Facing the double whammy of restricted routings over Russian airspace and higher fuel prices, United has substantially raised checked bag fees on its India flights. United says the move is only temporary. But will we see higher baggage fees on other routes as well?
Higher Checked Baggage Fees To India On United Airlines
United Airlines is in a particularly difficult position right now concerning India service. India routes historically utilized Russian airspace, which made for much more direct routings, helping to make the routes economically viable.
These days, United’s India flights fly over continental Europe, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, avoiding Russian airspace (and generally avoiding Iranian airspace as well).
The consequence is longer flying times (sometimes more than two extra hours) and therefore more fuel burn.
With Russian airspace currently off-limits and the war in Ukraine pushing oil pricers higher, United has “temporarily” raised checked baggage fees to India.
The new fee applies to all tickets issued on or after April 5, 2022 and United’s online baggage tool has been updated with the increased baggages fees.
- First checked bags – remains complimentary
- Second checked bag – $200 (from $100)
- Third checked bag – $300 (from $200)
- Oversize bag – $300 (from $200)
- Overweight bag (51-70 pounds) – $300 (from $200)
- Overweight bag (71-100 pounds) – $400 (unchanged)
In a memo to reservation and airport agents reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly, United instructs employees to provide the following answer if a passenger inquires about the higher bag fees:
We’re currently flying an alternate routing which requires extra fuel, which means the plane will have more weight. United is increasing bag fees to help manage weight restrictions on these flights.
There is no end-date currently specified for these higher bag fees to India.
Will We See Checked Baggage Fees Go Up On Other Routes?
Airline baggage fees have remained stagnant while fuel prices have risen. Even as airfare has rebounded from pandemic lows in part due to rising fuel prices, the PR nightmare that generally comes from broad increases in checked baggage fees may still be saving as deterrent to airlines.
While there is no indication–internal or otherwise–that United will raise baggage fees on other routes, it would not surprise me to see one U.S. carrier raise baggage fees this year and then others quickly match. First, because fuel prices are indeed higher and thus expenses higher even on routes that do not touch Russian airspace. Second, because baggage fees are also revenue generators and airlines are hunting for ways to keep costs under control in order to balance the restoration of pre-pandemic service levels. Third, because we are seeing inflationary pressure on everything else in society, why not baggage fees?
This might be another reason to lock in your summer and autumn travel plans now, as U.S. airlines cannot raise pre-disclosed fees retroactively.
United Airlines is “temporarily” raising checked baggage fees to India, blaming higher fuel prices and Russian-related routing restrictions. While the first checked bag remains free, second and third bag fees are now $100 higher.
While no announcements have been made, it would not surprise me to see higher baggage fees systemwide on United and other U.S. carriers announced later this year.