United Airlines to customers: Check your bag for $150


When it's backed into a financial corner, what's an airline to do? Gas prices are saner now, but they won't give our money back for the fuel surcharges because now they're using that cash to plug mortal wounds. Americans have grudgingly accepted the implementation of luggage fees, too. As consumers, we've all been led down the primrose path with the airlines, and they're finding that we're actually pretty compliant when it comes to these extra charges.

So why not try out a hefty optional one? United Airlines has partnered with FedEx to sell passengers door-to-door overnight delivery of your luggage. FedEx retrieves your luggage from your house, preferably the day before your flight, and you pick it up the next day at your destination, such as a hotel or at a specified address. The one-way price deviates from the usual FedEx rate scheme: $149 for flights under 1,000 miles and $179 for longer flights. As always, without this splurge fee, your stuff can travel in the cargo hold just below your feet for $15 each way for the first bag and $50 each way for each second bag.

Marketing-wise, I'm not sure what the message is here. With this new optional charge, United seems to be tacitly acknowledging that you might be better off entrusting your valuables to someone else. Is United admitting that paying ten times the usual price is the only way to make sure your bag actually makes it to your destination? Like the cruise lines' efforts to offer premium restaurants on its ships, United seems to be saying that its usual service isn't good enough. And it's not like the lack of a bag will speed your passage through security in any meaningful way, because you can only move through it as quickly as the person in front of you.