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USA Today reports this morning that United Airlines, looking for yet another new fee that it can charge customers, "will begin selling 'subscriptions' for a year's worth of certain fees ... The yearly subscriptions begin at $349 for checked baggage or $499 for an Economy Plus subscription that would give fliers access to United's most-spacious coach seats."

Here's how the story describes the new fee structure:

"Customers who choose the cheapest checked baggage subscription will be able to travel for one year without paying for up to one checked-bag for flights within the mainland USA and Canada. The $349 rises to $399 for two checked bags.
Customers can pay more if they want included other regions.

"Customers who want to include all flights within North and Central America — including Hawaii and Alaska — will have to pay $449 for a year subscription for one bag or $499 for two bags. A global checked-luggage subscription costs $799 and includes two bags.

"United customers also can pay extra to bundle traveling companions into their subscriptions. United is charging $100 extra for subscriptions that cover a one traveling companion or an extra $200 to for up eight companions traveling as part of the subscriber's reservation.

"So, for example, the total cost of a full-year subscription that includes global flight coverage, two checked bags and one traveling companion would come in at $899."

And they haven't even booked a flight yet.
KC's View:
In some ways, I find this to be outrageous. And a little redundant. After all, to justify paying some of these fees up front, you'd have to be a fairly frequent flyer. And if you are that frequent a flyer, you may qualify for these benefits for free. (Plus, as someone with a million miles flown on United, it always sort of annoys me that someone can just write a check and buy the benefits that I've earned ... somehow, it devalues the loyalty I've shown and that they're supposed to be showing me.)

That said ... this seems like United's version of Amazon Prime. Once you pay the sub fee, you are far less likely to fly any other airline, because you're already invested in United. And the more you fly United, the lower these per-flight fees work out to be. Which is smart.