As silly as I think United’s “travel options” are at times, I’ve gotta give them credit for trying. Furthermore, I have to give them credit for unbundling without diluting too many elite benefits. For example, they have “award accelerator,” whereby you can multiply the number of miles you earn from your trip for the highway robbery price of three cents per mile. They could just as easily make earning miles to begin with a “travel option,” but they haven’t. Of course there would be competitive issues, but I’m still expecting to pay extra for a mileage earning fare some day.
Anyway, what’s the latest “travel option?” Premier baggage! For the “introductory price” of $249 you and up to eight (8!) traveling companions on the same record can check your first and second bags for free. Now, if you’re the Brady Bunch this deal is for you and pays off after your first trip. But, what if you usually travel alone?
Well, if you pay your checked baggage fees via united.com, you would usually pay $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second checked bag. So that’s $40 each way for two checked bags, or $80 roundtrip. In other words, you’d have to travel more than three times per year with two checked bags roundtrip for this to make sense for you. It seems to me like the market for that is rather limited. Even more to the point, I’d say most people check one bag at most. That’s $30 roundtrip, or nine trips in order for this to make sense. I’m guessing most people that check a bag for nine trips already have elite status, in which case they’re exempt from this fee as it is. That’s particularly true this year with double elite qualifying miles promotions for nearly half the year, where you only need to fly 12,500 miles to earn Premier status.
So, the market for this seems rather limited. If you’re a family of nine and you all fly once a year and check two bags roundtrip, this is for you! If you’re anyone else, probably not so much.
Yet I’m betting this will sell better than we might think.