United Airlines’ New Unlimited Premier Baggage Plan…Is It Worth It?

Web: www.stevenfrischling.com — E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

6/10/2009 – United Airlines’ New Unlimited Premier Baggage Plan…Is It Worth It?

Yesterday United Airlines announced an interesting twist in airline baggage fees. While many airlines continue to experiment with secondary-revenue from passengers, through ‘unbundling’ airfares, United Airlines has created a new “Premier Baggage” fee scheme that allows travellers to pre-pay US$249 for the ability to check two bags per flight, on an unlimited number of flights, on all United Airlines flights for one year.

United Airlines currently charges US$20 for the first checked bag and US$30 for the second checked bag, so the new Premier Baggage scheme could pay for its self in 4.98 flights with United Airlines or United Express (essentially two-and-a-half round-trip).

For the individual traveller I don’t see much benefit in the new United Premier Baggage scheme, as most travellers currently tend to fly with a single bag, and a single checked bag would require 12.45 flights with United Airlines over a year, keeping in mind that the Premier Baggage fee is only valid on United Airlines, not United’s Star Alliance partner carriers, or on United Airlines code-share flights.   Generally most flyers who travel on 12.45 flight annually strictly on United Airlines flights would already have United Airlines frequent flyer “elite status” thus they’d already be entitled to fee free checked baggage.

I do see the significant potential in cost savings in the Premier Baggage scheme for families flying with United Airlines on a vacation. United’s Premier Baggage scheme allows for up to eight passengers, flying on the same itinerary number, to each check two bags on their flights at no additional cost.

If a family of five were flying with United Airlines, and five bags were checked, the baggage fee would be $200 round trip for the baggage. If “Mom & Dad” then flew United on two trips within that same year and checked one bag on each of those two trips (or two bags on one trip) the $249 Premier Baggage fee would be marginally cost effective.

While United Airlines is marketing the new “Premier Baggage,” and its introductory price of $249, as a “Great gift for any frequent flyer” this baggage policy is really aimed at the infrequent flyer and families who fly with five or more passengers on a single itinerary.

Before signing up for the Premier Baggage scheme determine your travel habits.

– Are your flights are strictly on United Airlines
– Do you check baggage?
– How often you fly on partner airlines or code-share flights that will not honour the United Premier Baggage scheme
– What is the likelihood that you’ll spend more than $249 annually in checked baggage with United Airlines in single year?

United has an interesting one-off pre-paid baggage program here, however I think at $249 it may already be priced to high for the vast majority of flyers and thus will not drive the revenue United is expecting it to.

Happy Flying!


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