Cue the negative press: AirTran (Stock Quote: AAI) announced over the weekend it will up the fee for your first checked bag by $5, starting Sep. 1. Passengers flying coach will soon pay $20 to check a bag.
Those traveling through Aug. 31, 2010 with reservations made prior to Aug. 17, 2010 only have to pay the original $15 fee for a first checked bag. The fees to check a second ($25) and third bag ($50) will remain the same.
This change will not affect business class passengers or AirTran elite members, who can check up to two backs at no charge. Interestingly, as Webflyer.com notes, AirTran business class upgrades start at $49 one-way so those who travel with more than one suitcase may want to consider flying first class. You can check here for a full breakdown of baggage rates.
AirTran is a domestic low cost carrier that flies to about 75 cities, located primarily in the eastern and midwestern U.S.
Despite the price increase, AirTran is still charging less to check a first bag than most of larger airlines. Delta (Stock Quote: DAL), Continental (Stock Quote: CAL), United Airlines (Stock Quote: UAUA)and American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR) all charge between $23-$25 for the first bag, depending on whether you check the bag online or at the airport. AirTran’s fee is now comparable to other lower-cost carriers Frontier Airlines (Stock Quote: FRNT) and Midwest Airlines, who both charge $20 to check a bag.
JetBlue (Stock Quote: JBLU) and Southwest Airlines (Stock Quote: LUV) do not charge to check a first suitcase.
Lately, it seems we can’t go more than a few days without seeing a “new and improved” airline fee. Just last week, American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR) announced it will charge between $19 and $39 for booking the “first few rows” in coach. And earlier this month, fee-monger Spirit started charging passengers $30-$40 to store a carry-on in its overhead bins. If you prefer to carry on, however, Spirit (Stock Quote: SPR) online will charge $19 to check a bag online, or $25 at the airport.