United to charge for checked luggage

United Airlines says travelers will have to pay $15 each way for one checked bag, and $25 for a second starting Friday.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Citing higher fuel prices, United Airlines said Thursday it will begin charging domestic passengers $15 each way for one checked bag.

The carrier, based in Chicago, Illinois, said the fee to check a second bag will be $25 each way. The fee to check three or more bags, overweight bags or "items that require special handling" will increase from $100 to $125 or from $200 to $250, depending on the item, United said in a statement.

The $15 charge will apply to customers who purchase a ticket on or after June 13, 2008, for travel within the United States and to or from Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on or after August 18, 2008.

The $15 service fee will not apply to customers flying in United First or United Business or who have premier status with United or Star Alliance airline network, the carrier said.

For itineraries that include international flights (except Canada), checking a first and second bag will continue to be free, United said. The cost to check more than two bags or items that are overweight or require special handling varies by destination.

Some airlines have been adding fees to once-free benefits, such as snacks and checked baggage. Despite this cost-cutting, airlines are finding it harder to survive as they get squeezed by soaring fuel costs.

"With record-breaking fuel prices, we must pursue new revenue opportunities, while continuing to offer competitive fares, by tailoring our products and services around what our customers value most and are willing to pay for," said John Tague, United's executive vice president and chief operating officer.

United (UAUA, Fortune 500) said it estimates that the new $15 service fee will apply to one out of three customers, and the potential revenue from baggage handling service fees, including those for checking a first and second bag, will be approximately $275 million a year.

Last month, American Airlines (AMR, Fortune 500) announced a $15 service charge for the first checked bag.

Northwest Airlines (NWA, Fortune 500) and US Airways (LCC, Fortune 500) told CNN they are studying checked-bag charges but have made no decisions.

Delta (DAL, Fortune 500) said it is still not charging for passengers' first checked bags. Continental did not immediately return a call from CNN. To top of page

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