United to charge $15 to check *any* bag

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Starting July 1, United will slap passengers with a $15 fee on domestic flights for the first checked bag.

The charge is not included in the ticket price. You pay the fee when you check in. The $15 fee is one-way. If there are multiple stops on your route, you still pay only $15. Taxes are included. Passengers flying in first or business classes or who have premier frequent flier status with United or Star Alliance will not have to pay the fee. From now on, United estimates that about one out of three of its passengers will have to pay the fee. If you bought a ticket before today, you will not have to pay the fee.

Cost to check a second bag: $25 each way.

Third bags: $125 each way.

United follows American, the first airline to announce such a fee. American will start charging the fee next Monday June 16. (More than 60 of you complained about the rule via comments on our recent blog post about it.)

UPDATE June 13: US Airways says it now will also charge the $15 fee, starting July 9. Elite members of its frequent-flier program won't have to pay. But unlike United and American, US Airways is charging the fee not only to U.S. flights but also to flights to and from Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Chaos at the airport is likely for the first few days that the programs go into effect. The airlines are concerned that their policies will tempt some passengers to try to carry too much on-board. They will have staff members standing around examining the carry-on luggage of passengers, warning them that they can only carry on a single large item whose width, height, and length must be under 45 inches, plus one small personal item such as a purse, suitcase, or laptop case. Passenger who attempt to exceed that limit will be intercepted before they pass through security. But confusion is likely to reign during the first days of the process.

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