Stuck at the airport because of luggage fees

Teri Weissinger’s tale of being stuck at San Francisco Airport for eight days drew a swift and predictable reaction from readers.

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“Ridiculous,” says Betsy Mayotte. “It really is.”

“Truly bizarre,” adds Dennis Tucker.

“Can you do anything for this poor woman?” asks Judith Hill.

Well, first things first.

Let me fill in a few details, for those of you who missed the story. Weissinger, a self-employed furniture broker, was flying from San Francisco to Idaho when US Airways asked her to pay $60 for her checked bags. She says she didn’t know about the fees.

Since she was between jobs, didn’t have the money to cover the baggage fees. Weissinger couldn’t abandon her suitcases, and so she spent eight days sleeping at the airport until the nearby Airport Church of Christ gave her the $210 to cover the applicable extras.

Pretty awful, huh?

And you can only imagine the reaction from the media, ranging from Gawker to Good Morning America. There was outrage. US Airways was charged with concealing its surcharges.

Talking heads and consumer advocates cluck-clucked that this is what you get when airlines are allowed to lie about the true cost of a ticket.

I’ve been critical of how air carriers disclose their fees for years, and as the member advocate for the nonprofit Consumer Travel Alliance, have pushed for new rules that would require airlines to disclose fees before the booking is made. Those regulations go into effect in January, thankfully.

But back to Weissinger. I thought I would give her a call to check on the status of her complaint. I received her number through Al Anolik, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in travel issues. Anolik had contacted me after the first report on Weissinger, saying he and Weissinger had been in touch.

“It sounds ditzy,” she told me, when I asked her why she didn’t know about US Airways luggage fee. “I guess it is ditzy. But I haven’t flown in five years, and that’s what happened.”

Weissinger was in a Bay Area suburb when I spoke with her, which confused me. Wasn’t she, as the various reports had suggested, now in Idaho?

No. As it turns out, the incident took place back in April. She was flying to Idaho for a seasonal job, but was now in California. That explains how the TV networks were able to tape her at San Francisco airport.

After arriving in Idaho, she was determined to get compensation from US Airways for her luggage ordeal. When she returned to California, she found Anolik online. After consulting with him, they decided to take her case to the media.

I wondered if US Airways had been in contact with her.

Yes, she said. Just before the first story aired, an airline representative phoned her to try and persuade her to pull the piece. She declined. After the report aired, US Airways offered to refund $60 in luggage fees.

“I said, ‘no’,” she told me. “It’s not enough.”

What would be enough?

“You’ll have to talk with my lawyer about that,” said Weissinger.

I asked her if she was planning to sue US Airways. Again, she deferred to her attorney.

OK, one last question: “Have you had any contact with the Airport Church of Christ, which helped you in April?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “It’s been such a busy time since this story broke. I suppose I should.”

I’m deeply ambivalent about Weissinger’s case. No doubt, she suffered as a result of US Airways’ intransigent policies. I sympathize with her. But her story isn’t the smoking gun for luggage fees that airline critics are making this out to be, either. If it were, then her case would have been filed somewhere other than with the court of public opinion.

Weissinger’s problem reminds me of another woman who, enabled by a fawning mainstream media, parlayed a negative airline experience into a cause that set the consumer advocacy movement back by decades. We can’t afford a repeat of that.

I hope Weissinger and US Airways can work something out. But I also hope her story isn’t used to vilify an entire industry.

It’s doing a fine job of that on its own, thanks very much.

138 thoughts on “Stuck at the airport because of luggage fees

  1. Answers a lot of questions.  That it was a re-creation of the original events is starting to make more sense the way the camera followed her around.

    I’m surprised that the original report didn’t clearly state this was a re-creation of events rather than live footage they got while she was actually stuck at the airport.

    1. The media had an agenda instead of reporting the facts (or in this case stating it was a re-creation of events).

  2. Perhaps there should be a special airline that handles and flies all these ditzy people to where they are going, but wait, then the aircraft cabin of regular flights would be half empty

  3. Thank you for this piece. I’ve been wondering about some of the inconsistencies in this story.

    Personally, I think the woman is a moron looking for her 15 minutes. She can’t be living under so much of a rock that she “didn’t know” about airline fees, especially in the Internet day and age.

    And who travels without any cash or credit cards? That just makes the story all the more bizarre.

    Chris, which story were you referring to about the woman and the fawning mainstream media that set consumer advocacy back? There have been so many…

    1. Raven,

      There are many people who do not have significant financial resources and travel without “extra” cash or credit cards. They get by because they carefully budget anticipated expenses, and scrape up their savings. That in itself isn’t ridiculous.

      What really eats at me is how the “fawning” media has ran with this story. The fact that Weissinger hasn’t even taken the time to thank the Airport Church of Christ for their $210 donation. The fact that she has contacted an attorney and they “staged” the case for the media, AFTER the event. The fact that she (and an attorney) is filing a lawsuit.

      That is outrageous. But, don’t assume that all travelers are like us, have cash and credit cards readily available. Many of the working poor barely get by.

      1. Chris_in_NC … How did she eat for 8 days in the airport? I’d spend more than $60 in just a day or two. How did she plan on getting to her job or handling any other expenses on arrival? How about just getting from the airport to where she was staying?

        If this was hundreds or thousands of dollars, I’d agree with you but it was $60.

        Sorry she needs to grow up and quit thinking she’s entitled

        1. How did she eat for 8 days in the airport

          Just a guess: if you fly late at night when snack shops are closing, it’s fairly common to see the staff pulling lots of expiring sandwiches, yogurts, etc. off the shelves and into garbage bags.

          1. are you suggesting that she dug through garbage bags after the vendors left? 

            because, sorry, i’ve worked at the airport for well over a decade, and i don’t even need one hand to count the number of times the vendors have given out their old food to someone who asked for it.

          2. Wasn’t there a similar story several years ago?  I can’t immediately find a link, but I believe the airport was MIA and the passenger lived there for weeks before airport authorities noticed.  He was stranded because of some other issue (not baggage fees) and as I recall he got by in part on the charity of sympathetic vendor staff who provided food that would otherwise have been discarded.

            What’s your explanation?  Are you suggesting that people who don’t have $60 in their pocket don’t exist?  Every single person who claims so is pretending and is a scammer?  

          3. They may not have 60.00 in their pocket, but then they should just stay home.  Why have we become such a nation that expects handouts/rescues all of the time?  Once in a while, ok, not always or for life!

          4. Hey Michael, I can’t think of a reason why she would stay in the airport for 8 days. What is she waiting for? For USAir to change its mind?
            Apparently she was able to come back to Petaluma after her stay in Idaho. So that means she could have just gone back to Petaluma instead of staying 8 grueling days in SFO. What am I reading wrong here? Was she waiting for manna from heaven?

          5. Presumably she had access to income and/or assistance in Idaho.  Had she relinquished her CA residence at that point?  I have no idea.

            News articles say she offered to leave behind one of her bags (which was rejected on security grounds) or to have the airline hold the 2nd bag on arrival until she made payment (which was also rejected).

            If you accept that she didn’t have any money left at that point, what were her other options?

          6. People she didn’t even bother to thank, obviously.

            A small congregation of 65 people came up with some money to help this idiot and she doesn’t even have the kindness in her heart to call them. She does, however, have it in her heart to call a lawyer who staged a “reinactment” for the whorish media.

            So, so, classy.

          7. I don’t condone how she handled the aftermath or the exposure.  It’s appropriate to criticize that.

            But I’m actually equally appalled if not more so by some of the commenters here who from the comfort of their office chairs or bedrooms type meanspirited callous comments and insist with false certitude that this was staged.

            Have none of you ever been in a pickle as a result of being completely ignorant of something you “should” have known about?

            What would be your pricetag for spending 8 days sleeping in a stairwell and picking garbage to feed yourself?

            Personally, I can’t fathom an ordeal like that and I’m reluctant to leap to grand judgements of someone who went through such a desparate period.

          8. She had enough money to get back to Petaluma on the Airport Express bus to regroup.  Since she really didn’t move to Idaho and is now back in Petaluma, she must have a place where she kept her stuff or a place to come back to, a bank account of some sort to pay her bills.  There are just too many twists and bends in this story to believe it as being truthful.  She couldn’t have called her employer in Idaho and have them advance her for that one bag from her first paycheck?  No family member or friend to help her?  Is she a scam artists?

          9. If she was headed to a seasonal job, why is it suspicious that she had enough money to travel back 6 months later?  

            News reports say she spent the first day calling friends and family, and in the meantime her costs went up by $150 because her flight departed.  I can’t rule out that she’s a scammer but I can also think of plenty of plausible explanations as to why she didn’t get the help she needed sooner.

          10. How did she make those calls?  By cell phone?  How does she pay that bill?  She took a seasonal job and is now back where she left from for that job.  Where is she staying?  In the same place she lived before heading to Idaho?  Again, too questionable to believe her story. 

          11. @c4a583a8e644de030720c1fcf5282979:disqus , you seem awfully pre-disposed to a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset.
            If she even had a cell phone, it was very likely prepaid and probably couldn’t be refilled with cash at the airport.

            Check Petaluma hotel prices for winter vs. summer and it’s not hard to guess which season the cost of living there might be a problem for someone on the financial brink.

          12. No you are misguided in your assumption.  There are just too many holes that makes this unbelievable.  The cost of hotels isn’t relevent and certainly summer vs winter doesn’t matter in Petaluma….I live around here, I know.   She booked this ticket online and didn’t pay attention to the details.  If someone else booked the tickets, they didn’t provide her the details.  That isn’t USAIR’s fault.  Traveling with only $60 with a connection in PHX was being unprepared, too.  The video shot by the lawyer said she was moving to Idaho, now we learn she was only going there for a short time summer job.  Don’t twist the facts to make a story and ask for sympathy.  AND don’t pay the people back who helped you now that you have worked and got back home.  You pick what facts that tell you that we should feel for her situation at SFO. 

          13. @Bodega: I’m not the one making assumptions.  I just keep poking holes in your “too many holes” assertions and your response unfortunately seems to be to deflect with emotion and to attribute positions to me that I have never expressed.

            When I was a student I maintained multiple residences and I didn’t always keep them simultaneously even when I expected to return.  I guess you wouldn’t believe that because there are too many holes in my story.

          14. Sorry Michael, but I heard this story over a week ago and it is now different.   I have NO sympathy for this woman.  Somebody purchased that ticket for her; herself, a friend, a family member or her summer employer.  Whom ever it was, was responsible for checking out the links to the extra fees.  They aren’t hidden.  I have to tell you that the fact that she is back here in Sonoma County and hasn’t paid the church back should tell you something about her character. 

          15. @c4a583a8e644de030720c1fcf5282979:disqus : Where did I write that you need to have sympathy for this woman?  

            Re-read my comment that you replied to in apparent disagreement.  I’m merely disturbed by commenters like you who presume that anyone who claims this level of poverty (no $ in the bank, no relatives willing/able to come to the rescue with $210) deserves our knee-jerk disbelief, scorn, and ridicule.

            Do you have any clue how many other charities or relatives or creditors she may or may not be indebted to?  I don’t pretend to know her complete situation and I don’t pretend that I can imagine myself in her shoes.

          16. Yes they do dump leftovers every night.  And then they pour bleach into the garbage bag before wheeling it to the dumpster so someone doesn’t dig out the disposed food. 

            She may have found a sympathetic employee who gave her something that was supposed to go in the trash, but I doubt it since that employee would have lost their job if anyone saw and reported it.

      2. I do know a few people who carefully budget, but they are also the most careful people I know about checking on every possible expense.  And would have re-paid the church who helped them as soon as they had the money – not making an inane comment like “It’s been such a busy time since this story broke. I suppose I should.”   I hope donations to the church increase because they were the ones to help a truly lost soul.

    2. You hit the nail on the head. Looks like ditzy got her 15 minutes of fame at the expense of US Airways. Yes, you would have to be living in a cave not to know that airlines have been levying bag charges for years. Not carrying even a credit card and she had her own business??????????
      Outrageous and greedy!
      Who will be her next victim because she “wasn’t aware of…whatever”

    3. It’s true that some people may be ignorant of these ‘extras’ US Air tacks on – I would be amongst them if I hadn’t seen this article. I am unemployed, no ready bundles of US dollars, no stack of plastic. My family in the US bought me a ticket from the UK to US, internally too and all I have is an emailed e-ticket. I’m flying in a few days. I can imagine the fun of headstrong Brit clashing with American check-in beaurocracy!

  4. Please don’t provide these people with more coverage. I am not a fan of fees but most(if not all) are well known. I can’t believe that this person planned on landing in another city with no money. This looks like a staged incident that only hurts consumers. 

  5. Ambivalence is the last thing you should be feeling. This woman is the worst combination of the defiantly ignorant consumer with the instant media/social network manipulator. Plus she’s looking for a payday. Time to take a stand and, regardless of bad business practices on the part of the airlines, call out these equally bad travelers.

    I vote for a quick trip to the no-fly list…

  6. Seriously, she was just being an attention whore. Yes, luggage fees aren’t trivial, but at the same time they aren’t a new thing so I’m finding it hard to call them ridiculous. And if you have enough money to buy a ticket, you should either be able to afford to pay them or know better.

    Another thing in her case is that she managed to live in the airport for 8 days on less than the $40 or whatever she had and felt that was a better ‘choice’ than just flying without some of her stuff.

    Do people really think that airlines should waive luggage fees just because people are either too poor to pay for them (and you can buy the ticket?) or don’t feel like it (who does?) ? That’s just silly.

    1. felt that was a better ‘choice’ than just flying without some of her stuff.
      If you read the story, she tried to resolve the issue by offering to abandon one of her bags but she was forbidden from doing so on security grounds.
      What were her other options?

        1. That’s what I would have thought too.  Trouble is, the airline told her that would cost her an extra $150 (which she didn’t have).

  7. ok, I didn’t see the original piece air, but I’ve got to ask a couple of questions:
    1) Don’t you normally have to PREPAY baggage fees?  At least pay them before your baggage is put on the plane?
    If she didn’t have to prepay them, i’m of the opinion that this is a “bait and switch” tactic type of arrangement and that the airline was basically holding her luggage hostage.
    2) If I mis-read the article and she was trying to check in when she was notified about the fee, then I’ve got to ask the obvious, How much were the change fees she incurred due to being at the airport and delaying her flight by 8 days?  How much money did she lose from not working at her seasonal job by staying in the airport 8 days?

    I think this woman is simply looking for her 5 minutes of fame and we really should stop encouraging this type of behavior

    1. Paying for baggage fees doesn’t mean paying them well in advance.  Occasionally I’ve accumulated extra bags on a trip and had to check them in.

      You could decided to pay right at check-in.  Airport stores even sell luggage that one might choose buy and then check in.  A bag could be refused as carry-on (for being oversized/overweight) and would need to be checked in.  The last time I flew, the fare was prepaid, but the baggage fees were not.  I paid right at an electronic kiosk at the airport and handed by bag to an airline employee then and there.

      1. That’s what I’m getting it.  It’s not like she was allowed to check her bags without paying the fee.  So she had her luggage in hand, she was free to leave the airport at any time…  That’s why this looks like a publicity stunt…

  8. I book tickets at the US Airways website on a weekly basis for years.  When fees were introducted, there have been disclosure that the fare does NOT include fees for luggage, etc. 

    This is about an individual who wants to cash in…maybe she is looking for her own reality show 

    1. Actually almost all airlines have had a similar disclosure.
      But merely saying that the fare does not include other fees does not provide information on what those other fees are (or how much they cost). This was exactly the reason the DOT enacted rules that were suppose to make those OTHER FEES more transparent.

      To drive home a point – airlines didn’t even bother to tell their travel *agents* what all those fees are. Also, we didn’t see them in GDS or any of the fare tariffs.

      Sure there may be some Luddites or people who climb out from underneath a rock and travel very rarely. They might baggage fees shocking.

  9. This story sort of reminds me of Charlie on the MTA, only in this case, Wessinger could have gone home.
    While I wonder how people are not aware of baggage fees as they have been all over the media since they started, I am not surprised that some people are unaware.   I see people almost every week at security who “Didn’t know” they couldn’t bring a liquid over 3oz through TSA.  Some people just aren’t that aware. 
    I also recall people posting here that it was in fact true that when baggage fees were made an add-on, the actual price of tickets did go down.  If that really was the case, then people who are not checking bags, are paying less.  If the original price did go down, I am okay with bags as an add-on fee as people pay for what they need.  However, I think consumerism has entered a world of add-ons and buy-ups where the original price did not go down, and everything is extra.  I am seeing this everywhere from restaurants to my vet, and I am not a fan.
    Now I can’t help but wonder how Wessinger though she would get to her destination in Idaho.  Was she going to rent a car, pay for a cab?  Was she renting an apartment? It just baffles me that anyone with a lick of common sense would remain in the airport for 8 days, rather than go home or pay up the $60.  How much income did she lose out on by not working those 8 days in Idaho? Could she have consolidated some items and carried one bag on and checked the other which costs less?  Did she pay for 8 days worth of food at airport food prices? It just seems to me like waiting 8 days for someone else to pay for her was the least intelligent decision she could have made, unless she staged the whole thing in an attempt to get money from the airline and 15 minutes of fame.
    I don’t understand at all how she thinks US Airways owes her additional compensation.  I don’t think they owe her anything.  She paid for a service, and used it.  If they want to refund the $60 baggage fee, they should give it to the Church, not to her.  What additional compensation is she out?  And by living in the airport for 8 days and missing 8 days of work, she clearly did not try to mitigate her damages.  I hope she gets nothing.

  10. I’m really glad you published this article. As other have said, it answers a lot of missing questions, and my sympathy for Weissinger has evaporated.

    Exactly what does she expect to receive via a lawsuit? While I personally think airline baggage fees stink, it’s not an illegal fee, it is properly disclosed and Weissinger wasn’t discriminated against. Any lawsuit is frivilous and legal extortion and would set back consumer advocacy.

    Another fact that also bothered me, if she is really broke, how was she expecting to pay for ground transportation, food, shelter, etc. once she arrived in Idaho. For now, I’ll assume that her seasonal employer was going to pick her up and house her.

  11. My question is how did she eat at the airport for eight days without any money.  I can’t imagine that eight days of airport eating did not cost her in excess if the $60. Something does not add up, or I missed something

    1. Just a guess: when I’ve flown late at night when snack shops are closing, I’ve often seen the staff pulling lots of expiring sandwiches, yogurts, etc. off the shelves and into garbage bags.

  12. I’m with KCMathews here…how could she both live at the airport with no money, and keep her job in Idaho being more than a week late? This story doesn’t add up. Chris, thanks for making us aware of it. That TV station should be ashamed of the half attempt at journalism.

  13. To quote a former Cincinnati Media person and sometimes football player … “Child Please.”

    Have we really gotten to this point as a society that we think actions like hers are ok? That its ok to sue US Air over her mistake? I won’t “take the left turn at Albuquerque” to quote Bugs Bunny and start into a tort reform post but it is that US Air is going to have to spend a ton of money either defending itself over her mistake or paying her to go away.

    I think it speaks volume to her character and sense of entitlement that she hasn’t bothered to say “thank you” to the church that helped her out or make a donation in return. I guess they owed her just like US Air owes her now.

    “Child Please” 

  14. UGH. This story makes me mad. I’ve always held the position that if we want the travel industry to play fair with travelers, we have to play fair with them.

    She didn’t do her research before flying, which was compounded by baggage fee lunacy on the airline’s part. However, now that she’s painted herself as a victim, she’s looking to cash in on a much larger payday at the airline’s expense. It’s vulgar and makes her look like a moneygrubbing gold digger. I hope she loses AND has to pay both her own legal costs and that of the airline.

    1. Unfortunately LadySiren the burden of proving a frivolous lawsuit is so high that its almost insurmountable. Her lawyer will probably have taken this on spec looking for a big payday from the airlines for little work so in the end, it will cost her nothing. Only US Air, and as a result anyone who flies US Air, will have to pay for her ignorance.

      1. Not ignorange – greed!  Because no way she couldn’t have known, and this wasn’t staged.  8 days in the airport?  Like that didn’t cost way more — PLEASE!

  15. The fact that she hasn’t flown in 5 years, and that’s why she didn’t know about baggage fees is utterly ridiculous.  Does she not listen to the news, browse through the internet, TALK TO FRIENDS?  Okay, I’ll concede that perhaps US Airways didn’t fully disclose how much baggage fees are.  However, you have to live under a rock to not know that there are baggage fees.  Seems to me that she’s just greedy and wants more compensation than is necessary.  People like her are ones who file frivolous lawsuits and cause the rest of us to “pay” for her ineptitude with higher fees in the long run.  She should be ashamed of herself.

  16. This all doesn’t ring true, either. Where has she been for the last five years that she hasn’t heard of airline fees? Living under a rock? I think it is a scam. You cannot expect me to believe that she hasn’t heard about the fee issue before. C’mon. We aren’t stupid! And the media was just sucked in…

    1. There’s also the fact that there are signs indicating there are baggage fees and the starting rate in every terminal for every airline that has them, in airports all over the US. There’s really no excuse here.

  17. It confirm my opinion about US Air.
    That’s another reason I decided never fly US Air. I flew once because Air Canada canceled my flight and put me on First Class US Air and nothing was closed to a standard Business Class, and US Air called it First Class.

    1. Using this story to support your preconceived opinion of US Air is pretty pathetic. US Air isn’t the villain here; that role belongs to Teri “Too Stupid to Fly” Weissinger. The fact that you’re a fan of Air Canada says a lot about your judgment.

    2. Huh? How in the world is this USAir’s fault? Would any of your precious Star Alliance carriers waive their bag fee if I claim “No Money!”?

    3. Well considering that Air Canada cancelled your flight I’d say that you’re better off with US Air since they actually got you there.

  18. STAR ALLIANCE should kick US Air out of the alliance. I don’t think US Air meet STAR ALLIANCE standards. US Air just give bad publicity for the alliance. UNITED cover almost all the US Air destinations.

  19. This woman is absolutely nuts and her attorney isn’t far behind her.  It seems to me her attorney used Chris to help spread the word and give the lawsuit legs but – lo and behold – Chris isn’t like the Main Stream Media and he tells the WHOLE story, not just the sensational part.

    I hope US Airways and their legal team see this and shut her down.  She is beyond ridiculous and people like her make it more difficult in the future for travelers with REAL problems.

    I also feel sorry for this church.  They stepped up to the plate at her request (er, entitlement attitude) and she couldn’t even be bothered to THANK them?  To me, that says more about her than anything else.

  20. Good Grief! 8 days in the airport, sounds like she did NOT have anywhere to go so she stayed there. She could have taken her luggage elsewhere. No money, hmmmmm , no food, what does airport security say about someone staying 8 days. Very fishy story.

  21. It bares repeating. Use a real live ASTA travel agent! We are trained to advise all of these rules and regulations. Beggars are sometimes lucky. No, Usair does not need to be sued over her stupidity. However she book the ticket, there was something that she had to check that said that she had read the rules and regulations. ANd no matter how long it has been since she had traveled, I would think that any normal person would have heard of baggage fees; I have not had a single customed in years that did not ask about them, including the 1st timers. Unles this was the emergency of all emergencies – no money?! 🙂

    1. Oh really? Read the ASTA position on the new DOT’s Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections final rule —

      In a filing submitted last week to the Department of Transportation
      (DOT) in response to its Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections final
      rule, ASTA spoke out on behalf of travel agents and the traveling public
      and asked that the DOT defer the implementation of two rules that
      mandate how travel agents disclose baggage fee information and that
      would negatively impact agents’ ability to remain competitive. Both
      rules are scheduled to become effective Aug. 23.

      Wow, how’s that for airline fees transparency? Looks like ASTA is speaking from both sides of its mouth.


      1. Actually, if you READ it correctly, it states a travel agent should not have to inform you to go to a separate area on the airlines’ webiste, or have a separate section on their own to send you to read about each airline’s baggage requirements.  On top of having to print the requirements on a receipt.  And that has a lot to do with the constant CHANGES the airlines makes.  If I issued a receipt in April for November travel, and the rules changed in September, the client could hold me responsible for what was on that old receipt.  Ridiculous!

        1. Say what Linda? Traveling Man said “Use a real live ASTA travel agent! We are trained to advise *all* of these rules and regulations”.
          Umm what advise may that be if as you said ASTA TA’s should not have to inform you to go to a separate are on the airline’s website BECAUSE THE FACT IS THAT INFORMATION IS MISSING IN YOUR GDS.
          My point is that a real live ASTA TA may just be as confused as a non TA.

          1. Which is why ASTA doesn’t want the agencies to have to 1)  print out the information AND 2)  send them to a separate area or either the airline’s site or their own.   (Frankly, speaking with my ASTA folks here, they just prefer you go directly to the airlines and leave it at that – hence the reason they do not support this bill)

          2. Exactly. That’s why I find Traveling Man’s ASTA plug quite “shameful”.
            I must admit I tell my passengers to call the airline to confirm the baggage provisions because in reality the airline does not tell me in a timely or accurate fashion what they are. You and I and many TAs know how complex this baggage thing is and we are NOT PAID to solve this BS. This is a pure airline problem and ASTA must push it back to the airline. No ASTA TA should go about telling the public they are experts in this complicated matter. They are only inviting trouble.

  22. There is something wrong with this story and there is something wrong with Good Morning America, don’t they have anything better to do?  This woman is either stupid or stubborn, probably both, how on earth does one travel without as much as an extra sixty dollars and how does one stay at an airport for eight days?  And the I’ve been so busy have not had time to thank a church for bailing her out, just makes me mad.  

    1. Less we all forget that Tom Hanks spent months living in an airport just mooching off of everything. It was a great movie.

  23. First off I think the baggage fees are excessive. Also stories about baggage fees have been so well covered that if someone does not know about them, they had to have been living in a place with no contact to the rest of the world. But do not put me on the jury for this case. Not only would she get nothing, I would have her pay US Airways legal fees and an additional amount of money for bringing the suit.

      1. As a juror the fact she has no money (or at least says she has no money) does not come into play. It can be sent as a message that it is not a legit lawsuit.

  24. Teri Weissinger’s decision to OCCUPY SFO for 8 days, as bizarre as it might look like, should really focus the spotlight on NON TRANSPARENT AIRLINE FEES. The story should not be about Teri. It should be about baggage fees. Not everyone is a frequent traveler who already knows from experience that you need to pay $25 to check the first bag and $35 for the second bag on MOST domestic flights. We still get calls in our Travel Office from people who think they can fly from New York to Asia for $700 for their Xmas vacation (average fare is at least 3x that). Do you think they know that United/Continental will charge $70 for the 2nd checked bag? Unlike readers of this blog, so many people are occasional travelers and don’t really know about these baggage fees or what they cost. Yes, they don’t listen to news that don’t pertain to their current needs.

    The airlines did pushback hard on the DOT’s requirement that they disclose all these fees upfront. Some airlines even sued the DOT. The core provisions for transparent pricing implementation got moved from August of 2011 to January of 2012. For those who do not know what the DOT asked the airlines to do, Charlie Leocha had an excellent post explaining it here –

    So why not simply disclose the baggage fees (amount) upfront WHILE PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT AND SEARCHING FOR THE FARES?  And, why not include the same information on the e-ticket receipt? How hard is that to do? I would venture a reason why. Many Airlines do not want their “real” fares (total cost of flight) to be compared to those of Southwest’s and JetBlue’s which have 2 bags and 1 bag checked FREE, respectively. For the 2nd quarter of 2011, the airlines reported collecting almost $887 million in baggage fees alone. Don’t you really wish there were a lot more Teri Weissinger’s out there? Or, have you surrendered to the airlines and now accept baggage fees as another private “tax” that goes to pay for the high salaries of their CEO’s? Forget Terri but think of your own pocketbooks.

    1. Tony-When you book on the travel vendor sites like Expedia, once you select your flights, there is a spot where it says additional fees may apply. Once you click the link it clearly tells you what the fees are-including checked bag fees. I deliberately picked US Airways and it clearly indicated $25 for the first bag each way and $35 for the second bag. They also have a link that takes you to a page where it shows what each airline charges for so-called other fees (apart from the flight fees built into the price of the ticket).

      It isn’t exactly hidden-granted you have to click a link but honestly? If people are too dumb to read a page on the internet and click a link then they get what they deserve.

      On a side note, I hate that they charge checked bag fees. It is ridiculous. It leads to almost everyone bringing their bags onto the plane and causes delays in boarding and getting off the plane. I’m lucky. I fly Delta and have a Sky Miles Amex card so get my bag checked free and take advantage of that. But honestly don’t blame people for wanting to not pay the fees and bring their bags aboard. It’s the ones that bring the oversize bags aboard that I want to clock over the head.

      1. Ann, the reason why you are seeing those links now is precisely because they have become mandatory (some postponed till Jan 2012) with the new rules:

        As a matter of fact many of the online sites had to pay or settle violations of OTHER DOT rules (i.e. codeshare ,full-fare disclosures, etc.)
        It’s hard to consider their motivations as saintly either.

        Personally, I still find the different baggage fees confusing and cumbersome to keep up with. And since they are separate from the fares, it does make it harder for ordinary people to compute and compare the total cost of travel between different airlines. I assume that a true consumer advocate will fight for full transparency of all charges so that consumers can make easier and better choices. Unfortunately, the noise created by Terri (and her publicists) was too loud and it drowned out the real issue.

    2. You may not know how MUCH they are, but unless you’ve lived under a rock for several years, you have to know they EXIST!

      1. Linda, the point is how to compare total cost (including fees).
        I’m not talking about this Terri woman. I’m talking about the general public per se. They need to compare BEFORE they buy. So they need know HOW MUCH IT COSTS not just that they exist.

        1. And if she booked this online, its clearly available, and if she booked over the phone, they tell you to check online.  The fact she chose not to puts the error on HER.  Come on people, you need to start taking responsibility — for YOUR actions and choices!

          1. Like I said Linda, this person is not Joan of Arc. I hesitate to call her an idiot (like others here have) because she might be very intelligent and may have a different angle that we don’t know yet. I hope Chris is not suckered more into supporting her beatification as the patron saint of baggage fee victims. Who knows she might be following in the footsteps of the stuck-at-the-tarmac queen who is in Napa, CA. You know that’s near Petaluma. Can there be a connection?

            I am pissed that the real message of how ridiculously complicated and irritating baggage fees are is getting lost while the public is pulled towards this publicity stunt.

      2. Linda, as you know baggage fees can be very complicated.
        I just had passengers from WAS DC who flew Asiana (OZ) to Asia. OZ’s free baggage allowance is 2 bags. But since the passengers had to fly United from DC to JFK,  United charged them $70 for the 2nd bag at the airport. You are a travel agent and must be aware of IATA Reso 302. The most significant carrier is Asiana and therefore their Baggage Rules should count. UA and CO do not participate in uploading their baggage allowance to ATPCO so their information is missing in GDS. A travel agent will know through Asiana Circular’s sent by email. But there is no way to store this info permanently in a TA’s system.  How about passengers – they cannot simply look at their itineraries or ETRs because that info is missing. They will need to go to Asiana’s website and follow the links to United/Co. And these fees are different depending on when the ticket was bought.
        Incidentally, the same is also true for ANA flights (beyond Japan) with UA/CO domestic US interline.
        I am all for simplifying all these baggage fees because they are confusing. And in this case, they are confusing to passenger who already bought a ticket.

        1. Absolutely why ASTA does not want the burden on the travel agent.  And I agree, it can be a nightmare — but this was a simple domestic ticket, with terms clearly stated online.  My co-worker’s 10 year old could pull it up in 2 minutes, so why couldn’t she?

  25. When I first saw the story I though, that’s terrible, when it was still in the news a week later with nothing really new about it I had a feeling there was more to the story.  Who spends 8 days in an airport because they couldn’t afford the baggage fee?  Either someone with mental issues or who is pulling a stunt for money.  Sounds like both going on.

  26. Okay, it seems from these posts like we’ve all pretty much agreed that this woman’s situation, and her reaction, are sketchy… but that said, I DO sympathize in general with people who don’t fly frequently, and therefore aren’t aware of changes in practice–like luggage fees–which have been implemented in the interim.

    As an example: I have flown all over the world many times, on many airlines… but did no flying between fall 2008 and spring 2010.  During that period, airlines apparently started putting strict limits on baggage-weights for internat’l flights, that I had never seen before and didn’t expect!  So when I bought an overseas ticket in spring 2010, I didn’t even see the rules–which WERE posted–about new weight limits.  Previously I’d always been able to pack anything I wanted and then some, without worrying about ever exceeding the max!  Fortunately a friend alerted me to the new rules before I showed up at the airport, because otherwise I definitely would have been faced with overweight-baggage charges that I didn’t expect!

    Yes, the rules were posted, so technically I wouldn’t have been able to argue.  But if you aren’t actually looking for the new rules, they’re easy to miss.  The moral of my story is, if somebody claims to have been unaware of a change in policy, that can very well be, IMO, a credible statement.  (Whether it matters legally or not is a separate question.)

  27. “I asked her if she was planning to sue US Airways. Again, she deferred to her attorney.”

    I guess she does have some money to hire a shark.

    1. The attorney almost certainly is taking this on a contingency basis, meaning his pay and all costs will come out of anything they win. He’s probably got a second agenda of drumming up some free advertising for himself and/or using the publicity to force the airline into a settlement before trial. The way many of these cases work, he’ll be the only one to make anything on this deal.

  28. Charlie Leocha jumped all over this ‘press release’ for his cause of ‘hidden fees’ and what I found interesting is that she called her family and friends but NONE would help her.  Sounds like she has other issues, too, besides trying to get away with playing dumb.  If she purchased the ticket on line, she had access to the necessary information.  She lives where I live, and we have TV and we get the WN ads.

    Interesting that the sound bite I saw on Charlies’ Leocha entry on another website said she was moving to Idaho, but she is now back in Petaluma.  Another case of one sided reporting to make a case that has NO business being made!

    Excuse me while I head to the grocery store and try and get last weeks sale ad prices even though I know today is the day the new pricing comes out. 

    1. Bodega, keep watching TV. Maybe Nancy Grace and Greta will interview her once she gets Gloria Allred as her attorney. Too bad, we gave up cable when we could no longer stand the propaganda. How did she go back to Petaluma? Wonder who paid for the tickets and baggage fees. IMO she is not the Joan of Arc that is worthy of Chris’ and Charlie’s cover story. Unfortunately for USAir, it’s yet another bad PR hair day.

      1. Isn’t it interesting that she was now heading to Idaho for seasonal work with only a small amount of money in her pocket.  Usually you only get paid every two weeks, but some places pay weekly, so she was going to live on that pocket change until her first paycheck? 

        The attorney is well known in this area as he specializes in travel law. He is often quoted in trade publications.  I think he stepped down a few levels in esteem with this IMHO.

        1. You know that lawyer is General Counsel for the Assoc. of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA). Not surprisingly ARTA position on Baggage Fees disclosure is not the same as ASTA. They said (July 2011):

          ARTA is satisfied that the baggage data has been addressed by the airlines for proper distribution to agents in automated systems. It’s now up to the GDSs to take that data and implement it efficiently, effectively, and expeditiously.


          IMO, Orbitz complied with the DOT regulations at the time Terri bought her ticket. The only requirement since 2008 is for the agent to indicate “additional baggage charge may apply” prominently near the fares that are displayed and a hyperlink to a full description of the carrier’s baggage policies. Orbitz also has an airline baggage fees page.

          Also, I would suppose Orbitz will print the following baggage disclosure taken from GDS at the passenger itinerary:
          That said, I believe that Orbitz is off the hook. In fact it goes above and beyond what the lawyer’s own travel organization recommends.

          US Air also complies with the current DOT Baggage Disclosure Rules.
          Link is visible from frontpage of USAir website

          So, if Orbitz and USAir are in compliance with DOT rules, what can they be sued for? Not waiving free baggage fees to indigents?

          It would be interesting to see what they can come up with since IMO Orbitz practices the same things this lawyer would advice his travel agent clients.

  29. Of all the hard-luck stories I’ve read on your site, this by far is
    not one of them. I’ve dealt with people all my life and just by looking
    at this woman’s picture I could tell she’s a problem case. It’s that
    set of the jaw, the posture of anger that is glued onto her face. No, this is not a wronged traveler, this is a professional suer, a person who spends time looking for little things to grab onto and make a federal case out of
    and threaten lawsuits. I know this type. It’s written on her face practically. What could possibly be more of a tip-off than her claim she went to the airport with only $30 in her pocket, and then resided there for 8 days? She had to eat. She had to drink. And then, to build up a non-event like this, she even calls in a news crew for a re-enactment? How much time and/or money did she spend for that little effort? Over $60 in baggage fees?
    Honestly, I don’t have a nano-ounce of sympathy for this woman, and I don’t see how even the news crew didn’t see through her little charade.
    I’d put a poster in every post office, a message to businesses nationwide and world wide ‘UN-WANTED’.

  30. “OK, one last question: “Have you had any contact with the Airport Church of Christ, which helped you in April?” I asked.

    “No,” she said. “It’s been such a busy time since this story broke. I suppose I should.”

    Gee, my first plan of action when I got back home would have been to repay  the Airport Church of Christ for their help. Weissinger sounds like a ‘taker’.

    Eight days wandering around an airport! Didn’t she have any credit cards or friends? There is more to this story……

    1. Absolutely shameful to not have immediately thanked the church. Even if she couldn’t ever afford to repay them, she should have at least said thank you. That part of the story told me all I needed to know about this person

  31. She would have been more successful if she tried this Chinese approach
    rather than hiring a lawyer.

    I really don’t see how she can sue an airline and make big bucks in State Courts when airlines clearly enjoy some Federal Preemption “benefits”. The fact that the DOT gave the airlines till Jan 2012 to comply with the new requirements to display baggage and ancillary fees gave US Air (and other airlines) a free pass.

    Maybe Michael Moore can make a documentary.

  32. What was the circumstance of the other “woman who, enabled by a fawning mainstream media, parlayed a negative
    airline experience into a cause that set the consumer advocacy movement
    back by decades”?

    1. Yeah, that peaked my interest too. Come on, Chris… you can’t drop a big honkin’ shoe like that without at least giving us a SNIFF of the other one. 🙂

  33. The most telling part of the whole story is how she has not made an effort to repay the church. I’m sure the church gave it to her as a gift, but she should repay with a donation…and make it more than $210.

  34. Hmmm….other stories on the web indicate she was “beginning a new life in Idaho”, but it was only a seasonal job to begin with?

    She also booked her tickets on Orbitz, why aren’t they the “bad guy” as well? Why is this just about USAir and their “lack of transparency”? Who cares what USAir says on their website? She didn’t use it! No relavence.

    BTW…Baggage fees were on the USAir website before the new law…you just had to click on “baggage” instead of “fees”.

    Trumped up statements, inconsistent facts….slow news day?

  35. What I see is she had a seasonal job that wasn’t starting until 8 days later so she decided to hang out at the airport because she had already moved out of her residence and had no where else to go.  Why else would someone hang out for 8 days at any airport?  You could easily spend what she needed to pay for the baggage fee each day just to eat there.  Her story that it was about the baggage fee was just convenient and she now hopes to make a bundle off the airline.

  36. I didn’t vote for either as I think what is most ridiculous is the fact that she’s made a major trip to a seasonal job without sufficient cash reserve to cover unexpected expenses.  What if she got there and the job fell through?  What was she going to use for daily expenses till she got paid and most important what if unexpected expenses such as luggage fees came into the picture?  It’s good she was going to a job but the whole scenario sounds too contrived. And she hasn’t had the courtesy to contact the church which gave her money because she’s been too busy – doing what, meeting with her lawyer???  Give me a break.

    1. Eating and lodging aren’t exactly “unexpected” expenses, either. She wasn’t going to eat a meal or pay to have a place to sleep in Idaho?  It was $60, not $600. Her entire story sounds bogus.

  37. As far as what’s most ridiculous, I vote for neither of the above — it’s a tie between the media coverage and the shark masquerading as a lawyer.

    Y’know, there’s another inconsistency in the whole story: USAirways does not fly, and never has flown, between California and Idaho.  She’d have to be flying through Phoenix to make that trip, and I find it hard to believe anyone would take that option rather than flying United or Southwest, which do serve that market.  Did she have a USAirways ticket for a United flight, perhaps, in which case the problem would be with United?

    This whole situation smells like a barrel of dead fish.

    1. She booked with Orbitz.

      I tried SFO-BOI for some random day, and the lowest one-way fare was US Airways through Phoenix with a 9 hour stopover.  There was also Alaska via Seattle, Delta via Salt Lake City, and United Express non-stop as well as some combinations that boggle the mind.

  38. I find it extremely hard to give Ms Weissinger’s claimed experience much credence.  It is enormously difficult for me to believe that a sentient adult would leave home for a distant destination with only $30 in cash and no valid credit card.
    I am thoroughly bemused by
    *her claimed lack of knowledge regarding luggage fees 
    *the non-existence of friends or family willing and able to come to her aid with the required $60 
    *a prospective employer not providing assistance and waiting 8 days for her to turn up in Idaho 
    *her ability to skulk in the airport terminal for 8 days without being apprehended
    *the reenactment of the claimed incident for the benefit of the media.

    Could it be that Ms Weissinger was homeless and almost destitute in San Francisco at the time and was travelling to Idaho where someone had offered to help her if she could get herself there?  Could this be a shakedown?  If there ever is a lawsuit, I predict it will go nowhere. 


    1. She claims being hassled at the airport.  Anyone that long would be hassled.  After 8 days, I expect someone would smell like a person who’s backpacked for a week in the wilderness unless showers were available somewhere.

    2. Even if all she is saying happened to her is true, as sad as it may be, it does not mean that Orbitz or USAir has done anything wrong. Even a penniless accuser still needs to prove that the accused is guilty (of something). As you can see, no one in this blog/forum can even think of  what the vendors have done wrong. Claiming that one is a victim of a “corrupt” system is tantamount to saying one is part of the 99%.

      1. Most likely neither USAir or Orbitz did anything legally wrong.

        However, a supervisor with a little thoughtfulness could have easily resolved the situation without compromising one inch on USAir’s baggage policy:
        Just ask Ms. Weissinger to dispose of one of her bags outside the airport.  If she doesn’t make it back in time for her flight, put her on the next flight that has seats available without imposing a change fee.

        More generally, as you’ve aptly pointed out in your other comments, USAir et. al. have vigorously fought every effort to require better fee disclosures.  And that’s something that many of us think is “wrong” (in the plain English sense).

        1. Michael K, to put it bluntly it SUCKS TO BE POOR! They can’t afford to travel by air. There’s no other way to make sense of this. And that poor little church, truly a godsend.

          I remember the first time I took my 3 boys to Asia. They saw little kids walking barefoot on the streets. My kids cried. But I’m sure they’ll become insensitive to poverty if they see it all the time. That’s about where we all are now. If a poor person checks in luggage and says she has no money, we simply don’t believe it. And getting a lawyer makes her a “liar”. Come to think of it, we still don’t have all the facts. But who really cares?

  39. She didn’t have $60 for baggage fees.  She didn’t have any money for transport, accommodation, and food in Idaho.

    But she had money for food at the airport, and now for a lawyer.

    Really?   REALLY?!?!?!?!?!?

  40. Frivolous lawsuits such as this costs airlines to defend.  Guess who pays in the end.  
    This woman is out to lunch, and I hope she gets kicked out of the courtroom. Or, maybe 8 days in the slammer.  

  41. Is she truly so out of touch with current travel issues that she had no clue that they charge for bags now?  Ditzy?  Yep. 

  42. So I’m still a little confused although you cleared up a lot… she’s from San Francisco and she was sleeping for 8 days at the SF airport?  She did call friends…I guess for cash.  All those friends couldn’t get $30 together in an emergency?  (She said she already had $30) And if she is from SF, no one could give her a sofa in their apt for a while?  How do those friends feel now about their friend sleeping in the airport for over a week?

    How about what she ate?  $30 wouldn’t nearly cover a week.

    She didn’t have a laptop or anyway to find that lawyer while she was at the airport…or maybe she did and he said stay put, it’ll get you more.

    And it didn’t occur to her to reimburse the church who helped her? 

    Still many questions.

  43. The replacement ticket was one thousand dollars, what good did the $210. do her. The airline must have reconsidered and replaced the unused ticket at little charge but it was not specifically mentioned.
    I don’t know who is worse, grafters like her or scavengers like her attorney. Bottom feeders both.

  44. Whether she hasn’t traveled in years or not, unless she’s been living in a cave, she knows that airlines charge baggage fees.  I just recently flew US Airways and on my confirmation it stated that baggage fees apply… No sympathy here.  None.

  45. I think its more ridiculous that she spent 8 days in an airport (and ate how?) instead of calling a friend to come to the airport and loan her the $60.

  46. She was land side and lives in the Bay Area and slept for eight days at SFO without being told to move by Airport Security or Police, Incredible. Then four months later she re-creates her ordeal. I am no fan of luggage fees, but really this is ridiculous.

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