The transatlantic airfare battle has finally reached what we all knew it would come to eventually. All major airlines are now charging extra for first checked bag on routes between North America and Europe.
United Joins American and Delta with Checked Bag Fees to Europe
United and Star Alliance partners, such as Air Canada, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Swiss, and Lufthansa, were the last to hold out on introducing transatlantic fares restricted to carry-on bags only. Although we have been unable to locate an official press release from United, we are now seeing United and Star Alliance fares from North America to Europe, which require a fee to check even your first bag. Update: I found a memo explaining the new restricted fare here.
Back in March, United released a statement saying that a Basic Economy fare was coming to "Latin and Atlantic" later this year. This vague statement (found on page 10) made it clear that United was going to follow the lead of Delta/Skyteam and American/Oneworld alliances, which both now sell a similar fare on transatlantic flights. This fare doesn't have the Basic Economy label on United's site at this time, but you still must acknowledge that you've read the notice of checked bag fees.
United chose to call this fare Economy (first bag charge/no changes allowed) to decipher it from the standard Economy fare. European airlines such as Lufthansa and Swiss call this type of fare a "light" fare. American and Delta call these types of fares Basic Economy. Regardless of the name, the lowest fare you see for flights between North America and Europe will now likely have a fee for your first checked bag.
As shown in the screenshot above, there will be a $60 fee each way for these new low fares. It seems elite members of United's mileage program or qualifying MileagePlus cardmembers who pay with their card will receive the standard checked bag benefits, but changes will still not be allowed.
This trend has continued since the massive expansion of low-cost carriers, such as Norwegian and WOW, crossing the Atlantic in the past few years. You'll now get a more apples to apples comparison when searching fares, but the bad news is that the super low flash sales on legacy carriers will likely no longer include any free checked bags.
The good news is we will probably see more of these flash sales and the usual everyday prices for transatlantic routes may come down if you're able to travel light. For some help at traveling light, check out our guide on How to Pack for an Extended Trip in Just a Carry-On Bag.
Header image by Elnur via Shutterstock.