United Baggage Policy Changes Will Become Effective December 17, 2015.
United Vice President of Atlantic and Pacific Sales, Jake Cefolia, recently announced the United baggage policy changes that may be the latest big factor in influencing ticket prices to and from Australia and the USA.
Though the changes are overdue, they are very welcome, nonetheless. United are dropping their second bag fee of $100. This is a great change for Australian Star Alliance members, who often chose to pay extra and fly on Qantas, to avoid the ridiculous fee. Australia is a far away country, more so than almost any other and travelling light is not an option for many. Qantas, Delta and Virgin Australia, easily accommodated the 2 bags per person standard and customers were quite happy about that. United, who didn’t offer 2 bags, often had to drop their price below the bunch to attract their business. Even so, it’s clear that Australians talk with their money. The bottom line attitude of making more money by charging for more things, pushed away the top line – the customers – which in turn hurt United’s bottom line. Australians, through their buying choices, pushed United to change their baggage policy.
What this means now: United baggage policy changes will increase the free checked baggage allowance to 2 X 23kg/50lb bags per person
Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to bring two bags on United flights, this brings some changes to the Australian playing field.
1. United, at it’s current prices, which are generally around $50 less than Qantas, are now a great deal.
2. United flights to Australia will soon be completely on par with Qantas, when they complete their swap from their old 777’s to brand new 787 Dreamliners in 2016.
3. United Miles will become much more lucrative to Australians because of the United baggage policy change and United’s vast availability, compared to Qantas.
This is a new dynamic that will force the other carriers to make considerable changes. As a Travel Consultant, I have experienced many instances where the 2nd bag fee was a deal-breaker and clients chose to book with Qantas instead. But with this change, that is prone to happen a lot less. Many people who disliked United, changed their minds once they introduced their 787 Dreamliner plane to the LAX – Melbourne route. This leaves the other airlines with almost no practical benefit over United any more.
I say almost, because there is one issue that is still a deal breaker for some. United’s horrible idea to discontinue service to JFK. That means you’d have to make your way there from Newark Airport.
For anyone looking to fly to NYC, flying to New Jersey is hardly conducive to getting to there. After 21-24hrs of flying, the last thing I would want to do is have to drive through Manhattan to finally get to NYC. The Holland Tunnel can be a traffic nightmare. For some of my clients flying to and from NYC, this is and remains a deal-breaker. This is in addition to the extra $70 to $100 cost EACH way by Taxi or Uber.
Hopefully, Smisek’s decision (The previous CEO) to leave JFK will be reversed by the new CEO. Meanwhile, this will be the only issue with United after the change to newer planes, sometime in 2016. An alternate solution which is done by Air New Zealand, for example, is interline agreements on Delta, AA or Jetblue. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely United would opt for that, seeing as they are betting hard on Newark Airport. For Los Angeles travelers, though, as well as for many other non-NYC destinations in the USA and Canada, this of course is not an issue and really raises United to completely equal footing.
To summarise, United baggage policy changes will increase the free checked baggage allowance to 2 X 23kg/50lb bags per person. This does not make United special, as the industry standard for flights to and from Australia and the United States was for a long time 2 bags anyway. United, however, who has been trailing behind in the Australian market, has started taking some small steps in the hopes of becoming a serious contender for the Australian traveler. While for many US destinations, the United baggage policy changes for Australia will put them on equal footing as the other Airlines, the exception will be NYC. Flying into and out of NYC will be a considerable pain for the average traveler, since United’s exCEO, Jeff Smisek’s decision to abandon their JFK routes and swap exclusively to Newark. Qantas, American and Delta will be more convenient for Australians flying to NYC and for New Yorkers flying out. For the rest of the United States, though, United is finally catching up to the basic standards.
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United Baggage Policy Changes are definitely welcome news.