Hey American Airlines, here’s your $25 — I hope you’re happy

After my recent luggage standoff with an American Airlines gate agent in Orlando, which ended with her threatening to charge me $100 to check my regulation-size bags on my return flight, a lot of you have asked me how the journey home went.

We survived.

To recap, I was flying to Colorado with Kari and the kids. We had a great time skiing in Beaver Creek.

Although I can pack like a pro when I’m flying solo, I readily admit to being a complete failure when it comes to packing for young children. And ours — who range in ages from 3 to 7 — are a challenge. They have games, books, snacks and drinks – all of which need to be carried on the aircraft.

So you can imagine the scene in Orlando: Five passengers, each with two regulation-size bags that were packed – and then repacked – to accommodate my kids’ entertainment needs. It looked like we were trying to haul everything but the kitchen sink on the plane.

American asked us to surrender four of our bags, which we did. Although it didn’t charge us for the gate-check, I could tell they were unhappy with the missed ancillary revenue opportunity. So I felt the threat of socking us for $100 on the way home was very real.

The solution was to give a little and take a little for the return trip. We overpacked one bag, making sure it weighed less than 50 pounds. Then we made sure the other bags were packed right – no cramming a jacket or coloring books into the luggage any which way. Everything was tight and organized.

Related story:   Does flying poodle deserve a straight answer about his carrier?

We paid American $25 for the first bag and checked the rest in. And it worked.

I have a few thoughts on charging for luggage after this ordeal.

• If American had offered a fare that included one checked bag per passenger, I would have booked it. Why can’t it do that? American could easily have also offered a fare minus the bag alongside the other fare. Frontier does this.

• There are certain passengers who don’t need the ability to check a bag, and some that do. For example, a business traveler may only carry one bag on the plane. A family of five on a ski trip, like us, can’t do that. Ironically, airlines allow the elite-level frequent travelers to check as many bags as they want; they sock it to the budget-conscious families. Where’s the logic in that?

• I’m tired of the pro-ancillary revenues passengers arguing with the anti-ancillary revenue travelers. They both have a point. Nowhere does it say an airline ticket must include a checked bag, a confirmed seat reservation, even a cup of barely-potable tapwater. But passengers are not cargo; we have needs that go beyond a seat. And we hate – repeat, hate – being nickeled and dimed.

I hope American is happy with its $25. Personally, I think there are better ways of making money than coercing families into paying for their bulky luggage. American got the airline industry into this unwinnable luggage war.

Maybe it can get us out of it, too.

(Photo: kevindooley/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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