American to charge for checked bags, cut flights
The carrier hasn't decided whether Hawaii service will be affected
FORT WORTH, Texas » American Airlines
will start charging $15 for the first checked bag, cut domestic flights and lay off workers - probably in the thousands - as the nation's largest carrier grapples with record-high fuel prices.
American plans to cut domestic flight capacity by 11 percent to 12 percent in the fourth quarter, after the peak summer season is over. The carrier was previously planning a 4.6 percent cut.
Spokesman Tim Wagner said yesterday the airline had not yet decided which routes will be affected by the cuts. The airline is the third-largest provider of air capacity to Hawaii, according to state figures.
International flights are the carrier's most profitable, even with costly fuel, so they are largely untouched by yesterday's announcement. Overall, American will cut global capacity by 7 to 8 percent.
American expects to retire 45 to 50 planes, most of them gas-guzzling MD-80 aircraft used for short-haul flights. Those were the planes grounded for faulty wiring last month. American Eagle will also retire 30 to 35 jets, he said.
American said yesterday that the fee for the first checked bag starts June 15, and it will raise other fees for services ranging from reservation help to oversized bags. Those fees could cost between $5 to $50.
United Airlines, the nation's No. 2 carrier, is "seriously studying" imposing its own fee on first bags, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said. Delta Air Lines, the third-largest, has no current plans for a fee but is considering all options, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said. AirTran Airways and Northwest Airlines said they were weighing their response.
Last month, American joined other carriers in charging $25 for a second bag checked by passengers. The major airlines have also raised fares about a dozen times in recent months.
American said rising oil prices have increased its expected annual fuel costs by nearly $3 billion since the start of the year.
Star-Bulletin reporter Allison Schaefers contributed to this report.