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United to Sell $249 Annual Baggage Subscription

Leave it up to United to devise a clever new baggage-fee option: For $249, you (and up to eight companions) can check two standard bags every time you travel. The subscription, called Premier Baggage, is applicable for both domestic and international flights, basically wherever United collects a fee.

It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that the value of this program is limited to (non-elite) frequent flyers and large groups, but the savings for these travelers could be significant. For example: A family of five that takes two round-trip flights with one suitcase each (normally $15 a pop) would save $50 over the course of the subscription. A businessman that takes one round-trip flight per month with one bag each time would save $110. Of course, “savings” is a relative term, considering one could argue bag fees are absurd to begin with.

But for many, if not most travelers, Premier Baggage does no good. A married couple that takes two trips per year would not benefit from the program. Nor would a family of four that takes one trip—or most families, really, considering the bag-to-family member ratio isn’t likely one-to-one.

Instead, United is targeting the travelers most heavily penalized by its fees. Which, I suppose, is better than nothing. But it does more to remind us how much the industry has changed in the past two years. Think about it: We’re debating the merits of a checked-bag subscription!

What do you think about United’s Premier Baggage subscription? Would it make sense for you to buy it? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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