Airlines have carefully honed the art of charging customers fees over the past couple of decades. Long gone are the days when you could check a bag for free (unless you’re flying Southwest). Basic Economy was the most recent effort to charge customers more, with varying degrees of success.
Before airlines charged for checked bags there were fewer people carrying bags onboard. Nowadays, it’s the only way to avoid a fee for a bag. With planes flying more full it’s become harder to guarantee you can find space for your carry-on bag. This is especially true if you don’t have some sort of elite status or hold the airline’s credit card.
United Airlines already sells a “Premier Access” product that gets you expedited security screening and priority boarding. Now, they’re selling just Priority Boarding. If you don’t have elite status or a United credit card, that’s a bad thing for you.
Basic Economy reduced the number of bags in the overhead bins. But, I still see bags being gate-checked on most of my flights for lack of space.
United charges $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second and $100 for the third. Since priority boarding is as cheap as $9, smart folks will figure out it’s cheaper to bring a carry-on than check a bag if they can guarantee overhead bin space for the price of priority boarding. The more people who purchase priority boarding, the less likely groups 3 and 4 will be to have overhead bin space. Heck, it seems like more than half the plane is in groups 1 and 2 already.
The Final Two Pennies
I understand we’re in the age of airline fees. There’s always bound to be new ones. But, these fees erode the value of purchasing a regular ticket. One of the benefits of avoiding Basic Economy is getting space for your carry-on bag in an overhead bin. Fees like this new one make it less likely. The cheaper the fee is the more likely people will be to shrug and add it on.
Since there’s no other logical reason to get on an airplane early, customers buying priority boarding will make it harder for everyone else to find overhead bin space.
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