Three more days, and Delta Air Lines customers will start paying for the convenience of curbside check-in service.
The airline will charge $3 per bag to check luggage at curbside, Delta said Friday in a story first reported on the St. Petersburg Times' Web site, www.tampabay.com. The fee goes into effect Tuesday at Tampa International and 10 other major airports, then rolls out at 75 more cities nationwide April 15.
"It's a business decision that reflects today's competitive landscape and cost pressures," said Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott. "In many cases, it will make us more competitive."
Delta and Continental Airlines are the only major network carriers that don't charge for curbside check-in. Delta's new fee will be $1 per bag higher than those charged by American Airlines, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and US Airways.
The fee will be waived for Delta's most prized customers: elite Medallion-level fliers, first-class and business-class travelers. Passengers who check in online also won't be charged.
Will the fee drive regular curbside customers to the ticket counter, where checking one standard-size bag is still free?
"With the baby, probably not," said Peggy Braitsch, flying home to Cincinnati from Tampa on Friday with her granddaughter, Mary, 1, in a stroller. "For me (alone)? It probably would have."
Record prices for oil and refined jet fuel are forcing airlines to find more ways raise revenue. Fare increases haven't been enough to cover the bills, they say, and don't stick if a competitor refuses to match them. More carriers are turning to higher luggage fees.
Northwest said Friday it would start charging customers $25 each way to check a second bag, following the lead of United, US Airways and Delta. The airline also boosted fees from $80 to $100 for three or more checked bags and from $25 to $50 for luggage more than 50 pounds.
One group certainly won't like Delta's new curbside fee: Prospect of Tampa skycaps working for Delta. Like other airlines, Delta will pocket what it's calling an "administration fee'' on signs posted at curbside counters. Signs will note that tips aren't included in the $3 charge.
Skycaps, who make most of their money on tips, say the disclaimers don't help. Many travelers still refuse to pay a tip in addition to the fee. A group of skycaps recently sued American Airlines, seeking restitution for lost tips since the fee began three years ago.
"We are looking for fairness for the hardworking employees who every day help passengers,'' said Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney representing the skycaps.
"Some of the guys have worked 20, 30, 40 years as skycaps. This is their profession. These guys' lives have been devastated by this.''
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Steve Huettel can be reached at (813) 226-3384.