03/28/2008 02:46 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Airlines: Pack Light Or Pay Up

Pack light or pay up.

Forcing customers to pay for service previously included with ticket purchases, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. will begin charging $50 round-trip for checking a second piece of luggage on May 5, and Southwest Airlines Co. has already implemented a similar fee for checking a third bag. Other airlines may follow, eager to collect hundreds of millions of dollars without raising ticket prices.

Airlines are under severe financial pressure from high fuel prices, and their finances may worsen if recession curbs some travel. Carriers have been scrambling for ways to "up-sell" fliers, including selling first-class upgrades, fancy alcoholic drinks and day passes to airport clubs.

But they've also been stripping out previously free services and charging customers for anything more than basic transportation -- everything from use of skycaps and telephone reservationists to on-board meals and, at a few carriers, assigned seats and exit-row or bulkhead legroom.

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