The half pound difference

We’ve flown a lot this summer. A lot. And we’ve encountered a lot of different airline procedures in the process. Since we chose to fly only on airlines that aren’t charging for the first checked bag to save as much money as we could, this limited us to Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines.

We have three suitcases stuffed to the gills with things we are taking back to China this week (yes, we’re going back for two more years!). Each one is right at the limit, 50 pounds per bag.

Checking in at every airport so far has gone well, with ticketing agents seeing us struggling to lug the suitcases, a carseat, a toddler, a food bag for the plane, and JM’s violin. They haven’t once objected to one suitcase being 51, 52, or 53 pounds.

Not once, that is, until our Alaska Air flight from Dallas this past Saturday.

Our bag weighed 51.5 pounds, and the agent with a blasé expression informed us the bag was too heavy. “Really?” we asked, explaining that each suitcase was at the limit already. “Yes, I can’t tag it if it’s overweight.”

Okay. So weighing the next bag showed 51 pounds, but with some jiggling of the scale, it went down to 50.5. “I guess I can tag this one before the number goes back up again.” Thanks.

The last bag was 49.5. Great, some room to even out. We took one jogging shoe and transferred it from the overweight bag. That again brought the scale up to 51 pounds, but with a little more jimmying, we got it to read 50.5. Quick! Tag it before it changes!

What’s ironic to us is that the shift of one running shoe made all the difference in the world to this ticketing agent. We don’t know what sort of policies at Alaska Air force them to take such a hard line, but it can’t help but seem just a bit petty to us. But travelers beware: the half pound running shoe can make or break your luggage allowance on this airline! Don’t be caught unawares, especially if your airport scale can’t be budged off the mark like ours did.

[PS- with all the time it took quibbling about the weight, Alaska Airlines wasn’t able to get our bags on our flight in the end anyway. We got them delivered later the next day at our destination. At least they made it, including the two bags holding the divided pair of running shoes.]


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August 2009
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