Five major carriers agreed today not to follow the lead of a small Florida airline that plans to charge for carry-on bags. Their commitment comes just in time to keep travelers from running for the exits during the peak summer flying season, but it is doubtful that it marks a change in strategy. The promise to Sen. Charles Schumer from American, Delta, JetBlue, United, and US Airways comes even though some of the carriers are expected to report first-quarter losses next week.
Baggage fees, reservation change fees, and other miscellaneous charges that allow airlines to bolster their revenue stream while keeping base fares lower have been piling up. For US carriers they totaled $1.95 billion in the third quarter of 2009, roughly 36% higher than for the same period a year earlier. Carriers just don't feel passengers will tolerate losing their sacred free carry-ons—at least not right now. "We believe it is something that's important to our customers and they value, and we will continue making that available to them at no charge," an American Airlines rep said.