Total fee absurdity: when your luggage costs more than your airfare

Nico/Shutterstock
Nico/Shutterstock

Tom Ungar and his wife spent $128 to fly from Venice, Italy, to Naples, which is a ridiculously low fare. But when their checked luggage tipped the scales at just over 20 kilos, their airline demanded an additional $152.

A luggage fee that exceeds your airfare? Welcome to the wacky world of a la carte fees — a world filled with consumer “benefits” that airline apologists believe you’ll love.

Ungar’s case is something of an extreme example. He was flying on easyJet, an airline known for its preposterous luggage policies. But ignore his cautionary tale at your own peril, because this is the world the Big Three legacy airlines aspire to, if we, their captive customers, would just let them.

Ungar’s misadventure began when he checked in for his flight in Venice recently. After placing their baggage on the scales, an easyJet employee informed the couple that their luggage was “a bit” overweight and pointed them to another representative. That person said their luggage was free to fly for an additional fee of $152.
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Ryanair orders passenger with bag question to “shut up” — does she deserve a refund?

The Irish discount carrier Ryanair has a well-earned reputation for unapologetically burying its customers in fees, including charges for carrying their bags on board. It isn’t as well-known for its unfailingly polite defenses of its indefensible policies and their uneven implementation.

Yomna Nasr’s story probably won’t change your opinion of Ryanair. But after reading it, you may grudgingly give it points for its clever non-apologies.
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Do travelers need new federal protections?

It’s not your imagination. Congress seems to be paying closer attention to travelers’ welfare.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the International Travelers Bill of Rights, proposed bipartisan legislation that would require online travel agencies to disclose information about the potential health and safety risks of overseas vacation destinations marketed on their sites. A week earlier, I covered the aggressive new tarmac-delay laws included in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.
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Is this enough compensation? Refunded $800 for $2,500 worth of missing clothes

Leonard Henderson’s ski trip to Telluride, Colo., didn’t go as planned. US Airways lost his luggage and it stayed lost for the duration of the trip.

He had to buy new clothes, for which the airline promised to reimburse him, but when the time came for it to refund his purchases, US Airways balked. Henderson paid $2,500 for new gear, but the airline only covered $800.

Is that enough?
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Is this enough compensation? 5,000 miles for a late bag

When something goes wrong on a trip, you don’t always get the compensation you deserve — you get what you negotiate. Alright, maybe that’s not an original line, but it is an appropriate way to introduce Barbara Leon’s case.

Did American Airlines offer her the appropriate compensation for failing to deliver her bag to Greensboro, NC, on time? Or should it have refunded the baggage fee, as she requested?

These are interesting questions, because there are no real industry standards for on-time luggage delivery, in an age where bags generally don’t fly free. On one extreme, you have Alaska Airlines, which offers either $20 off a future flight or 2,000 miles if your bag is more than 20 minutes late — and on the other hand, you have legacy carriers who often give you nothing.

Leon flew from Miami to Greensboro with her son and his wife and three children in December. She checked two bags curbside, one of which was overweight. Leon paid $25 for the first bag and $85 for the second bag.

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