Troops Charged to Check Baggage on the Way to Iraq

Much has been made of airlines charging for checked baggage. Most people have grudgingly accepted this trend with a “what else can we do” shrug.

What else can we do indeed. It seems that even soldiers on their way to a war zone are not immune from these charges. Military personnel have been hit with fees as they have tried to check heavy rucksacks for flights overseas. Some airlines, like American Airlines, have made allowances for troops, letting them check twice as much baggage as average passengers.

Also, the military is supposed to issue passes exempting troops traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan from baggage charges. Apparently, though, these aren’t reaching everyone.

According to a CNN report, many soldiers have been charged as much as $100 to check their rucksacks and field kits. American Airlines, for one, has promised a refund for those who had to pay up front.

I wonder how long it will take for that $100 to get to the war zone and how much longer it will take the soldier to cash the check.

The VFW has been lobbying the Air Transport Association of America to wave the fees, but a spokesman responded by saying that the organization had no control over the baggage fees charged by individual airlines.

5 steps to smarter packing

Does 50 pounds weigh the same amount everywhere?: An airline math story

Whenever I’ve played the “watch the scale game” at an airline check-in, seeing if I’m a winner without going over 50, the magic number, or if I’ll have to pull over to the side and repack, it has never occurred to me that the scale might be off.

According to a airline passenger letter that travel columnist Christopher Elliot received and posted on his blog, one Shawn Rabin discovered that his wife’s suitcase magically changed weight between Phoenix and Chicago. Not only is Chicago a top 10 destination this summer, but evidently, according to an American Airlines scale, items weigh more there.

Rabin weighed the suitcase at home before he arrived at the Phoenix airport and it weighed 45 pounds. At the airport it weighed 44 pounds. So far, so good, particularly if Rabin and his wife want to feel like they weigh less than they do. Their scale at home weighs one pound heavier. However, by the time the suitcase spent time in Chicago before ending up at the American Airline check-in counter there, the suitcase picked up six pounds. The scale said it weighed 52 pounds which cost Rabin’s family $50.

Before you yell out, ” souvenirs stupid,” consider this. According to Rabin, it was exactly the same suitcase with exactly the same things in it. The suitcase was again weighed in Phoenix after it made it back there and it had dropped down to 47.5 pounds along the way.

American Airlines, according to the letter Rabin received and Elliot posted, did give Rabin a $50 travel voucher for his family’s next trip to make them feel happier about American Airlines, but the airlines didn’t admit that the Chicago scale was wrong.

This story reminded me of a travel tip. When checking in bags, have a canvas bag of some sort, or even a plastic shopping bag handy. If you pull out a pair of shoes, and perhaps one other item, you’ll get that weight down by two pounds easy. Sling the canvas bag over you shoulder. Still, it would be nice to be able to trust the scales for sure.

This reminds me of the sharecroppers stories when they used to go up against the big guy during harvest time. A dishonest landowner would have weights that were off in order to tip the scale in his favor when it came to paying out. Not that that’s what airlines are doing, but perhaps this is a modern day version of a tale told through time.

(Thanks to bjearwicke of www.garrisonphoto for use of the pic)