United Airlines’ Curious Math

United Airlines just doubled its fee for a second checked bag to $50, noting that “fuel prices continue to be volatile.” Which is true. Fuel prices have been going down. In a volatile manner.

The press release points out that fuel prices are “more than 50 percent higher than last year.” True again, sort of. As far as it goes.

There’s another way of crunching the numbers. The price of jet fuel has dropped 22 percent in the last two months. Crude oil has dropped by more than 33 percent. Some foreign airlines are cutting their fuel surcharges.

So doesn’t it seem like an odd time to blame fuel prices for fee increases?

And even if fuel prices were rising, the logical approach would be to increase fares along with luggage fees. It takes fuel to transport passengers, too.

But logic is not what’s at play, and it’s at least a little bit disingenuous to suggest anything so straightforward as a direct correlation between fuel prices and fees. Market forces are the real issue, and with competitive pressures keeping fares down, airlines are in a tough spot. Fees on economy class passengers are among the few things they can work with.


2 thoughts on “United Airlines’ Curious Math

  1. Robert O.

    People shouldn’t take so much luggage anyway. I have been on many flight where I end up having to check my one carry on because the overhead bins are too full. I mean how much luggage do you need for a domestic flight anyway?

  2. Mike

    Charging higher fees for checked bags only makes MORE people try to stuff things into the overhead bin. Hmm, pay 50 bucks for that second bag or try to see if you can stuff it into the overhead bin?


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