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United’s New Airline Baggage Plan and Luggage Fee Updates

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Airport check-inA la carte fees are old news in the airline world, but United Airlines has come up with an innovative new baggage plan that allows passengers to pay a flat rate for a year’s worth of checked bags.

The new program, introduced on Monday, allows travelers to pay $249 to check up to two bags each time they fly United or United Express within a 12-month period.

This up-front baggage fee plan may seem like a good idea, but will it really save you money?

On the surface United’s new program seems like a great deal, but there are some big drawbacks – as well as some pluses.

United's old school logoThe deal only allows you to check two bags each flight and does not cover charges for oversized and overweight bags, which can cost an additional $125 to $175.

And if you have more than two bags, you still have to shell out – United will charge you $125 for bags three and four, and $200 for the fifth and beyond.

On domestic flights, the airline normally charges $20 for the first checked bag and $30 for the second.

So if you’re a solo traveler who typically checks two bags per flight, it would take five trips to break even. And if you only check one bag each time you fly, it’ll take a whopping 13 trips for the plan to pay off.

For more information, check out our Luggage & Packing section.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the program locks you into flying on United, which could prevent you from saving money if you were to find a lower fare on another airline. And the $249 fee is apparently “introductory” – but no word from United on when or how much it may rise.

On the positive side, the program does include international flights, which is a good thing, considering that United (and a slew of other airlines) recently added a $50 fee to check a second bag on flights to Europe.

Get more information with Baggage Fees Creeping Onto International Flights.

Baggage claimThe plan also covers checked bags for up to eight travelers flying under the same confirmation number as the subscriber, which makes it a much better deal for families traveling together. A family of five could break even on their first flight, if each person checked in two bags.

So while it doesn’t seem to make sense for the solo flyer who typically travels light and infrequently, it could be a helpful option for families or those who make frequent domestic or European trips – and tend to carry one or two bags.

United is the first domestic carrier to offer such a program. But remember: there are still airlines that don’t charge for checked bags. Though this list now just comprises Southwest (first two checked bags are free) and JetBlue (first bag is free, second bag is $30).

So if you object to the very idea of paying for your checked bags, check into the airlines that don’t charge for each checked piece of luggage.

By Dan Bence for PeterGreenberg.com.

Related Links: MSNBC, SmarterTravel.com Airline Fee Guide

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