Student travelers can expect to feel the surge in gas prices not only at the pump, but also at the airport this summer as the nation’s largest carrier, American Airlines, has announced that passengers will be charged an extra fee for their first checked in bag on continental flights.
With the exception of first and business class and international flight passengers, travelers starting from June 15 onward will have to pay $15 for their first checked-in baggage and $25 for the second, each way. Service fees and charges for overweight and oversized bags have also increased.
As major airlines have raised their fares and added new fees about a dozen times in recent months, traveling students should double-check baggage policies before their departures to avoid surprise fees at the airport, especially for special items such as musical instruments or surf boards.
The policy change comes only a month after American Airlines followed many other carriers’ new $25 fee for a second checked-in bag.
Though American is the only carrier so far with the new baggage fees, the country’s other major airlines are considering this as well. The nation’s second largest carrier, United Airlines, is “seriously considering” a check-in bag fee, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said. Delta Air Lines, the third largest carrier, is not currently planning on instituting a new fee, but is open to all options, spokeswoman Besty Talton said.
University officials said the uncertainty of the other airlines’ actions should encourage students to think twice about what they pack for their trips.
Bruce Hanna, the director for strategic marketing and communication of the UC Education Abroad Program, warns students not to overpack on their short-term vacations and long-term stays because it can be an expensive addition to travel costs.
On American Airlines, for example, two checked-in pieces of luggage will now total $80 round-trip in addition to ticket fees. Overweight or oversize fees can add anywhere from $50 to $150 in charges.
Careful planning and advanced packing can help students avoid such fees, Hanna said.
“If you’re 50-50 on packing it, don’t,” he added.
Danny Ben-Aderet, a second-year undeclared student who studied in Portugal last year, said his experiences traveling in Europe showed him that he did not need many of the items he packed.
“I would pack my bag and only take half of what I thought I needed because I know, in the end, I won’t use most of it,” he said.
He used vacuum-sealed bags to shrink his clothes so everything would fit in a small, wheeled luggage for his carry-on and a duffle bag to check in. Even still, he said he believes it is possible to travel with only carry-on.
“It’s really easy to overpack, but I think everyone should take what they need only by carry-on because, honestly, you don’t need that much,” Ben-Aderet said.
The new policy may also result in longer security checkpoint lines and flight delays as more passengers may be relying on bigger carry-on bags with more items to avoid the new fees.
Alex Ho, a second-year political science student who often flies back to his home in northern California and for vacation, has learned to lessen his luggage so he can move through airport lines easily.
“I always make sure my clothes can fit in one bag,” he said. “I’ve learned from traveling so much that it is just so important to be able to move quickly.”
The fee changes in American Airlines and possibly other carriers, however, may encourage passengers to be more sensible packers by only traveling with carry-on.
“Only having one bag makes going through the airport just so much faster, and if more people did that, the airport (experience) will go faster,” Ho said.
With reports from Bruin wire services.