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Continental to Charge for Checked Baggage

Sept. 9, 2008 — On Oct. 7 Continental Airlines will join the ranks of airlines that charge for the first piece of checked baggage, adding a $15 charge to tickets purchased after Sept. 5.
The charge will apply to flights within the United States and between the mainland and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.
Exempt from the charge are elite frequent-flier customers, first-class and business-class passengers, customers traveling on full-fare economy-class tickets, and military personnel and their families traveling on official orders.
Continental already charged $25 for the second checked bag on tickets bought after May 8.
Continental is the fifth of the six major airlines to institute a fee for the first piece of checked baggage. Delta Airlines doesn’t charge passengers for their first piece of checked luggage, but charges $50 for the second piece of checked baggage on flights within the United States and between the United States and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on tickets bought after July 31. The charge for tickets purchased before July 31 runs $25.
Three other airlines that serve the Virgin Islands, American Airlines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways, charge $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second.
Spirit Airlines, which flies to St. Thomas, charges $15 for the first checked bag when paid in advance at the airline's website. The charge goes up to $25 if you pay at the airport. The fee for the second checked bag runs $25 if you pay in advance or at the airport.
As with Continental, the airlines offer exemptions for various categories of travelers. For the latest information, check with the airline's website.
The dates for implementing the checked baggage fees vary by airlines. If, for example, you bought your ticket last winter for an upcoming flight, you won't have to pay the fees.
Spirit started the move toward checked-baggage fees last year. United followed with its $25 charge for a second checked bag. Other airlines followed suit, and United soon started charging for the first checked bag.
Richard Doumeng, manager of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas, said he's only heard one complaint about the checked-baggage fees.
"It was a wedding," he said.
Doumeng said he's continually surprised at the traveling public's ability to absorb "pain and suffering" such as the checked-baggage fees.
"I'm amazed people are still traveling," he said.
As for himself, he and his wife are like many other Virgin Islands residents who hit the mall on trips to the mainland. Instead of traveling north with enough suitcases to stash the new stuff, he buys cheap suitcases for the trip back home. He checks them and pays the $15 fee.
For more information on the fees, check the airlines' websites: American, Continental, Delta, Spirit, United, and U.S. Airways.
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