Sky High

Why airlines are supercharging their baggage fees

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Checking a bag can cost more than $40. Is it cheaper to ship?

Now boarding: The $100 bag. In recent months United and Delta have lobbed triple-digit charges at travelers who check a second suitcase on transatlantic flights--the latest hike in the industry-wide fee boom that began in 2007.

While many consumers attribute the moves simply to greed--in fact, U.S. airlines collected $3.4 billion in baggage fees last year, helping offset fuel costs--"they're also about modifying behavior," says Hunter Keay, an analyst at research firm Wolfe Trahan. By discouraging people from traveling with multiple bags, he explains, airlines reduce the need for baggage handlers, thus saving millions in labor costs. Meanwhile, carriers are pursuing...

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