The charge, which will apply to coach-cabin passengers who are not among US Airways' most frequent fliers, is expected to generate $75 million a year in added revenue and savings, US Airways said. The carrier will start assessing the fee May 5.
The shift follows US Airways' projection for a first-quarter loss because of rising fuel prices and slowing demand. Jet fuel closed at a record $2.93 a gallon yesterday, and the increased cost will add $800 million to US Airways' expenses this year, the airline predicted.
"High fuel costs are our new reality," US Airways President J. Scott Kirby said in a memo to workers. "Oil topped $100 a barrel this month and it appears that the days of $30- or even $50-a-barrel oil are gone forever. The impact on the airline industry is very significant."
US Airways' charge excludes first-class passengers, members of the carrier's frequent flier program and those of its Star Alliance partners. It will affect about 8 percent of US Airways passengers, Kirby estimated.
The new policy will apply to all flights in the U.S. and between the U.S. and Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.
Airlines have been seeking ways to boost revenue amid the rise in fuel prices and growing low-cost competition that's holding down fares.
United said Feb. 4 it would add a $25 charge for a second checked bag, also effective May 5, becoming the first major U.S. carrier to announce such a fee. United said it expects $100 million in savings and new revenue from the charge.
Last month, Southwest Airlines Co., the largest low-fare carrier, began charging $25 for a third checked bag, with higher fees for additional pieces.
A 58 percent increase in fuel prices over the past year has prompted U.S. carriers to consider mergers, possibly selling assets and charging for optional products or services.