Southwest Airlines CEO Hints Carrier Could Initiate Baggage Fees

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DALLAS (UPI) — Southwest Airlines’ “bags fly free” advertising could vanish as the Dallas-based carrier’s chief executive officer hinted it could start charging baggage fees.

During a conference call Thursday, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the airline doesn’t plan to charge for bags at least through next year, in part because its policy of two free checked bags per passenger brings in business, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Southwest and JetBlue Airways Corp. are the last two big airlines in the United States that allow travelers to check at least one bag free on domestic flights.

But Kelly said if fliers come to better understand and maybe even prefer “an a la carte approach … we’d be crazy not to provide our customers with what they want.”

U.S. carriers collected nearly $3.5 billion in bag fees last year, up from $464 million in 2007, government figures indicated.

By not charging for checked bags, Southwest is missing out on tens of millions of dollars annually in fee revenue and potential fuel-cost savings, Wolfe Research airline analyst Hunter Keay told The Journal.

“There’s no reason why [charging for bags] wouldn’t make sense,” he said. “The competitive landscape has changed.”

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