Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Flying To Your Cruise Port Just Got More Expensive

Susan Foster, packing guru and author of Smart Packing for Today's Traveler has been warning readers that it would only be a matter of time before checking your luggage on flights would incur additional charges. Her newsletter today confirmed it: "American Airlines announced this morning (according to the Associated Press) that they will begin to charge $15 for the first checked bag for domestic tickets purchased on or after June 15. They will continue to charge $25 for a second checked bag. Some undiscounted tickets and high level frequent flyers are exempt from these charges, as are international travelers."

For those of us embarking on cruises, that's not good news. Unless it's a very short cruise (3- or 4-nights), I usually check a suitcase when flying to a distant embarkation port. I'm sure there are many of us who also pack a carry-on containing our essentials, as well as a camera bag and even a briefcase with a laptop. I know I'll try to consolidate those items for future flights.

And that brings us to another warning that's even more ominous. Susan says, "Most likely there will be many more travelers who will carry on bags to avoid the added fee, which will swamp the TSA screening process and create much longer passing times at all security checkpoints. Once past security, aircraft have limited storage areas so this will overload the carry on bin capacity and produce major 'bin rage' as competition accelerates for this space. Anticipate delays as more bags must be gate-checked."

However, Susan offers the following advice to help you prepare. "From now on, it is essential to check with each airline that you intend to fly to learn what their checked and carry-on luggage policy is for the date you plan to travel. Be prepared for this to change and check before each flight. Before you travel, make the decision to pay the fee and avoid the carry-on hassles, or learn to pack light into the smallest carry-on bag possible for the trip with only the 3-1-1 bag for lotions and potions. For help with packing less, go to for traveling light ideas."

Susan also wonders if, "it’s likely that other cash-strapped airlines will think this is a great idea and adopt this policy as soon as they possibly can?" Unfortunately, I think we can count on it.

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