With load factors at historic lows and revenue from future bookings ground to a halt, airlines are struggling like never before. A bailout authorized by the federal government to the tune of $25 billion has allowed carriers to make ends meet and keep their employees safe from furlough.

American Airlines, the world’s largest airline, received $5.8 billion in taxpayer money through the CARES Act. That wasn’t enough, apparently, as the carrier announced a 25% increase in checked baggage fees yesterday.

For passengers traveling on a Basic Economy fare across the Atlantic Ocean, the airline will now charge $75 each way ($150 round-trip) for the first checked bag. This is an increase of $15 from the previous fee of $60 each way, and it will apply to all tickets purchased on or after April 21, 2020.

At a time like this and given the critical lifeline financed by taxpayers, I can’t imagine the optics being worse.

Basic economy is a “barebones” offering, with additional fees charged for seat selection and checked luggage. While American Airlines generally provides seat selection free of charge to disabled passengers on basic economy tickets, the increased baggage fee may encourage travelers to buy-up to a higher fare.

All passengers, regardless of fare, are entitled to bring a free carry-on bag and personal item aboard. Given the difficulty of handling luggage in airports and on the airplane, people with disabilities often elect to check their bag at the counter instead. As a result, this 25% fee increase will disproportionately affect disabled flyers, who may be unable to to take advantage of their carry-on allowance.

The good news: American Airlines hasn’t changed its checked baggage fee for domestic flights, which remains at $30 each way ($60 round trip). Such a move might not be far off, however, as competitors JetBlue and United recently increased their fees to $35 each way.

Featured image courtesy American Airlines!

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