The best care in the air is becoming a little more expensive.
In an effort to cope with soaring fuel prices, Midwest Airlines announced Friday that it will begin charging $20 for passengers checking a second bag.
The new fee will apply to passengers who purchase tickets starting today for travel after June 15. The Oak Creek-based airline, which prides itself on service and flies under the slogan "the best care in the air," will continue to allow free checking of one bag weighing no more than 50 pounds.
Active-duty military personnel and Midwest Miles Executive members will be exempt from the new charge. Also, wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, child car seats and other "mobility-assistive devices" will be excluded, the company said.
People who already have purchased tickets will not have to pay to check a second bag no matter when they are traveling, said spokesman Michael Brophy, who said the new charge will last indefinitely.
Brophy said Midwest is not considering any other new fees at this point.
Some airline passengers and their families at General Mitchell International Airport said they thought the charges were reasonable, while others disagreed.
Given the high prices that airlines are paying for fuel, it's understandable that they need the additional income, said George Haddican of Racine.
Chris Huber of Milwaukee, on his way to Las Vegas for a golf outing, said he believed that the first two bags should be free, and that after that, airlines could charge for checked bags.
Charging for the first or second bag "sounds a little ridiculous," said Ashley Bell, from Menomonee Falls.
"I think they should be able to charge more for something like five bags, but not two or three," she said.
Midwest is not alone in charging more for luggage. Many airlines already charge for a second bag. This week, American Airlines said it would charge $15 for the first checked bag, beginning June 15, with some exceptions. Representatives from a number of other carriers, many of which are already charging $25 for a second checked bag, have not ruled out following suit.
"Everything is under consideration with fuel the way that it is," AirTran Holdings Inc. spokeswoman Cynthia Tinsley-Douglas said.
Airlines have come under intense pressure to boost revenue and cut costs as the cost of fuel has soared. As of Monday, spot prices for jet fuel in New York were up 43 percent from the start of the year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Airlines ratcheted up ticket prices ahead of the holiday weekend to offset the runaway cost of fuel. The three biggest carriers each boosted most domestic fares by up to $60 per round trip, while budget airline AirTran Airways raised its leisure fares by $30 per round trip.
UAL Corp.'s United Airlines led the bigger round of increases late Thursday, lifting round-trip ticket prices by $10 to $60, depending on how far passengers fly and the competition on the route. The biggest increases will come on routes of 750 miles or more — less than the distance from New York to Chicago — that low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines Co. do not serve.
AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, the biggest US carrier, said it matched the increase Friday.
Delta Air Lines Inc. also matched the increase, according to airfare research site www.FareCompare.com.
Separately, AirTran raised leisure ticket prices by $30 and business-class fares by $50 per round trip. Such a large change is unusual for a budget carrier.
In another sign of the pressure facing air carriers, Northwest Airlines Corp.'s cargo division said Friday it was raising its fuel surcharges on domestic and some international routes.