flyer program, while American and Delta charge $25 for the first checked bag per destination.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).
- Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase).
- Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Get 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases).
- No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (Earn unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no annual fee).
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Get 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, plus get access to the Global Lounge Collection). Terms Apply.
The information related to the United℠ TravelBank Card and the United MileagePlus® Club Card have been collected by NerdWallet and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Credit Card Perks Can Be Your Ticket to a Cheaper Vacation
Delays, Lost Bags, Complaints: How Does Your Favorite Airline Rank?
Airline Credit Cards’ Unsung Perk: Free Checked Bags
Photo courtesy of United Airlines.