Is Delta’s $50 second-bag-charge a better way?

by Charlie Leocha on July 30, 2008

With the airlines baggage charges in disarray and the major airlines in a rare divergence when it comes to a basic costs, Delta’s shocking increase in their 2nd-bag-charge might be a more reasonable path than the American/United/USAirways group with their $15 first-checked-bag charge.

Initially, this $50 charge for the second checked bag startled me. I didn’t think the increase in rates would come so fast — I was actually planning to writing a column warning travelers to get ready for an increase to $35 a bag. But, after reflection, this kind of increase treats those extra bags as the excess baggage and freight that they are.

Afterall, compared with any alternative, Delta’s charges are reasonable.

According to the New York Times, “On domestic flights, the fee on Delta for checking a third, fourth or fifth bag, now $80 for each bag, will rise to $125 apiece.”

Delta warned on its Web site that if a customer has an extra piece of baggage that goes over the weight limit and the size limit, the passenger will be charged three times — once for the extra bag, once for going over the size limit and once for going over the weight limit. Who knows what will happen to travelers carrying skis and golf clubs?

Perhaps, this shift in baggage charges will give American, United and USAirways the window to align their baggage policies with Delta and keep the legacy carriers with similar overall fare structures. For the majority of airline passengers, the Delta approach makes economic sense and eliminates the structural problems associated with the first-checked-bag charges.

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  • Matthew B

    Personally, I’ve never understood the “piece basis” that Airlines in the Americas use. In the rest of the world they use the “weight basis”, economy passengers usually get 20 kg, business 30 kg and first 40kg, and excess baggage is charged on a per kg basis, which reflects the fact that it is the weight that costs the airline, more than the volume. 20 kg is not a lot and many full service airlines turn a blind eye up to about 25 kg, at least during the early stages of check in. As the plane fills up and maximum take off weight approaches, you can bet anyone showing up with overweight bags will get charged. In 1998 I was quoted SGD400 for a 10kg bag between Singapore and Sydney – I sent it freight.

    Delta is probably looking to free up hold space for revenue freight. Expect the other airlines to follow suit. Also expect the “piece basis” to disappear failry soon.

  • SirWired

    The piece basis actually makes sense because for a normal weight and size bag the labor to handle the baggage costs far more than the fuel to transport it. Each and every checked bag must be weighed, tagged, x-ray’d, sorted, loaded onto the tram, driven around, unloaded from the tram, loaded onto the aircraft, secured, flown, unloaded from the aircraft, loaded onto the tram, and either unloaded onto the carousel, or sent through another round of sorting, loading, etc. if it is a connecting flight. Add in extra cost for the price of tracking what happened when the bag gets lost, and eventually getting it to the destination when it gets un-lost.

    While each individual operation is not responsible for much labor cost, it adds up.

    Of course, separate charges for overweight and oversize bags are also quite reasonable, since overweight requires more gas, and oversize requires special handling. I can understand a flat rate instead of a per/kg basis just to make pricing easier on everyone.

    SirWired

  • SirWired

    As a side note, I don’t agree with the first bag fees at all. Not on the basis of fairness (there is nothing inherently unfair about ala carte pricing), but because it will turn overhead space into complete chaos.

    SirWired

  • Linda

    I was wondering if we passengers will have more recourse against the airlines if they lose your luggage after charging you for it. I would think there is some kind of contract there with these charges and they should be held more accountable to get your luggage to your city at the same time you get there. Any lawyers out there to answer that?

  • Frank

    Baggage fees like this will lead passengers to rethink how they travel with luggage. Is it more convenient or cheaper to just use Fedex, UPS, or a luggage service? Skip the check-in lines. Security hassles.
    As an added benefit, it reduces weight OR adds to the much needed revenue to off set fuel costs.

    Overhead chaos? Flight Attendants know to watch the overheads and MONITOR the availability of SPACE onboard. As soon as the bins are getting FULL, they know to call up front and BEGIN CHECKING THEM AT THE DOOR. No arguments in the aisle. =)

  • C Baker

    Some might be interested in one of the lead stories at elpasotimes.com today. A TX national guardsman was charged more that $100 on AA to check his 3rd bag on his way to active duty and the national guard may or may not reimburse him. To AA’s credit, they waived the charges for the first 2 bags and the overweight charges. However, this could badly impact some of our soldiers!

  • Joe

    First, most people don’t understand (or care) that everything the airline carriers do has an internal cost associated with it. Now that GAS has become such a premium the airlines are now understanding that the more weight on a plane the more gas it will burn during a flight. You might also have noticed that while at the gate most airlines are just running the vents and not actually cutting on the A/C. They will tell you lower your window shade to help keep the cabin cool. All of these little steps help save millions of dollars per day on fuel cost. Let’s be honest. Have you calculated how much it would cost you in fuel, wear and tear on the car to drive form say Atlanta to LA? Two people can not drive that trip for less than what an airline can get you there for.

    Now let’s look at baggage. Number of bags and weight of bags should be associated with the fair class of ticket you purchased. Example: a family traveling on vacation that has found the rock bottom price of let’s say $130 round trip to Florida and the wife has packed 3 suitcases of shoes along with the rest of the luggage… They should have to pay extra. I, having to purchase a last minute ticket and paying $900 for the same flight should not have to pay extra for a second or even a third piece of luggage (demo equipment).

    Now comes the actual weigh-in of the bag. The scales they use are accurate “legal for trade” devices when they were installed and calibrated. Most airlines have there own group that services the scales. Prior to setting your bag on the scale you should always make sure that the display reads “zero”. The ticket agent has a “zero” button that they can press to zero the scale…. It’s going to get stricter and I would not be surprised to see airlines and their freight divisions charging “DIM/Weight” just like the parcel carriers do…. and honestly, they should.

  • Dave

    I do think baggage fees are legitimate. Some people can avoid them. Those who can’t are indeed asking the airlines to provide an extra service of value, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t charge for that. The concept that if I buy a ticket to fly me from Point A to Point B I automatically have the right to free shipment of large quantities of goods just doesn’t make sense. What I hate are the so-called “fuel surchages”, which obviously have no relation to the price of fuel, and which nobody can escape. Those are pure bait-and-switch, and should be outlawed if they aren’t already illegal.

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