Paying for carry-on bags? It could happen on major airlines.

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Could you someday have to pay for carry-on bags on United, American and Delta?

Andrew Levy, president and chief operating officer at Allegiant Air, says he thinks you will. His airline, known for selling deeply discounted coach tickets mainly to and from leisure destinations, has been charging for all but the smallest carry-on bags since 2012. So far, in the United States, only Allegiant and competitor Spirit are charging for cabin bags.

“I would be shocked if in three years we were still the only ones charging for carry-on bags,” Levy told me in an interview last month. “I think if you are platinum medallion on Delta you ‘ll never pay for those. But if I’m ‘Joe Blow’ who only flies twice a year, I’ll always pay.”

You probably don’t believe him. But keep in mind, Allegiant was among the first carriers to charge for checked baggage, making customers pay for bags well before American Airlines shocked passengers in 2008 with the new fee. A fee that was almost immediately copied by every major airline except Southwest.

That could happen again with carry-on bags.

“I personally believe it is inevitable that there will be a charge for carry on bags,” Levy said. “I think it will be a widely adopted fee. But we’ll see. I could be wrong. But the industry has been moving pretty consistently toward where we are and where Spirit is. I don’t think it will stop.”

Charging for carry-on bags is beneficial for airlines in a couple of ways, Levy said. The first one is obvious. The airlines make money off of something that used to be free. The second is a slightly harder to quantify. But if charging for bags means passengers bring less stuff, airplanes will presumably fly at lighter weights.  And over time, that lighter planes can bring some fuel savings.

For many passengers, the key is that an airline’s best customers will actually be rewarded by this move. First, they’ll end up getting a perk, since they almost certainly won’t have to pay to use the overhead bin. Second, the bins will have more space than they do now, since passengers will no longer have an incentive to avoid checking luggage.

What do you think? Do you agree with Levy’s prediction? And do you think airlines should charge for carry-on bags?

And check back next week for more of Levy’s thoughts on ancillary revenue products.

 

 

 

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  • Rusty

    I don’t see it happening, but I’ve been wrong before.

    I don’t think of these types of fees as any real incremental revenue as I think passengers realize that that a $350 fare with $50 in bag fees is the same as a $400 fare. The fees would only make sense as a way to more efficiently price the service. That is probably the case with check-in bags since there are real incremental costs associated with them. Just don’t see that being the case with carry-ons.

    I guess it can be seen as a way to discount the prices for their frequent fliers, but it seems like a cumbersome way of doing it. I’ve never flown Allegiant or Spirit, but I would expect that the hassle factor would be enough that I would be hesitant to fly any airline that charged them.