Most of the rest of the big “legacy” airlines joined USAirways this week in raising their fees to check baggage. American, Continental, Delta, and United all plan to raise the fee for checking your first bag to $20 dollars, up from $15 dollars. Notably, all but American will knock $5 dollars of the price if you prepay your fee online. Fees for the second bag will rise from $25 to $30 dollars, with all the airlines offering a $5 dollar discount for prepaying online with the exception of American.
In the case of American, I believe their refusal to offer a discount for prepaying the fee may have more to do with their inability to actually collect the fee online than with any desire to take you for the extra $5 dollars when their competitors are offering a discount. I would think this puts them at a small competitive disadvantage versus the competition, and will anxiously wait to see if they eventually offer the discount, or if the competition drops theirs. I would think there would be an incentive to offer the option for paying online if for no other reason than you don’t have to staff the airport with an agent to collect the fee.
In any event, I remain unopposed to the “a la carte” pricing model as long as the additional services being charged for can legitimately be considered as optional. I think that baggage is one of those legitimate options starting with the second checked bag. One piece of baggage is inherently part of the travel experience, and I recognize that you can still carry that one bag on for free. Nevertheless, I think JetBlue’s policy of the first checked bag for free and charging for the second is the right policy for checked baggage.