United fee hits where it counts | AspenTimes.com

United fee hits where it counts

Will United Airlines’ price gouging ever stop?

Apparently not. The Chicago-based carrier’s latest cash grab will hit passengers who check a second piece of luggage. The pricetag: $25. That means a two-way flight with at least one extra bag will cost fliers another 50 bucks.

United will pardon frequent fliers ” those who have Premier status or higher in United’s Mileage Plus program ” from the surcharge. They happen to be the same type of fliers who can afford this spike.

But for the leisure/economy travelers who like to bring their outdoor gear ” think a second bag with skis, golf clubs or a fishing rod ” flying in and out of Aspen is already expensive enough.

Not surprising, United said the reason for the fee is to keep fares competitive. It also added that the rule change will generate another $100 million annually in revenues and cost savings (fewer bags to handle and therefore lighter planes).

United can call this new “fee” whatever it wants, but it’s a fare hike.

Even the perpetually positive Bill Tomcich, the president of central reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, deemed it as such. Tomcich, whose job includes negotiating with commercial airlines and maintaining a positive relationship with them, could not bite his tongue on this one.

“This, in disguise, is the largest single fare increase I have ever witnessed in the 17 years I have worked in this industry,” he told The Aspen Times this week. “This is the first time that a major carrier has done this.”

United’s move ” which takes effect for flights after May 5 ” will be felt in fliers’ pocketbooks all over the country, but especially in resorts, where leisure travelers tend to bring extra gear. As the anchor airline of both Denver International Airport and Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, United has a virtual monopoly in Colorado, though it has seen challenges from both Frontier and Southwest, neither of which serve Aspen.

There’s still hope that Frontier will penetrate the Aspen skies, but nothing has happened yet.

In the meantime, air travel to Aspen will get more expensive very soon. And with such a limited choice of airlines to fly here, the only way some travelers can avoid the fare increase is to choose another resort. This could be a deal breaker for many travelers, and that could hurt Aspen.

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