In a bid to reduce the ill will passengers undoubtedly feel every time they fork over cash for baggage fees, United Airlines has adopted a new approach: charge passengers for bags, but only do it once a year.
United refers to them as "annual subscriptions," and per a company release, for $349 each year, passengers can "pre-pay" baggage charges, thus allowing flyers to check bags "for free."
"The Economy Plus and checked baggage subscriptions offer our customers more of the comfort and convenience they value year round," Scott Wilson, United's vice president of merchandising and e-commerce, said in a release. "We are pleased that, as we launch these services, we are able to provide new options for customers to tailor their travel experiences."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the subscriptions are riddled with hidden costs. Flyers seeking to check two bags will have to pay $50 more each year. Want to fly globally? That's an additional $450. There's also a one-time "initiation fee" of $50, which, for the time being, United has waived.
Despite the extra costs, for heavy travelers, the subscription model could very well be worthwhile. Given United's typical baggage fee of about $25 per flight, frequent flyers could pay off the yearly $349 fee in seven round-trip flights.
United has also applied the subscription model to several of their other services, including a $499 "Economy Plus" annual fee for travelers who would like more legroom and a "United Club" membership for $500 that grants access to United's club lounges.