United’s Annual Bag Fee is a Smart Move

Earlier this week, United announced that it would stop charging you fees for your first and second bags . . . if you’re willing to pay $249 up front. Is it a good deal for fliers? Maybe in some cases, but it’s really only some families that will be able to benefit.

This program says that if you pay $249 (as an “intro” rate), then you can take 2 bags with you without any additional charge United New Premier Bag Optionfor a year. What’s more, you can bring up to 8 companions with you and they get the same royal treatment.

Your initial thought is probably that if you fly a lot, this makes sense. But if you fly a lot, this makes the least sense of all. Huh? Remember, if you’re an elite member, then you never pay for the first and second bags. So if you’re a single traveler and you check enough bags to make this worthwhile, you’re probably already an elite flier, especially with all these bonus elite mile specials that are out there.

What if you have a family of 8 and everyone wants to check two bags? Well, this is a great deal. That first bag is normally $15 in advance and the second is $25. So, $40 times 8 people = $320. You’ve already made your money back before you even take the return flight.

But those are rare scenarios (except in Utah). The reality lies somewhere in the middle. And that is why I think this is a great idea from United’s perspective.

Let’s say that you have a husband, 2 kids and you travel 3 times a year. Generally when you travel, you’ll check 3 bags. That means you’ll pay $270 to check bags on those three trips, so you might just decide to pay up front and spend the extra $20 on an overpriced snack box.

Here’s where it gets interesting. If you don’t fly that often, you may not have loyalty with any airline. In fact, you’re probably just making your decision based on price. If you buy this baggage option, however, then United has hooked you. Even if they cost more than other carriers for your second and third flight, you might take them simply because you already have “free” bags. It’s a great psychological move in that it secretly builds a level of loyalty in a group that is usually far from loyal.

Will they sell a lot of this? Probably not. But every time they sell it, they’re helping to build loyalty.

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19 Comments on "United’s Annual Bag Fee is a Smart Move"

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David SF eastbay
Member
Those companions must all be booked in the same record (one comfirmation number) as you which also makes a difference. Sometimes one person may be traveling on business and the spouse and kids may join along but not travel at the same time/days. So if the ‘business’ traveler of the group paid the yearly fee, they can’t use the companion option since the rest of the group is booked in a different reservation. Same for multiple business travelers traveling at the same time and checking bags. If one paid for the year the others are out of luck if they… Read more »
asad
Guest
There is a term in marketing for this type of plan I don’t remember what it is but it’s not loyalty. Locked in ? This is more like microsfot making sure you can only use exchange to manage calendaring, it’s a lock in and users generally hate it because they are forced to choose something simply because they need 1-2 options. this option also bets on users not realizing that they will be hooked. So far it appears as yet another money making scheme by United. United has a lot of good people, but ultimately they are a yield management… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member
CF wrote: I don’t follow your comparison. United is not forcing anyone to buy this. It’s just another option. So people who do buy it will then be loyal to United for the rest of the year because they already have that sunk cost. (You should never consider sunk costs in a situation like this, but people do.) Its a minor way of adding lockin from what I see. Basically moving to another option costs more. Although Delta won’t do this, that whole SLC problem would kill them if they did.. I’ll give kudos for United for trying some thing… Read more »
wblewett
Member

Does United’s Bag Fee apply to partner Alliances?

jaybru
Member
Now let’s see, I’ll take one each: Priority Baggage, Priority Line, Premier Travel, Premier Travel Plus, Economy Plus Annual Option, Economy Plus, with Premier Fast Track, Economy Plus, with Red Carpet Club. And of course, one “Low Fare Guarantee.” Now was that “file by” midnight Central Time, or was it Eastern Time…? And the forms needed? Did I forget an “option?” Have to hire someone like Cranky, at a reasonable fee/charge, just to keep all this straight. True, I don’t have to buy any of this, but it would be awfully nice for me if UA would put as much… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
Be careful if you buy this or you could be buying it yearly if you don’t op-out of the automatic renewal. From united.com Term and Automatic Renewals: The term of your subscription is based on the initial activation date and on your acceptance of the terms and conditions. Except for gift subscriptions, near the end of the subscription period your subscription will automatically renew for the renewal term and your credit card on file will be charged the cost of the subscription listed on united.com at the time of renewal, unless you have opted out of the auto-renewal feature. —… Read more »
Thomas
Guest
Anyone else remember those good old days when you bought a ticket, and that ticket included the fuel needed for the plane, the suitcase in the cargo hold, stuff to keep you alive while traveling, and whatever the airport asked for manning the metal detector? Now, buying a ticket means that one voluntarily bends over to also pay “fuel surcharges”, “security fee” and “baggage fee” and the old friend “airport tax” — let alone have to beg, and pay through ones nose, for a glass of water. So United comes out with a “get shafted up front” subscription for paying… Read more »
Bobber
Guest

Thomas wrote:

Give me back an airline company which advertises the ticket fare INCLUSIVE of all those things that are “mandatory” anyways.

Speaking of which, I am rather disappointed to see the UA website in the UK is now giving prominence to air fares pre taxes and fees – very misleading and f-ing irritating.

logprof_lgf
Member

Cranky, is this for a calendar year, or 365 days?

Oliver
Guest

@ CF:

hmm, when UA switched to tax-exclusive pricing in the US a few weeks ago, their UK website still showed the all-inclusive pricing, and the assumption on FT was that this was due to stricter EU regulations.

MeanMeosh
Guest
Thomas wrote: So United comes out with a “get shafted up front” subscription for paying the “baggage-fee”, and it’s being hailed as POSITIVE? Hey, I totally agree with you, but let’s face it, in the NWO we live in today, we’re not going back to the days of old, without the nickel-and-dime fees. Given that, I’ll take anything that eases the shafting even a little as a positive. asad wrote: There is a term in marketing for this type of plan I don’t remember what it is but it’s not loyalty. Locked in ? This is more like microsfot making… Read more »
jaybru
Member
Oliver wrote: @ CF: hmm, when UA switched to tax-exclusive pricing in the US a few weeks ago, their UK website still showed the all-inclusive pricing, and the assumption on FT was that this was due to stricter EU regulations. I’ve been watching this with great interest. I’ve contacted UA to question what they are trying to do with their recent changes. I said it is very difficult to see what they are charging because without a hard-copy ticket, a traveler really has no idea what is being charged–fare vs. taxes/fees. Not that it was ever that easy trying to… Read more »
Bobber
Guest

CF wrote:

It’s not just the UK, Bobber. It’s here in the US as well, and I agree that it’s awful.

Just complained to them, Cranky, and to their credit I got a personalised response in under 24 hours. Crap answer, though. They’ve switched to displaying fares in this manner because ‘other carriers are doing the same thing’.

Thomas
Guest
@ CF: Perhaps you don’t check bags in – more power to you. Fact is: it used to be inclusive of the ticket-fare, now it’s not (and fares haven’t gone down, at least not where I fly). Hence, we’re simply getting shafted. From where I stand, I see it just as extra hassle, especially for my less-traveled colleagues who just have extra “explanations to the accounting dept who think they’ve paid for the travel expenses in advance” and who doesn’t understand what to do with the extra claims, often with receipts of various quality etc, extra hassle to deal with… Read more »
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