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Baggage on United and Alaska Airlines

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Hi - we purchased tickets on United for a flight from San Fran to NY and then Alaska Airlines from Washington to LA. I don't think the fare included any amount for checked luggage. We'll probably each be carrying suitcases up to the 23kg (50lb) amount plus a carry on. Can you please advise if we will be able to pay to check in luggage at the airport when checking in on the day of travel and if we do what this will generally cost? I looked on the United website and it appears that it is $25 per 23kg bag and $35 for any second bag per person - is this right and is that the amount you pay if you pay at check in at the airport?? Someone has told me that when they tried to check in a suitcase at the airport in the US for an internal flight the airline tried to charge them $50 per kg (and this wasn't per kg OVER 23kg it was $50 PER KG) because they hadn't paid for checked luggage when they made their booking.
When booking on line in Australia "budget" airlines ask if you want to check in bags when you are making your booking and this will cost say $16, but if you haven't paid for check in luggage and your bag is found to be over a carry-on weight when you rock up at the airport it can cost up to $20 more for up to 23kg.
But we weren't asked about checked in luggage when we were making our on line booking with Expedia and now I'm worried.
Can anyone help please?

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