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

By | January 27th, 2014


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.

“The baggage penalty cost more than the airfare for the two of us,” says Ungar. “Astounding.”

The Ungars felt they had no choice but to pay. They returned to the check-in line, where the first employee made a suggestion: Why not repack your bags and carry the excess items on the plane with you?

“She was surprised the first woman at the check-in area did not make the suggestion herself,” he says. “We then walked right back up to the second check-in counter where there was still no line, and the representative said she had already sent our luggage for loading. I asked her why she had already sent it on, and to please get it back so we could lighten our luggage.”

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Of course, easyJet refused.

Ancillary fee heroes — or villains?

EasyJet is often held up as one of the ancillary fee heroes of the airline industry. It earns nearly 20 percent of its revenues from forcing passengers to pay for luggage, seat assignments and boarding passes, among other things. In 2012, that came to a cool $1.1 billion, which is not bad for a little European airline. It ranked eighth among worldwide air carriers, according to IdeaWorks, which advises airlines on how to make more money from extras.

“The airline simply has too large an ancillary revenue presence to be excluded from the top 10 lists,” IdeaWorks admiringly concluded.

Yet to passengers like Ungar, there’s nothing heroic about demanding more money for your luggage. When he disputed the “ancillary” fee at the gate, he was told he had no choice.

“Unless we paid the penalty, our baggage would not be returned, and we would be denied access to board our flight,” he says. “My options were to either pay the ransom and ruin one day, or not pay and have the entire vacation ruined. I really had no choice; I had to pay.”

EasyJet kept saying “No.” An appeal to its managers got them absolutely nowhere, despite a written promise that they would look into Ungar’s problem. The airline seemed determined to keep their $152.

Fee advocates insist that they are just giving passengers what they want: The “freedom” to choose to fly without luggage and save money, and the “freedom” to not subsidize another passenger’s checked bags.

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Both of those “benefits” are as self-serving as they sound. When is the last time you flew without any luggage? And besides, onerous new policies by the likes of Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit now charge you for carry-on items, so there goes that argument. They’re going to get you, one way or another.

The subsidization argument is also easily debunked. If airline luggage fees truly reflected an airline’s costs, then you would expect one of two things: The fee would be the same, no matter how many bags you checked; or the fee would go down as you checked more bags, because the airline was offering you a discount for the volume, which most businesses do.

But that’s not what happens. Check out American Airlines’ baggage policies, for example.

$25 for the first checked bag.
$35 for the second checked bag.
$150 for any additional pieces

Whoa! One hundred fifty bucks! Can you say “money grab”?

What’s next?

The fee defenders haven’t won this argument. Not so long as customers like Ungar still walk this Earth. It’s easy to see that the likes of easyJet aren’t simply recovering their cost of transporting their customers’ luggage; they aren’t giving us the ability to not subsidize someone else’s luggage and they aren’t offering us “choices.”

Airlines are making money — lots of money — through a combination of onerous policies, lack of clear disclosure, bullying tactics and good old-fashioned greed.

Don’t be surprised if, on your next flight, you are asked to pay more for the privilege of transporting your luggage than your airfare. The airline industry has embraced these bizarre pricing practices because of laissez-faire regulation and because we listened to the misguided airline amen choir, who saw deceptive la carte fees as the only way for the industry to earn a profit. I guess running a good business doesn’t work for them anymore.

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It’s not hard to see that the era of easyJet can’t last. Customers won’t stand for it. In the meantime, here are a few executive contacts for easyJet, where you can let your displeasure over its dishonest policies be known.

And one more thing: Pay attention to the advice you take from other, so-called travel “experts” on this topic. To claim these consumer-hostile policies make sense, you’d have to either be on the airline’s payroll or an idiot. And in one or two cases, maybe, both.

Are baggage fees fair to air travelers?

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  • Dutchess

    “Why not repack your bags and carry the excess items on the plane with you? She was surprised the first woman at the check-in area did not make the suggestion herself”

    Why didn’t you think of that yourself? Who doesn’t watch for luggage weight limits? I still think the luggage fees are stupid and a gotcha fee but with a little bit of common sense and preparedness you can avoid excess baggage fees like this.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t like how the fees are. However, I know what I can take on each airline and pack accordingly. If the prices don’t add up, I take my business elsewhere.
    So if we are comparing “luggage fees” here, why compare them to the person’s fare? How much would a courier or a shipping company charge for these items to be delivered in a couple of hours?
    One reason the fees might be so big is the hours of employee time spent dealing with people whining about it.

  • bodega3

    I am sorry, but the OP screwed up. I just flew EasyJet. I knew the rules because it is very, very clear on the website about the added fees. I weighed our bags, which by the way can be combine for one total weight at checkin. We took our back packs and I measured them to make sure they met the restrictions. The OP is to blame plan and simple. EasyJet has great fares, nonstop service where other carrier do not. Either read and follow the rules, or please, just stay home! It isn’t the carriers job to tell you what you should already know!!

  • bodega3


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I”ve never flown EasyJet, but this is strange. Do they take your luggage and then charge you the fee? This entire business about pay the luggage fee or your bags are held hostage seems very strange. But I agree with the other posters that this is really on the OP. Removing the excess weight is just common sense, so it’s hard to feel too much sympathy.

    I have no problem with fees being broken out instead of being rolled into the base rate. I’m not on the airline payroll, so…?

    When was the last time I flew without checked bags? Better question was when was the last time I flew with a bag that had to be checked. Answer: February, 2013 as I flew to Southern California for a trial. I was laden like a pack mule, yet with my FF status, I didn’t pay a dime in luggage fees. Otherwise I travel with carry-on bags. In fact, I had to buy large luggage specifically for that trip.

  • sdir

    First the article says the couple paid $128 each, then it says they paid $128 for both combined. Which is correct?

    Had the couple already paid for the charges when their luggage was sent on? I suspect they had at least given their approval, considering it didn’t occur to them to repack their belongings. I sympathize, but I don’t see what else can be done at this point.

  • kljuc

    First off all i can understand the problems one might get when flying with Easyjet or even worse Ryanair in Europe. But these companies make their money with people not reading the rules of cheap flying. I agree it is not for everyone. I am just wondering one little thing..according to the Easyjet seems it says its 45$ for each 3 kilos. So that would mean their ‘little’ excess luggage was almost 10k. When you say in your article a little over 20k we are thinking up to 21/22k.

  • Gern Blanston

    To say nothing of the fact that airlines pay no taxes on baggage fees, so they’re essentially pure profit.

    That said, Italy isn’t one of the most efficient places I’ve ever visited… this story actually doesn’t surprise me at all, but I have to to wonder why these folks had to have it spelled out they could carry things in their pockets? I have a huge fisherman’s vest I wear on a lot of flights for this reason, and especially overseas where the baggage allowances are generally much lower.

  • You’re right. They paid $128 for both, which was a really low fare — too good to be true, perhaps. Because of a coding problem, part of the story was missing when it was posted at midnight today. It has been since restored.

  • backprop

    “The baggage penalty cost more than the airfare for the two of us,” says Ungar. “Astounding.”

    He’s right. It’s astounding their airfare was that low.

  • $16635417

    Is this story about a fee for overweight bags? Hasn’t a fee structure been in place for overweight bags for years or is this something new?

  • Justin

    Ryanair is more absurd than easyjet. One bag per person, either laptop or luggage, is allowed onboard. Only way to circumvent policy is load all items into luggage and hope the size and weight aren’t exceeded.

    Lucky for me, it was winter and I “smuggled” my laptop under my coat. No way in hell it’d fit into my travelers backpack. I did see people forced to check bags and walked up anticipating id be next. Managed to fly by. Moral here is if you fly budget airlines, pack light, or prepare to pay heftily. Ends up costing more than a regular fare if adding baggagae.

    Side note, Ryanair planes were meticulously maintained inside with ample legroom. Trade off for stewards hawking goods like scalpers enitre way.

  • Justin

    I’m playing devil’s advocate but weight isn’t only problem. Bags can be bulginh and oversized if packed improperly. I suspect OP ran into issue as offer to repack makes more sense here than bag too heavy. Still OPs fault.

  • Justin

    Never a past issue until airlines realized luggage and al la carte were profit making.

  • sirwired

    “It’s not hard to see that the era of easyJet can’t last.”

    All evidence, (easyJet, RyanAir, Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier) to the contrary… with the exception of Frontier, these are established operations that have been in business more than long enough to show that their business model works. They hardly make any secret that additional fees is how they make their money. If passengers were truly outraged by all the fees (or outraged by the openly customer-hostile attitude at some of them), these lines would have zero repeat customers.

    This is what bugs me the most about stories calling for this or that regulation to tamp fees down, include some free luggage, improve service, etc. These operations are living evidence that at least a subset of customer clearly does not care. They WOULD indeed actively be hurt by an enforced business model that mandated some of the costs be “baked in.” (NOTE: I AM a big fan of fee disclosure… that’s a really good idea; no sense in catching somebody unawares.)

  • John Baker

    This is an article I really want to say … “Really?”
    I have flown EasyJet and RyanAir a few times. Almost always, my luggage costs more than my ticket which is more a reflection of the cheap ticket than the high luggage fees. If you can book a ticket on either airline and not realize that they are going to stick it to you on fees, you shouldn’t be traveling on your own. More importantly, Easyjet has a ticket that includes a free checked bag and a whole bunch of other extras! You just have purchase it (and pay the added amount). The flexi ticket would have cost about $274 a piece.

    Here’s the really scary thing … something doesn’t add up. The hold (checked) baggage fees paid in advance are €13 – €25 ($13.70 to $34.25) at the airport its €35 ($47.95) and EasyJet lets you pool your allowance (ie you get 20kg per purchased bag so if you buy two, one bag can be 25 kg and the other 15 kg). The only way the OP ends up paying anywhere close to $150 is to show up with 3 bags and not pay for them online. Most US airlines are going to charge you about what Chris quotes fro AA so the OP would have paid, at a minimum, $85 to a US airline and probably paid more for the ticket.

    Sorry, not feeling any sympathy for the OP.

  • backprop

    Just because something isn’t taxed as income doesn’t make it “essentially pure profit.”

  • The Guy

    It is a scary situation and discount airlines do have lots of catches. I’ve found more prominent/mainstream airlines can offer more flexibility. The last time I flew Easyjet someone in the queue before me warned of rigged scales. It was quite a bold claim and I certainly have no knowledge to back up this claim. It does however support the idea that you should weigh your luggage before going to the airport. Make sure your loads are correct for the airline policy. And as others have said, it you can put it in your carry on then do so.

  • PB

    MONEY SAVING TIP!!!!!!!!!
    It has been said many times but bears repeating. Take pictures of your rental cars and weigh your luggage before going to the airport.

  • SoBeSparky

    A bit of anti-free-market rhetoric: “It earns nearly 20 percent of its revenues from forcing passengers to pay for luggage, seat assignments and boarding passes, among other things.”

    Fact is, EasyJet doesn’t force anyone to do anything. It holds no monopoly unless you consider low prices. Consumers speak with their charge cards. They willingly chose to use EasyJet and pay a la carte.

  • Fishplate

    “Whoa! One hundred fifty bucks! Can you say “money grab”?”

    No, but I can say “A policy designed to avoid filling the hold with free luggage instead of valuable air freight”.

    Does anyone fly with three bags any more? Especially three bags at 50 pounds each?

  • Alan Gore

    What visitors to Europe keep forgetting is that wherever on the continent you may be going, you have the option of rail. That Venice-Naples flight clocks in at four hours door-to-door, assuming that nothing “Italian” happens getting to and through the airports at both ends. Meanwhile, you can take a train Venice-Rome-Naples in just under five hours, center to center of each city, no security mess, baggage hassles, funny fees or weather delays. And you see a lot more on the way than you ever would from the air.

  • I flew WizzAir from Bucharest to Bergamo Italy (and back) and the price of my ticket was just the taxes. About $10 or so for my wife and myself, which I thought was amazing. Of course, I read on the website that you had to pay for each piece of luggage. So, we read the rules, made sure we had no issues, and paid the couple hundred to fly the bags. Strange yes… but still got an overall ticket priced cheap, regardless of how it was packaged. I think it was 20 euro a bag each way if you prebooked. Tickets for your luggage.

    I also found they were more aggressive in monitoring what should be carried on. If you tried to bring something on board that was too big (and they had a person actually monitoring this) they would send you back to the front desk and make you pay 50 euro to check the bag.

    All these rules were clearly..very clearly, defined on their website. I made doubly sure we followed all the rules. One thing I’ve learned travelling abroad. Things are different, you can’t expect them to be the same as here, so you better learn what to expect BEFORE you do it.

  • jerryatric

    OP at fault here. I’m flying across continent to Heathrow & then on to India. I checked baggage policies & then weighed & measured my luggage which consists of 1 carry on & a small backpack.
    No rude surprises at check in (I hope).

  • astrid

    Agree with who is pointing out that passengers should inform – read the luggage policies, once they pick a low cost fly company, at the same time I found ridiculous
    some of these Companies behave. I often use international flights from Italy to
    France or UK flying with the low cost company Ryan air. Sometimes I have to ck-in luggage because I know my weight is more than 15 or 20 Kg and my luggage is not “just a trolley”. So I honestly proceed with the ck-in online and I pay for my luggage. While I am at the airport and I am awaiting to the gate to be
    onboard I always see lot of people (tourist or business) having their oversize trolley and hostess passing through guests asking for “a favour”
    like: < Excuse me Sir/, because our flight is fully booked we have no
    enough space for your trolley, it would be appreciate if you would give it to
    us and we will put it in the hold as hold-luggage”. So these people are flying cheapest
    and their numbered-exceed-luggage will be carry on the plane for free while I
    am paying for it. That’s really annoying me, as well as I would be one of them!
    That sound to me the company is not organized at all! They have computer programs
    which they know through the reservation system how the flight will be and they can
    implement they capacity of selling rather than behave like thieves! Also it is
    very sad to became at the conclusion that cheep-flight correspond to poor
    quality service, where sense of responsibility and standards seems to be very
    far to the fact that people are not luggages to carry on the plane! They have no excuses: they stand and work since years and their business behave, in my opinion, is not acceptable.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’m not upset with the baggage pricing structure, as it is clearly designed to discourage people from bringing lots of heavy bags with them. I just got back from a vacation where I flew 3 separate commuter airlines and my bags were always weighed (and sometimes I and my personal carry-on were weighed as well). I’m pretty sure that weight was also a consideration for the legacy carrier I flew, but that consideration was built into the price of the ticket. The little guys just can’t do that. At one airport, I watched a man of distinguished years have a meltdown because his 3 pieces of huge luggage cost him an excess weight fee AND they couldn’t be flown on the same flight as himself because he and his party and their bags exceeded the carrying capacity of the aircraft.

    It’s the same in my neighborhood when it’s summertime, the neighbors have been watering their lawns like crazy and then they get their water bills. Our local water utility has tiered pricing – pretty cheap for an average household’s consumption, not so cheap for the next level, and very, very expensive if you water like you’re a golf course. If my water utility eliminated the punitive tiered pricing, then the average person would have to pay more to help subsidize those with estate-sized lawns, and the estate-sized lawn people would have no incentive to cut back, but would be encouraged instead to water even more.

    Point: tiered pricing structures help direct consumer behavior for the public good.

  • John Keahey

    The first time we flew European budget airlines, it was Barcelona to Venice. Tickets were $29 each. Checked in and my bag was 1 kilo over and my wife’s 3 kilos over. 100 euro penalty, 50 euros each. I’ve flown several of these budget airlines since and have never be caught like that again. Plus, I carry a small traveler’s scale. Indispensable. Read the baggage rules, folks. They differ from airline to airline. Carry-ons have limits just like checked bags. And if you decide to check a bag within the weight limits, go online and add that to your reservation. Much, much cheaper online than doing it at the counter when you check in. Read the rules!

    And, Chris: “It’s not hard to see that the era of easyJet can’t last. Customers won’t stand for it.” Nonsense. The few dozen European budget flights I’ve taken are generally packed — EasyJet and RyanAir particularly. Packed with folks who read the rules and prepare accordingly. It’s that handful of travelers — usually Americans — on each flight who get nailed. Europeans know better.

  • Justin

    I took a tour bus from Rome to Naples onto Pompeii. 150 dollars roundtrip. Worth every penny.

  • Justin

    Ryanair and vueling made very clear on my boarding pass their luggage rules. Didn’t run into issue at all, but thought I might. Bag was about 1cm (half inch) too tall and a bit on the bulky side so doubt it’d pass muster if checked. I was let through no issue. One time in life I lucked out.

  • Justin

    LHR is a huge airport….

    India sounds fun. Good luck

  • Justin

    Disagree. Airlines use to allow 2 checked bags included in price of ticket….then one bag…now only a carry-on is without additional fee. Airlines realized al la carte is profitable.

    Charge for bags, charge for seating, charge for food, etc

  • emanon256

    That’s what I was thinking when I read the article. It remidned me of a local store here that tried advertising certain computer components like printers for %50 of MSRP, but then required we buy a cable from them to get the discount. The cable was marked up to make the cost of the cable and printer about the same as the cable and printer anywhere else. So it was always a wash. But people went in for the “Low” price.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree. God forbid that people flocking to these airlines might actually be making an informed choice.

    +100 about disclosures. That’s critical though.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No one is disagreing that here is a profit motive. If they didn’t make the money here, they’d make it up elsewhere. The question is, do you rather them get profit in an area where you have some measure of control, i.e. luggage, or make those profits somewhere else, where the individual passenger cannot control his/her actions to avoid the fees.

  • Bruce Burger

    Your poll answer choices are poor. Just because fees are out of line with costs doesn’t make them “unfair”. Are any airfares in line with costs? Are your writing fees?
    And the Ungars failed to know what they were buying, yet they still got a pretty good deal on the total price. They should stop whining.
    I agree that it is bad long-term strategy to have a fee that is so high as to anger almost everyone who pays it. But it seems to be working for EasyJet and its ilk.

  • Dutchess

    I’m guessing you’ve never flown EasyJet before. It makes Southwest’s old free for all boarding system look desirable. Want a place in line? There’s a fee for that. Want to reserve a seat? There’s a fee for that. Want to pay with CC? There’s a fee for that. Want speedy check-in at the airport (which you do because otherwise you have one gate agent for the entire flight. The lines are CRAZY!)? There’s a fee for that. As for the luggage, their baggage policy really is only about luggage weight. The size requirement is really only for carry-on luggage.

    Checking their website if you only book the seats the fare is 56 euros a person or about the $140 for two people at the current exchange rate. After booking you’re given the option to indicate the number of bags they’re checking. I’m guessing they ignored this completely and didn’t book any bags. Paying for the bags at the airport is more expensive than paying for them with the booking. So that was their first mistake. In addition, they were over their 40kilo max between the two of them which then gave them a $15USD charge per kilo. So part of that $150 in luggage fee was the VERY CLEARLY STATED cost of checking luggage and some overage fees.

  • Dutchess

    Well said, EasyJet is great if you know what you’re getting into. I always book them knowing there’s a fee for luggage and a fee for speedy check in. The first time flying them I stood in line for 30-40 min at MAD before walking to the speedy check in line and just paying the speedy check in fee of $15-$20. It’s worth it and I just factor that into my cost/comparison of booking with them.

  • Mark Cuban

    Just another stupid consumer, probably buying online based on price alone. We will never learn.

    And really, your bag is a tad overweight and it doesn’t occur to you to take something heavy out and carry it on? Come on. That’s just textbook stupid.

  • VoR61

    Absolutely, Carver! Reminds me of the various states (in the USA) in which we have lived. Some have high property tax and low sales tax, and others no sales tax. Some charge for state parks and some don’t. Same for income tax.

    But be assured they WILL get their revenue somehow. So yes, I agree with you that I’d rather have them get it through optional charges I can control …

  • nyctraveler

    First off, the OP should have read the disclosed baggage fees online when they booked their flights. I have a handheld luggage scale that I take with me on trips where there is concern for luggage weight – especially when flying on budget airlines. The first thing I would have thought to do is take items out of my checked bags and stick them in my carry-on. But really, how much over the weight limit were their bags? $152 seems a bit excessive if we’re only talking about 1-2 kilos.

    I’m not always a fan of having the luggage fee unbundled from airfare, but if you’re going with a budget airline with a super cheap airfare – then inform yourself of the added costs.

    Also, when in Italy I prefer to take the train – avoid the hassle & expense of having to get to the airport, Venice in particular. It probably would have cost them the same if booked in advance (with mini fares) to take the train from Venice down to Naples and they wouldn’t have had to worry about paying excess baggage fees.

  • Michael__K

    Hold on. Where does the $152 figure come from?

    According to Easy Jet’s current terms and fees, the excess weight fee (when paying at the airport) is $15 per kilo. The story says the luggage was “just over” 20 kilos. At $15 per kilo it would have had to be “just over” 30 kilos to cost $152…

    Or does the $152 figure include the base luggage fee? That could be purchased online for $18 to $35. Even if it was purchased at the airport ($50 to $70) – that still implies the luggage was over 25 kilos (at least). Was it?


  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    I’m not sure where the Ungars are from but easyJet is a short haul (only) airline & although it might seem irrelevant; why did they have so much stuff? easyJet caters for people going away for weekend mini-breaks or family holidays within Europe. Were they Americans with a few weeks worth of stuff for a European Grand Tour? If so they should have done a little research into what easyJet was all about and not just lured in by the seemingly cheap fare. I have flown easyJet a few times and was never surprised by any add-ons or luggage limits. compared to the likes of Ryan Air there terms are positively transparent!

  • Dutchess

    Alan, this was my first thought too! Who’s flying from Venice to Naples? If you factor in the cost of a taxi to get to/from the airport at both ends the train is much cheaper at about $85 per person. It’s about a 5 hours trip from Venice to Naples. But if you factor taxi time plus 1-2 hours waiting at the airport plus waiting for bags, a plane is a little faster but not by much!

  • Dutchess

    Yep, when I flew EasyJet from MAD to Marrakesh I paid 1 euro plus taxes for my flight. I knew there would be luggage fees and other fees but I planned for it and still had a killer airfare.

  • DavidYoung2

    Sometimes it’s just easier to skip the Ryan Air, disSpirit and SleasyJets of the world. We’re flying from Amsterdam to Geneva. SleasyJet is cheaper by 40 euro than KLM, but by the time you add up all the ‘gotchas’ it’s probably close to the same. For the little bit of money, we’re booking KLM and not worrying about it.

    Now, I AM glad that SleayJet competes with KLM on this route because I’m sure they keep prices in check. So I’m getting a lot of the benefits of SleazyJet without even having to fly them. Win for the customer!

  • MarkKelling

    Just make sure you have lots of time at LHR. I can never make a connection there in less than 3 hours, and I walk fast!

  • Michelle B.

    So in total it was $280 for 2 people to fly from Venice to Naples on EasyJet with their baggage. Not a fantastic deal but not horrible and worth getting up in arms about.

  • jerryatric

    Flying 1 airline all the way. So only 1 terminal #5. At 75 don’t walk that fast anymore. BUT since they made all the connections, hope it goes faster. Going is 5 hr. wait, coming home only 2 hrs. @ LHR

  • y_p_w

    Spirit was mentioned. Recently I flew Spirit and understood that they had a fairly low 40 lbs limit for their check-in luggage. However, it made sense because it was even more for a single piece of carry-on, so we prepaid for a single check-in piece. So I was worried and it tipped the scales at a bit over 41 lbs. I was prepared to go in and extract a couple of pounds (one piece of clothing that I could wear on board would have been enough) but was told it wasn’t a problem.

    However, I’ve seen some odd things in my time. Once I was flying Alaska which had a relatively low $20 per piece check-in fee at the time, with a 50 lbs limit. I was waiting behind a family with two pieces of luggage to be checked in. It was an additional $50 if a piece was over the limit, and both pieces were about 52 lbs. The counter agent asked if they’d like to shift around the contents so they’d only have one piece over the limit, and the family declined. So they ponied up $100 instead of the $50 they could have been charged if they’d just moved 5 lbs from one piece to another.

  • y_p_w

    One issue is that most people don’t have terribly accurate scales. A bathroom scale can be extremely inaccurate. They aren’t periodically calibrated like one that’s periodically checked by a weights and measures agency.

  • JH

    When was the last time I flew with no luggage?” Nine months ago. I shipped a box of clothing and toiletries about 4 days before flying from Spokane to eastern Pennsylvania. Shipped it back as well. Cost was under $25 on UPS each way, but I was determined not to give one penny to the airline for my luggage.

  • Ward Chartier

    If faced with luggage that is slightly overweight, I’d look for the seal from the local government certifying that the scale is accurate. If I didn’t see it, I’d ask the attendant to prove the accuracy of the scale. I’d also consider making a complaint to the attorney general of the state. I have noticed that the scales at San Francisco International airport do have weights and measures seals on each and every one of them.

  • bodega3

    You can pay in advance to check your bags, which we did. Depending on the size of the bag, you either check it at the counter or take it to another location, after they check the weight. If your bag/bags are over the weight limit, you pay the agent. For a short haul flight, EasyJet was great and was our only option for nonstop service. I would fly them again.

  • bodega3

    For EasyJet, this has always been their policy as they started up well past the time that luggage was part of the fare. They are a lowcost carrier and the OP knew that, just didn’t pay attention and had to pay extra.

  • bodega3

    In some countries, making a stink will get you left in the terminal. What we have in the US for laws, don’t help you in other countries.

  • Bill___A

    Hope that works well for you. One of the most bone headed ideas in my mind. Even you have noted that the particular scales you checked ARE certified. And what are you going to do if it is not certified and they walk across to the competitor airline and borrow their “certified” scale.

  • Bill___A

    But you gave $50 to UPS, put up with big delays in sending your luggage way sooner, arranging to make sure someone signed for it, etc. Not worth it in my estimation.

  • Bill___A

    Chris has stated many times that he likes to have poor poll answer choices, irrelevant polls, etc. I guess people like you and I and the many others who would prefer to have a realistic poll doesn’t matter.
    “not listening” just like the airlines that send a form letter really. How many others would prefer polls that make sense, allow one to express a relevant opinion, and have enough choices to provide a true answer?

  • Name

    Another whiner who can’t be bothered to check the fine print. Of course the fees are way out of line, but the airline you fly dictates the rules.

  • Bill___A

    Much prefer that to the “resort fee” type of deal.

  • Amy Engelhardt

    I was a victim of American’s ridiculous $150 third bag fee a year ago. In a completely unexpected turn of events during a trip to NY, I had to move three bags of belongings back to LA with me, so baggage fees were $210. My one-way coach ticket was $179. I think I left part of my liver at the counter, I spouted so much bile. Luckily, it was the holiday season, and I was voluntarily bumped from the flight and given a first class ticket on a later one. Still, I was furious about having to spend that much on getting my stuff home. And of course they wouldn’t refund the charges at this point. The next day, I wrote a superb, polite letter to American stressing that I did THEM a favor by letting myself be bumped, and that according to their website, first class passengers don’t pay for the first two pieces of baggage. They didn’t give me everything back, but they gave me the $150. I learned my lesson: CHECK THE BAGGAGE fees before you book a bargain ticket.

  • JH

    I live in a small Montana village. I dropped the box off, no line, no waiting. hen I must drive 180 miles to the Spokane airport.I had nothing in my hands but a book to drag from car to check-in. The hotel gladly accepted the box and held it for me.No signing necessary. They also called UPS for me when I left and the box was
    delivered at home two days after I arrived. Simple. But the point is that I denied the airline the fee. That is worth much to me. Maybe not to you.

  • MarkKelling

    I am going through LHR terminal 5 in a couple weeks and am hoping it goes well. I too am flying a single airline, but coming from the US I will have to go through immigration and a second security check before being allowed to go to my connection. I have 4 hours each way.

    What I have done the past couple times through LHR is just spend the night in London and catch my continuing flight the next day. Help me handle jet lag.

  • Bill___A

    Glad it worked for you. I didn’t realize you were in a small Montana village. With the additional information you gave, it is a bit more sensible.
    Although I am not overly fond of the airlines, I do have a great distaste for UPS. If I am going to have to pay money to someone and it is a choice between just about anyone else and UPS, the “just about anyone else” is going to win out.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sure, I get that. What I don’t understand is that the agent took possession of the bags before the over weight charges were paid?

  • backprop

    Careful – I get flagged when I use the “w” word. Perhaps “another person who whines” would be more appropriate.

  • polexia_rogue

    “Bags can be bulging and oversized ….”

    isen’t that only an issue for carry on? i was once in a TSA line and suddenly a girl was pulled to the side “you bag will not fit!” she said “it’s the legal carry on size!”

    I’m sure it was the legal size when she bought the bag but at the moment it looked like a balloon.

    but i would think that if you checked in a badly-packed bag there would be no issue.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    let me get this straight, you want to pay more for your airfare ? Are you nuts or just stupid ?

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    some airfares are now free, when you pay for all the extras. Are you really suggesting that there shouldn’t be free airfares around ?

    Let’s face it, fuel is expensive & majority of people always carry far too much luggage. So now, if you’re stupid enough to not travel light, pay for it & stop whingeing. This website seems to sounds like a pack of pommie whingers.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    when airlines can’t sell seats even as frequent flyer seats (remember frequent flyer programme were originally set up to sell those unsellable seats), they sometimes dump them for nothing or 1 cents/pence/euro. Do you seriously expect, that they will also feed you, let you carry as much luggage as you stupidly pack & give you your seat of choice. What are you smoking ? You must be in Colorado, the hooch state (by the way are they selling hooch in 711’s yet? or does that start next week?)

  • oldft

    Yes! EuroRail is the faster, easier and more relaxing and scenic way anywhere in Europe!

  • backprop

    You’re talking to me, or the OP?

  • jpp42

    I agree that doesn’t sound like a sound procedure. I wonder if that was simply a mistake that they don’t want to admit. If this happened in the US, the passengers could have refused to fly and their bags would have to be offloaded for security reasons – not sure if that applies in the EU. But they would have lost their entire fare in that case.

  • jpp42

    Yes, I think people aren’t realizing that $25 to $35 for the first checked bags (of 20-23 kg), is still much cheaper than you can send the bag as independent air freight! The $150 may be realistic for cross-country , “custom critical” air freight rates which compete for the hold space in domestic flights.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I guess it’s okay if you spell it “whingers” and say it in an Australian accent.

  • Ward Chartier

    Do you push back or yield when somebody tries to cheat you? I push back.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I probably shouldn’t ask this, but, when the oxygen mask drops from the overhead on this airline, is there a CC reader on it?

  • jerryatric

    Good luck to u as well. BUT with TSA, Americans have a serious problem.
    I at least flying from Canada, a member of the Commonwealth so fewer problems with Immigration, I hope. Has to be better than the treatment I normally receive in the U.S. I have had my luggage emptied several times & have been patted down so closely that once I almost asked the officer if he would like a kiss after but refrained. I’m just an old 75 yr old short, balding guy WITH the special Nexus Pass. This shows (supposedly) that I was checked by your Customs & Immigration offices & have a clean record. Supposed to clear you quickly through Customs, What a joke.

  • omgstfualready

    Ah yes, why should someone have to have responsibility for their own trip? That’s absurd. When I fly overseas I should complain that their overhead is smaller and my bag isn’t allowed and their checked bag weight limits are lower. No worries it is information easily accessible to me, why should I have to bother? It isn’t my fault. Now help me.

  • omgstfualready

    Your post makes me very happy. You took your trip as your responsibility. Something still may have gone wrong, but you knew you did all you could beforehand. I wish more people lived their entire lives like that!

  • omgstfualready

    It’ll be accurate enough that if you are over it would be unlikely it would be by so much that you can’t take a few things out and carry / wear.

  • bodega3

    Interesting as our only issue has been at LHR, never here in the States.

  • jerryatric

    Returning to U.S. or arriving @ Heathrow? Have been to several Communist countries, Africa (5 countries) Asia, S. America & only place I have had MANY problems? U. S. A & the TSA! As I stated I have a special card from Homeland Security clearance, am old & have never been in trouble of any kind & yet I have had to endure humiliating “inspections” on many occasions. Hell I even breezed in & out of Russia.

  • bodega3

    Departing to the US. They were xraying all carryons and pulling them if they saw something. They had one person to go through the bags and she was taking approximately 20 minutes per bag. Our bag was #6. It was grueling!

  • jerryatric

    I thought so. TSA is manned by agents who think too much of themselves & treat the flying public like cattle.. The agency should be more concerned with their screeners not paying attention to trays going through X Ray machines, & theft from passengers. Who hires & trains these people?

  • Bill___A

    To answer your question “yes”, I do push back when someone tries to cheat me. With respect to this particular issue, I do have my own scale and from what I’ve seen, it is reasonably accurate. I have the expectation that the carriers I fly on have accurate scales (from what I have seen).
    What I perceive your method to be (correct me if I’m wrong) is to immediately assume that the carrier’s scale is incorrect, and to use that as a premise to dispute the issue. I think that is a non starter from most perspectives.

  • Londoner1936

    From Venice to Naples: why not take the train? City enter to city center, fast and comfortable, and very generous baggage allowances.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It appears to be at least a six hour train trip. If the OP didn’t have the extra weight luggage, I’m assuming the flight would have been faster. Plus the train would have cost $200RT per person. If the OP didn’t have the extra weight luggage it would have been a great deal $128 vs. $400.

  • y_p_w

    Airlines would get sued for subjecting passengers to a weigh in. They’ve stopped penalizing employees for their weight. Bags are what they’ve got to work with.

    Still – there are some services left that have strict weight limits. I’ve heard of on Polynesian island hopping service with small planes that adheres to a strict weight limit. Also – the Grand Canyon mule ride is capped at 200 lbs per mule including clothes and personal items.

  • y_p_w

    Put it in a cardboard box, take it to a UPS Store or FedEx Office and they can ship a 40 lb package for maybe $30 for pickup at the location of your choice.

  • y_p_w

    FedEx has ground delivery now.

  • Joe Farrell

    stupid is as stupid does . . . . the fact of baggage fees is clearly set forth on all of the Euro discount airlines websites – moreover, FLYING from Venice to Naples is the sign of a clueless, amatuer traveler. You get on an italian train to Rome where you transfer and get to Naples – where it matters not what your baggage weighs.

    If a person insists on being ignorant and not learned the rules of what they buy, they deserve what they get. It is exactly the same as if a plumber bought a Corvette and then complained to the dealer that the vehicle does not hold all his tools and gets banged up when he drives on worksites . . . .

  • Bill___A

    I really don’t think I would find it worth the trouble to use a courier, if it works for others fine.

  • Lindabator

    If it is oversized, it gets charged as oversized – and that’s worse than extra bags.

  • Lindabator

    Actually sounded as if they went to party #2 to pay for the over-weight bags, then back to #1 to finish the checkin, and were ticked they did NOT think of unpacking some. SO then went back to #2, and the luggage had already left on the line.

  • bodega3

    The credit card is already in the PNR.

  • Justin

    Sounds like Ryanair in a nutshell. Al la carte for every service, up to and including printing a boarding pass at the gate.

    Ryanair even has an Oxygen Reservation Fee – 100E. I presume for oxygen tank for the ill and not cabin oxygen in an emergency. Who knows.

  • Londoner1936

    The flight would have been faster – take-off time to landing time – but you have to get out to the airport, at Venice not nearby, go through security etc., and at Naples get back into the city; we are soon at 6 hours total trip time. And yes the air fare was less but how do you get to and from the airports with all that luggage? Taxis are not cheap, and the rail stations at Venice and Naples are both central. Sorry, but your comment makes no sense… and that did have all that luggage, for which you would pay extra even if it was not overweight.

    Why visiting Americans think these European cut-rate airlines are worthwhile is beyond me. We fly frequently from Limoges, France to Nottingham, England on Ryanair, usually with only a carry-on, as do most of the passengers on those flights – Brits with a second home in that part of France – going back and forth between the two places. Ryanair gets almost all of its business from these customers; my advice to Americans on vacation with lots of luggage is to stay away from the Ryanairs and Easyjets, and as another poster noted you can probably fly for very little more on a KLM or BA flight which includes a luggage allowance, if fly you must; The cut rate airlines have kept the legacy airlines in line on routes they compete with. Very noticeable between Bordeaux and London, where Easyjet keeps BA honest.

  • bodega3

    All airlines charge for oxygen tanks, as you are not permitted to bring your own onboard…at least that has been the case in the past.
    We paid for our seat assignment on EasyJet and didn’t see the need to pay for an early boarding. We had options to carriers from EDI to CDG and we picked EasyJet and it was fine. We knew what that we were booking a no frills flight. To fly BA or another carrier would have meant a connection and hours longer in travel time.

  • Londoner1936

    They actually paid $128 for both (one way, or round trip?) All Ryanair/Easyjet fares are quoted as one way; no deals for round trips. Travel out on a low demand day and the fare may be $5 or $9.95 or what, and the same trip on a high demand day may well be $105 or $195. Even the lowest fares require some taxes and fees added on, and again, amazingly at times Ryanair even swallows some of those. We fly from Limoges to Nottingham quite a few times yearly, and have bought tickets for under 50 euros for two at times – we have the choice to avoid high demand flights, but I would add that even when we have gotten very low fares, the planes always seem to be close to full – their algorithm for ticket sales must be very good.

    By contrast, luggage fees, and similar extras do not vary in price, and it is quite easy to pay more for your baggage than for yourself. In our experience on the Limoges-Nottingham service many passengers have no luggage, but of course if you get an absurdly low fare, it may still pay to pay extra for your luggage rather than take an alternative form of transportation …

  • bodega3

    Some people see price and don’t pay attention to the details. I have sold Ryan Air to clients, but they knew what they were getting. I had another client get their own intraEurope flight and got dinged big time due to their luggage, as they didn’t pay attention to the details. Your over the water allowance doesn’t apply to other flights if you break the fare in Europe. I just flew EasyJet and found it to be fine. But we have traveled and have our packing down and pay attention to details. For us the nonstop flight on EasyJet was the best option due to time of departure and length of overall travel time.

  • Londoner1936

    And you did not figure out that all this attention to your baggage and carry-ons at LHR was because you were departing to the US … the US demands that level of inspection and control. Try departing for somewhere else … you will not get that treatment; this is not an issue created by LHR or the UK, but by the Americans. Go think!

  • Londoner1936

    If the departing flight leaves from Terminal 5 you should not have to go through immigration (in the main hall there is a huge sign stating that this is the UK border, and you should remain on the exterior side of the sign, but you will have to pass security again. Terminal 5 is a huge disaster, with enormous internal distances, and it does take forever to make connections.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sorry, your reply is lacking in several key areas.

    We don’t know where the OP was staying. For all we know, it might have been at an airport hotel with a free shuttle. Thus we can only speculate on the logistics and cost. Also, the article implies that the $152 was only an overweight fee,

    The fare differential was substantial. $400 v. $128. I doubt that the OP would pay $272 in ground transportation.

    Perhaps the OP just doesn’t like trains. The point being is that even with the overweight fee, the cost ends up being a wash and certainly no longer timewise, so either option is perfectly reasonable.

  • Londoner1936

    Flying on with a connection made within Terminal 5 you should avoid immigratioon (and being Canadian would not help there). At 77 I do not walk fast, and my wife even less so … do what we do: ask for a wheel chair, it really helps, and especially so at the giant Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Even so, count on 2-3 hours to make a connection, though the wheelchair service will respect your connection times.

  • Londoner1936

    I think you misunderstood the “issue”, see my comment below; the US is to blame for this excessive degree of inspection of passengers flying into the US.

  • jerryatric

    Thanks for the heads up. Will probably do that on the return portion of our trip. Going we have almost 5 hrs. between flights. Ain’t getting old great?

  • Londoner1936

    John Keahey, you are so right; of course Easyjet will last, it has an excellent business model, my experience confirms yours – flights are full or almost so. And 99% of the customers are not American; as you say it is the Americans, sometimes with preposterous quantities of luggage, who get angry or nailed by these fare and baggage systems .. and if they are on vacation and travelling heavy, they should stay away from the Easyjets and Ryanairs, and stick with other airlines, or maybe even try the trains … what a thought !

  • Londoner1936

    Glad to help, and I hope it works for you … and yes, getting old is a real bummer at times.

  • Londoner1936

    OK maybe it was a wash, but give me the comfort and space of the train anytime … and not the cramped space of Easyjet.

  • bodega3

    Actually, I have found other countries to do this for flights not heading to the US. BTW, this was a first class line and flights were not all heading to the US. Don’t put all blame on the US. The employee who was a slow as molasses, was a UK resident. She knew she was holding up passengers and seemed to be relishing the control. They finally bought in a second inspector and moved us over to another area and things went much faster with him.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Actually, I agree with you. I traveled from Rome to Florence to Venice and back for 192 Euro a few years ago. I was in First class and it was infinitely better than dealing with airplane nonsense.

    I also went from Brussels to Paris to Frankfurt as well. It was heavenly. It to bad the physical layout of the US (large country, spread out cities, etc.) does not permit efficient train service on a national scale.

  • bodega3

    I doubt it. It isn’t inexpensive to get from many parts of Venice to the airport. Most who travel to Naples continue on but of course we don’t know the final destination of the OP. The overall cost with transfers can be very close to the train cost.

  • Dutchess

    I agree Joe, the kicker is when you factor in the cost a taxi to/from the airports (hell even the train from the airport to Venice is 15 euros/pp) plus the tickets you’re going to be almost twice as expensive as the flight. Add in the transit time to/from the airport, waiting for your flight, waiting to collect bags and your flight is almost the 5 hour time it would take you to get their by train.
    I agree, this was a total amateur mistake and not worthy of being mediated.

  • Londoner1936

    You are so right. We fly from the US to France, nearest major airport is Bordeaux, but we find it more realistic on arriving at CDG to take the TGV high speed train, directly from the airport to Bordeaux (3 hours or so) rather than a flight on Air France (only valuable if we arrived in France on Air France). The train station at CDG is right under the terminal 2; it is nearer than the gates for the connecting flights to Bordeaux, and we arrive in comfort in the center of Bordeaux instead of a one hour bus ride into town from the airport at Merignac. In this instance, the rail connection is infinitely superior to the ongoing flight … and it was even more true when we arrived at CDG and took the TGV to Lyon rather than a continuing flight to LYS, a good hour out of the city.

  • stephen_nyc

    One can buy a hand-held scale that’s designed for luggage. The one I have goes to 50 pounds, so if the red hand swings past the 0 mark, well, you know you’re over 50 pounds.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    $272 in transfers?

  • bodega3

    Oh heck yeah! Private transfers can be very pricey. Not what I take, but some want hand holding.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    What would an average traveler be likely to pay? I remember staying in Lido/Venice. The hotel suggested a private watercraft for 100euro. The public one, which dropped me off a short taxi ride from my hotel cost 1euro.

  • Londoner1936

    She was a “UK resident” eh? Sounds like the Polish woman (no doubt a UK resident also) who was doing security inspections at London Stansted last year when we were flying out to France. Ryanair and Easyjet provide almost all of the flights from there (plus other low cost companies). This woman was practicing the same slowness, and irritating many … but the airport needed her – she spoke Polish to those taking Ryanair to Bydgoszcz or Torun, or a myriad of eastern european destinations they offer service to. Do not think she was relishing control, more likely being fastidious and following the rules to the letter., but just my view. She was however creating much resentment.

  • y_p_w

    Again – accuracy is an issue. It’s especially an issue if it’s portable and suffers any kind of shock. Once I dropped a tire pressure gauge and it was completely gone. It reset to 10 PSI and any reading was completely off at that point. I’d expect the same for any kind of handheld scale that uses a spring.

    Farmer’s markets have a lot of issues with the accuracy of their scales, especially when the equipment is moved around a lot.


    To be certified, the scales must be designed for commercial use. Not all
    scales can be certified. Almost all home postal scales, baby scales,
    diet scales, or other portion-type scales were not manufactured to meet
    the standards necessary for commercial trade and certification. It
    doesn’t matter if it is an analog or digital scale. It doesn’t matter if
    it will give you a weight of 0.01 gram or a fraction of an ounce. Many
    scales available at office supply stores cannot be certified for legal
    trade. Scales for direct sales in commercial trade must meet certain
    standards, be registered with the NDA, and be certified yearly as
    accurate. A stamp is placed on the scale indicating it is certified. It
    is illegal to sell by weight using an uncertified scale. Direct sales by
    weight or measure also are called bulk sales by weight or measure.”

    A lot of farmer’s markets avoid the need for scales by selling individually, by the bunch, by the basket, or weighed an packaged ahead of time.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    why would they be sued ? It’s not discriminatory in any way. When it comes down to it, we are all “freight”

  • y_p_w

    Possibly using the Americans with Disabilities Act? Especially if there’s a medical conditions. The fact is that we’re all expected to shoulder the load even though some people disproportionately use resources. Lighter passengers pay the same as heavier ones if purchased under the same conditions. I recently dined at a buffet where a small woman with a light appetite would be charged the same as myself, who was able to eat a lot after skipping breakfast.

  • Annie M

    I always read an airlines baggage fees before I book to compare the real costs of a flight. I take it that perhaps this traveler is not a well seasoned traveler, because everyone I know would have moved items between bags to get the one bag under the weight they wouldn’t have to pay. I was quite surprised when the story went on to say another agent had to recommend it to them and they didn’t think of it themselves.

    As far as THIS statement : “Whoa! One hundred fifty bucks! Can you say “money grab”?” I find Americans fees described more than fair. The $150 is for a THIRD bag. How much luggage does one need to travel with?

    Perhaps the Ungars should use a travel agent who can advise them in the future of everything they need to look at before booking.

  • Annie M

    Couldn’t you have shipped that third bag instead of paying for it? It would likely have cost you a lot less. If everyone took three bags on a flight, the plane would be overweight and unable to take passengers. It is everyones responsibility to read the baggage policies first and figure out the best way to deal with what they have to travel with. There should never be a surprise at the airport.

  • Fist000

    I don’t pay anything for American Airlines bags and soon to follow with US Airways. I fly a lot for work and at most places I don’t see anyone weighing my bags to check for them being overweight so they can tack on an overweight charge either. What I think is silly is their replacement policy. I had a brand new piece of luggage and on its first trip it came back with what looked like razor knife cuts all over it. I went to the airlines customer service office and found out they don’t cover that. Ridiculous. I think if you live in the US you need to pick an airline and join their loyalty program which gets your first two bags for free (well American Airlines anyway).

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Hello Carver. As I’m sure you’re unsurprised to hear this, I disagree with you.

    Having lived in Poland and Ukraine for a time and seeing a large distance between many cities, I don’t buy the excuse that the failure of American rail is due to distance between cities. I think it’s a factor of people being used to driving rather than rail. If it’s someplace they can go by rail, they’d rather drive and then have their car available when they get there. In Europe, you can get fast minibusses to get you where you need to go from departure to destination. People here in the states just have a problem with public transportation in general and flying is the exception (if they need to go a large distance, they’ll fly and then rent a car.)

    One of my Ukrainian minibus experiences a year ago was funny. A stuffed bus with working class Ukrainians and a pregnant woman standing next to me with her belly against my head (I’d have given her my seat, but it was impossible to move.) I could feel her kid kicking me. It’s an experience I don’t know if Americans could handle here. Being carless in Europe can be liberating.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It’s more than just the distance. That’s a train vs plane issue. It’s the way cities are laid out. European cuties tend to be much denser. In a sprawling city like Los Angeles. You have the choice of either having a an impossibly long walk between bus stations or an unworkable number of stops. That’s why in some American cities public transportation is embraced, in other cities it’s shunned. New England cities tend to be closer to European cities in layout. But even on the west coast, many ppl in San Francisco don’t have cars. I loved the public transportation in Europe and have never rented a car. Same in New York and sometimes DC. I even did it at UCLA, but again, with 50,000+ ppl! it was sustainable

  • PolishKnightUSA

    As I said, I still don’t buy the big distance between cities in the USA argument. For example, Los Angeles. Didn’t you ever see “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” Until the 1940’s, most people didn’t have cars there either. But due to culture and corporate interests in shutting down rail and bus systems, and a catch-22 (as busses and rail were shut down either apart or together, people tended to use them less), public transportation died in the states even in dense areas.

    Again, Los Angeles: In theory, a perfect place for public transportation since gridlock dominates most of the time. Yet when I asked a guy who had lived there his whole life for the nearest metro station, he didn’t know.

    Here’s a reason why a lot of people avoid public transportation in the states:

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I saw who framed Roger Rabbit. Great movie.

    But you sidestepped all of the points.

    1. It’s not true Americans are not opposed to public transportation. It exists all over the country in cities where it works. NY, DC, SF, etc. The commonality being they are all dense cities. In fact, because of some unique circumstances, when I lived in Los Angeles I took public transportation to school for three years and to three different jobs.

    2. In a sprawling city like Los Angeles the number of stops would be prohibitive. One day I had to take the city bus home. What was a 15 min drive turned into 2 hour bus ride. 14 miles, at say 3 stops a mile (a pure guess on my part), meant 42 stops on that trip.

    3. The relatively low density of most US cities, makes too many places, especially in the suburbs, either inaccessible, impractical, or would effectively turn public transportation into a semi-private service due to the low number of persons served in those areas.

    My take is that American develop a car culture because the impracticality of public transportation for widescale use. Since you have to have a car, you may as well use it. It cities with great public transportation, car ownership declines.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Counselor, I won’t get into who sidestepped whose points. But let’s address them 1 by 1 if you require:

    1. Yes, a few US cities have popular public transportation and are dense but this doesn’t prove your claim that it doesn’t take off in the USA because the USA isn’t as dense as Europe. There are dense cities, such as LA and others, where it’s not adopted just as there are non-dense cities and regions in Europe. A few examples does not a proof make.

    2. The number of stops for a busline has zilch to do with density. In Europe, they had direct busses for popular points just as trains and planes do. If you had to take a plane with a dozen stops across the USA, you’d avoid plane travel too! :-)

    3. The reason why there are low numbers of people serviced in many areas is due to a catch-22/cultural issue I referred to where Americans associate public transportation with slowness and poverty and therefore the few people who use it are poor and have a lot of time to waste. Funny anecdote: I didn’t have a car in Philly in my 20’s and girls avoided me like the plague. Nevermind I had a huge bank account. In Europe, this wouldn’t have been an issue (which explains why I married a European!)

    You also avoided my point that corporate and political interests sought to push Americans into cars in order to make money. I find the obsession many Americans have with making advertisers rich rather amusing. I constantly have to remind my wife that just because advertisers show people spending money on fancy new cars or other stuff and being happy, that she needn’t go along.

  • bodega3

    People will use public transportation if it is convenient In our area, a train from the North Bay to San Francisco is being built. Except it won’t go to SF. For me to take the train, I will have to drive 20 minutes to park and catch the train, only to have it stop on the north side of the bay. Then I will have to board another bus or a ferry to get to SF. I still have to get to my destination in SF, so another bus or trolley from the ferry or bus stop will be required.
    Now I have used public transportation in Europe and know how a good system can work. Like Clark, for me to use a bus to do an errand, here locally, would take me 4 hours roundtrip in what I can do in 1 hour or less. Pretty easy to see why people don’t use it. Also, reliability is an issue. I use to take the city bus to college every day. Many times the bus didn’t show up as there was a substitute driver who would by pass the turn to where my stop was. The meant allowing extra time just in case. It also required me to get out of my last class early on certain days or it would mean a 2 hour delay in getting home due to the schedule. Why the bus to a college couldn’t have been scheduled for 15 minutes after the hour for students didn’t occur to them is beyond me. Make it convenient and people will use it. Don’t get me started on Amtrak. The times clients have had to get their train were ridiculous. I never encountered that in Europe…ever!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    My Reply.

    Los Angeles is not dense for a major city. There are areas of density, but overall, it’s not particular dense outside of the downtown area. This is particularly true in the residential areas. I’m suggesting that we have a clear common theme. Its interesting. Here in the Bay area, SF has great public transportation, but Silicon Valley to the South aren’t nearly as robust, though both a populated with much of the same types of people from a socio-economic perspective. The big difference is SF is much denser than Silicon Valley and in particular in its residential areas.

    Number of bus stops is critical. Sure, if you’re going to a popular place there are direct buses. But what about regular life; the grocery store, the bookstore, your favorite restaurant? Those are all going to be city buses with all of the stops.

    I may not have articulated the low number of ppl serviced comment well. What I meant was if you live in a purely suburban area, the population density is low. Public transportation metric, e.g. number of ppl served per dollar, plummets, making it cost prohibitive to provide robust service.

    At one of the jobs where I took public transportation to downtown Los Angeles, the express bus was great, during the morning and afternoon commute it was packed. I took it once at noon and it was empty. As a result, the powers that be realized it was inefficient to run it outside of commuter hours. It ran every 10 min during the commuter hours, then ever 2 hours during the mid day, and stopped at 7pm. It became unsustainable after 7 because that point to point ridership was finished. Thus, my nightmarish city bus ride home. It forced me to tailor my work schedule to the bus schedule. That was reasonable back then, but not today.

    I did avoid the corporate and political question because it’s not capable of meaningful discussion, particularly in a forum like this. I can provide quantifiable evidence to support a position on say loyalty programs. But political type discussions tend to be more about the speakers political leaning and, quickly descending into anarchy.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I think there’s a catch-22 feedback loop in process. Even for many dense areas, public transit hasn’t caught on due to few people being interested (because they already have cars so why not use them) and since busses have bad schedules as you indicated, then people buy cars and don’t use the existing service and this feeds back into the bus routes having bad schedules.

    I lived in some backwaters in Ukraine and while bus service was not perfect, it was adequate for the locals because since most locals didn’t have cars, the service was pretty good. It ran from 6AM to 1AM because that’s when most people worked and in some cases, minibusses ran at 15 minute intervals. This wasn’t in Kiev or Odessa but rather in villages in West Ukraine! It was astounding compared to here! They had direct routes and local routes. The direct routes, to avoid lots of stops, generally cost a little bit more. Funny story: My wife’s father’s friend gets free rides as a senior on the local busses so he would ride from one side of the country to the other for the fun of it. That’s a LOT of stops! But even the directs were pretty cheap by Ukrainian standards. About a third of a US dollar.

    I don’t think we need to get political to observe that there’s a strong culture of car ownership and use in the states compared to other countries. It also explains why we’re a bit more, how shall I say, portly than the rest of the world. When I’m waiting for a bus and if I see that the next stop is just a half mile away, I’ll often just walk it. Many Americans get their exercise from their home to their driveway and then from the parking lot to their office and back.

    Another factor in Ukraine seems to be that even the schoolkids didn’t have a direct ride. They would use the standard public transportation to get to school. My wife remembers that for the 1st day of kindergarden, her parents took her to the public school bus, told her which stop to get off on, and then just put her on it. Can you imagine that here?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There is some truth to that. Public transportation only works in parts of the US. Cars work in basically all of the US. As a result, cars win overall. When I lived in LA, I had to go 16 miles south to work, but church was 25 miles from work.

    Today, my schedule is chaotic. Client meetings in random places, multiple court hearings, etc. Imagine telling the judge, I’m sorry your honor, the bus was late.

    Its not so much that buses have bad schedules, (which they often do), but if my neighborhood only has 5 homes, sending a bus to my neighborhood costs a lot of money for very little return. The municipality won’t do that. A car is an excellent alternative. By contrast, the bus I took to work as a student was packed because Caltech students often work at NASA-JPL. Students lived on or near campus and many worked at JPL so the bus was packed and very cost effective.

    The political part I was talking about was regarding the political and corporate interests in killing public transportation.

    Speaking for myself, I don’t have an ideological position on it. I use what I perceive to be the best for my circumstances. Car, train, plane, or rail.

    Kudos to your wife’s father’s friend. I think that’s awesome.

  • Helio

    Brazilians. Not exactly with 3 bags of 50#, but Brazilians can travel int’l with 2 pieces of 32Kg (70 pounds) each, because of Brazil’s regulations.

  • BMG4ME

    The reason why they can charge such a low fare is because they are not including the baggage cost in there, and the great part about it is that some of us can avoid the baggage fee.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    But my point is that this has little to do with the distances in the USA as many like to claim (I hear this often) as compared to culture. There’s LOTS of big distances in Europe. It’s not just one big sprawling Los Angeles Metropolis many think. But the people use the public transportation and there’s lots of it so it’s convenient to use. Not as convenient as a car, of course, but not horrible either.

    In rural Ukraine, they run a lot of minibusses but they get packed. I had a pregnant woman stand next to me and I could hear the baby heartbeat. My wife says I’m a cad for not getting up and she’s right (but I could barely move!) She also didn’t ride long. Also, my wife says it was easy to eat better when you had to eat only what you could carry home…

  • bodega3

    Using a car isn’t always convenient and I hear people saying they would use public transportation if it worked for their needs. I won’t use our local system, as I mentioned, but I do in San Francisco. I would like to use Amtrak, but it isn’t the best way to get from one point to another for longer than a day or two. Even Europeans are using cars more despite their systems being so much better than ours…in most places.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I don’t know whether Europeans are using cars more. I know in Poland cars have taken off because it’s a sign of affluence but even then many there agree that it’s causing similar problems in the states: lack of exercise, traffic jams, etc.

    It’s a bit of a catch-22: Until people use public transportation more, then it won’t be ubiquitous. If it’s not ubiquitous, then people won’t use it more. In addition, there are cultural issues. But these are, IMO, bigger factors than the distance paradigm I hear often to explain why the states doesn’t have it.

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