American Airlines'much-discussed charge of $15 for checking a single bag went into effect Sunday. A few days earlier, United and US Airways both announced that they'd be following along soon, charging their own $15 each way.
It seems possible that soon Southwest will be the only airline not getting on board for this fee. (The company announced back in May that it has no plans to charge extra for either a first or a second checked bag).
If you're determined to avoid this nickel-and-diming by getting everything in your carry-on, there are lots of luggage makers only too willing to help. The Washington Post recently took a look at some multipart bags—backpacks with removable daypacks, that sort of thing. Getting highest marks is the wonderfully named Tarmac Plus One from Eagle Creek. The $275 wheelie bag has within it a day-pack with a laptop sleeve. Of course, $275 will buy you nearly 10 round-trip luggage fees, so it's hardly a perfect solution if you didn't have a pricey bag in your budget already.
For many families, it might make the most sense to swallow hard and plan on checking at least one (large) piece of luggage rather than deal with the logistics of getting multiple carry-ons to come in at the right weight. At least one travel expert plans on paying the fee. Even though Susan Foster, author of Smart Packing for Today's Traveler, could cram all her belongings into a carry-on, she told the New York Times that paying the fee is a "bargain" compared to participating in the likely nightmarish scenarios that await those tied down by fat carry-ons.
"Picture the security lines for all the people who say, 'Well, harrumph, I'm not going to pay $15.' Every person, every little old lady with a carry-on bag that they can't lift," she said.
American Airlines responds to critics of its $15 fee.