While "low-cost" Spirit Airlines may be leading airlines on a race to the bottom (with "optional" fees like the mandatory $2 Unintended Consequences of DOT Regulations Fee or mandatory $10 ticket booking fee), Alaska Airlines will soon become the first airline to charge first class passengers to check their bags. This is not a good sign.
Starting on July 10th, Alaska will charge non-elite passengers who have upgraded to first class (those booked into U-Class) $20 to check a bag. That affects my dear parents, who will be traveling to DCA on Alaska this fall. It also takes the "first" out of first class.
While this new policy will not affect first class award tickets and could have been worse, the nickel and diming has begun for first class passengers and the ramifications could be bad. With United recently matching Delta's $100 charge to check a second bag on international flights, we are already seeing airlines attempt to squeeze more incremental revenue out of tickets.
The problem is this move will drive even more carry-on baggage aboard airplanes. As the TSA loves to remind us, this slows down the faux-security screening process and there is no question the flurry of carry-on bags dragged on to each flight dramatically slows the boarding process and almost de facto forces the poor schmucks with higher boarding zones to gate check their hand baggage.
Airlines have to know what is going on and I know for a fact they are scrutinizing Spirit Airlines very closely. Mark my words--as early as 2013 we may see additional airlines begin charging for carry-on baggage (much to Senator Schumer's chagrin).
I will likely be insulated from all of that as an elite member, but for how long? Considering that Continental, er United, considers many elites to be undeserving leeches, one way to do that may be charging everyone to check a bag or bring one on-board unless they have "paid" for first class...