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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