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Suzette Standring Headshot

Skyway Robbery

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Summer vacation is almost here and airlines are breathless to scoop up buckets of cash through their new checked baggage fees. If your two-week vacation wardrobe cannot completely fit into a carry-on, then be prepared to pay extra. United, American and Continental Airlines will feed like jackals on the traveling public. Planning a summer getaway? Consider yourself a crippled goat on the Serengeti.

Let's see how much meat they'll pick off your sorry carcass.

American Airlines will charge $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second checked bag, each way. Checking in two suitcases for a round trip? That will be $80, please, per person. A third, fourth or fifth bag will cost you $100 apiece, each way.

On United Airlines, the first checked bag is free, but fork over $25 for the second one, each way. Make sure your suitcase is correctly sized and within the 50-lb. weight limit or you'll have $100 less to spend at Disney World.

Continental is charging $25 for the second checked bag. Owners of oversized bags or overweight suitcases will be slapped with a $50 to $100 penalty.

It's skyway robbery!

Exceptions to the rules are first class passengers, holders of a gazillion-frequent-flyer miles and their ilk. (But for what they've paid, they've been turned upside down and all their change already fell out.)

Please note that no fees will be charged on checked-in wheelchairs and strollers. Corporate compassion. Doesn't that just fill your heart with fluffy-kitty feelings?

Why the new money-grubbing fees? We can assume gas prices and poor management, but on their web sites American and Continental stayed mum on that question.

Only United Airlines attempted a non-answer: "This new checked bag policy is part of our continuing efforts to offer customers choice, flexibility and low fares."

Let me translate the Fly-The-Friendly-Skies-speak:

Choice: Wear everything you own or fly nude. The "choice" is yours.

Flexibility: We're giving you one free bag, what else do you want? Get gouged by American then. We're flexible.

Low fares: Compared to what you'll pay to bring your sports equipment, two-week wardrobe and all the stuff your kids insist on bringing, our fares will seem very low.

Have you ever wondered about the sadistic minds behind some of the scariest rides at amusement parks? They may have found work with airline management. Someone is applying well-honed skills to expertly raise the blood pressure of riders. The creation of amputee-sized seats was just the beginning.

Poor, poor airlines, they wrestle with operational costs -- like the astronomical annual salaries of their CEO's. ($4.3 million forDoug Parker of US Airways, $6 million for Lawrence Kellner of Continental Airlines, $11.3 million for Richard Anderson of Delta Airlines, $10.3 million for Glenn Tilton of United Airlines; and $6.6 million for Gerard Arpey of American Airlines, according to Derrick Jackson's Boston Globe column on 5/24/08.)

Folks, that takes a lot of checked baggage! Airlines have to find the extra money somewhere, and passenger backsides (the wallet pocket, specifically) provide handy spots for slashing away a pound of flesh.

I can remember the old days when vacation bliss began the minute I reached the airport. An entire generation of young travelers would consider that to be just early dementia talking.