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Luggage at Air Canada counterTibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

Air Canada announced Wednesday that starting next year it will begin charging economy class passengers for a second checked bag on U.S. transborder and transatlantic flights.

Canada's largest airline said customers purchasing economy class tickets - Tango, Tango Plus and Latitude fares - will continue to be able to check one bag for free in addition to carry-on luggage.

But beginning Jan 19, a second checked bag will cost $30 on U.S. transborder flights and $50 on flights to and from Europe and Israel. The charge will apply to flights to Hawaii but not to Puerto Rico.

Air Canada's checked baggage policy of two free checked bags for economy class ticket holders remains unchanged for all travel within Canada, as well as to and from Mexico, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Asia and Australia.

The fee for a second checked bag to and from the United States, Europe and Israel will not apply to Air Canada prestige, elite, super elite members, or Star Alliance silver and gold members.

Executive class and executive first customers continue to receive an allowance of three checked bags on all flights, regardless of destination.

"This change in baggage policy to match our U.S. and European competitors is an important step as we work toward sustained profitability," Ben Smith, Air Canada's executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, said in a news release.

"In this weak economy it is more critical than ever to continue reviewing all our activities on a regular basis and making adjustments as necessary to remain competitive with our industry peers.'

Changes to Air Canada's checked baggage policy come into effect for tickets purchases beginning Dec. 2 for travel on or after Jan. 19, 2010.