US Airways, Alaska Air add checked bag fees

US Airways lcc and Alaska Airlines alk said Thursday they were imposing new charges on passengers to check their bags, adding to a growing array of fees to fly.

US Airways passengers must pay $5 extra for each bag checked at an airport beginning with flights on July 9. The $5 fee, which can be avoided by checking in online within 24 hours of departure, would be in addition to $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for a second one.

Alaska Air Group said subsidiaries Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air would "join nearly all major domestic carriers" in charging for a first checked bag. Beginning May 1, the airlines will charge $15 for a first checked bag for flights on or after July 7.

The new fees, which can generate millions of dollars in revenue, were announced as most major U.S. airlines post big losses during the first three months this year. The recession has caused a drop-off in passengers despite cheap fares.

"The additional fees are one weapon in the airlines' arsenal to effectively raise total ticket prices," says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, a website that compares fares for consumers.

Seaney says a sharp drop in passenger demand and hefty first-quarter losses "certainly make it easier for airlines to make tough decisions on raising irksome checked-bag fees."

US Airways Group said Thursday it lost $103 million, or 90 cents a share, during the first three months this year. Alaska Air Group reported a loss of $19 million, or 53 cents a share.

On Tuesday, Delta Air Lines said it would impose a $50 fee for a second checked bag on an international flight starting with flights on July 1. The move will raise about $100 million annually, Delta said. Delta reported a $794 million loss for the first quarter.

Airlines "are looking for ancillary revenue in an effort to return to profitability," says David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association of America, an airline trade group. "It is either that or more downsizing and cost-cutting."

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