Airline baggage charges climb; is there an alternative?

The latest move by the nation's airlines to degrade the already horrendous experience of flight came with United's recent announcement that it intends to start charging for a second checked bag beginning in May. Look for the same to spread throughout the industry, barring a customer revolt.

It will charge $25 for that second, normal-size bag. Airline charges for additional bags and overweight/oversize bags is also on the rise. Continental charges an outrageous $100 per extra bag, while American demands an extra $100 for each bag weighing over 71 pounds.

There are alternatives, though, although they involve pre-planning and often more money. A number of companies like luggagefree.com offer full concierge service. They will pick your bags up at your home/office and deliver them to your hotel or destination. Expect to pay for the service, though; $4.15 per pound for bags delivered the same day by 3:15 p.m. If you can ship five days before departure, this charge drops a much more affordable $1.65, beating the crap out of Continental's charge. Peter Greenberg has a great list of these companies on his web site.