Should I have been charged extra for my checked luggage?

Question: I traveled to Europe on a codeshare flight between Delta Air Lines and KLM. Before I left the United States, I carefully checked the size and weight restrictions for my two bags on both the Delta and KLM websites, because I’m an artist and I needed to take rolls of paper with me. I made sure my bags complied.

The trip from Portland, Ore., to Copenhagen, Denmark went off without a hitch; I paid $50 to check a second bag. However, on the flight from Toulouse, France, to Portland, Ore., I had to pay 200 Euros for the second bag. When the gate agent saw my second bag, she declared it “too long,” she never measured it. Although the flight was on KLM, the airport staff worked for Air France. There was no KLM or Delta presence that I could find in that airport.

When I landed in Portland, I immediately sought a Delta agent and had the bag measured. That agent put a note in the file that the bag in question was within their size limits.

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I called Delta’s customer service line the next day, but instead of issuing the promised refund, that agent told me to write a letter to their office. Since then, I’ve been bounced between Delta, KLM and Air France about my refund, ending with a denial from Air France. Can you help? — Deborah Bouchette, Hillsboro, Ore.

Answer: You shouldn’t have been charged 200 Euro for your checked bag. That may have been the Air France policy, but you were flying on KLM, and as you say, its rules were different.

It’s too bad you didn’t take this trip before the new federal regulations went into effect that say the baggage rules of the first carrier apply to your entire flight. Then this would have been a slam-dunk in your favor. A quick, polite email sent to the Transportation Department would have generated a speedy refund from Delta.

But you were trapped in a codesharing nightmare from which there seemed to be no escape. For those of you just joining us, codesharing is the questionable practice of one airline selling seats on another airline’s flight. In your case, you bought a ticket on Delta, but the flight was operated by KLM and the airport staff in Toulouse worked for Air France, another Delta codeshare partner. (To make things even more complicated, Air France and KLM are owned by the same company, but operate as separate airlines.)

You did the best you could to make sure you complied with the luggage rules, but a difference between Air France’s policy and KLM’s tripped you up. When you contacted Delta, which sold you the ticket, for help, it punted to KLM, which in turn passed the buck to Air France.

Confused yet?

I hope the new federal baggage rules will help, but I can’t be certain. What does an Air France ticket agent in Toulouse care about how the American DOT will handle a luggage complaint for a codeshare partner? If you said “probably not much at all” then you must know the airline industry.

I contacted Delta, which, unsurprisingly, referred the matter to Air France. After some more back-and-forth, the airline agreed to refund the 200 Euro it erroneously charged you when you left France.

Are rules for checked luggage too confusing?

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40 thoughts on “Should I have been charged extra for my checked luggage?

  1. Of course this has nothing to do with codesharing. Even if the complainant had bought a KLM coded, KLM operated flight, an Air France ground person would have been there and could’ve made the same error. To the extent you are suggesting every airline should have independent employees at every airport they fly to, that would both make no sense economically and lead to higher passenger costs.

    1. Or that employees could understand they don’t get to apply their rules to a passenger of another airline. That seems like a better way to go.

    2. It depends where you are traveling. If NOT IN THE USA, then the operating carrier rules apply (within the framework of IATA 302). However, if the flight involves the USA, then the MARKETING carrier’s rules will apply (within the framework of IATA 302).

      Here’s a perfect example of the problem. Consider a flight from Cincinnati (CVG) to Manila (MNL) on Asiana Airlines (OZ). Since Asiana does not fly from Cincinnati, it relies on its partner, United (UA) to haul their passengers to Chicago first. From there Asiana flies to Seoul and then to Manila.

      The passenger has a choice. Buy a codeshare CVG-ORD flight or buy a UA codes interlined flight on the same Asiana ticket. If the passenger chooses the codeshare flight, he gets 2 bags free from CVG. If the passenger chooses the (same flight) but books it as a UA coded interlined flight, he only gets one bag free and must pay $70 for the second bag.

      Why? Isn’t Asiana the most significant carrier? Isn’t Asian also the marketing carrier? [Maybe the reason is that] UNITED does not believe the IATA Most Significant Carrier rule applies to them inside the USA.

      Proof:

      1*OZ6463B 01FEB FR CVGORD SS1 752A 816A/O $ E
      2 OZ 235B 01FEB FR ORDICN SS1 1200N 450P#1/X $ E
      3 OZ 703B 02FEB SA ICNMNL SS1 750P 1100P/X $ E
      *OPERATED BY UNITED AIRLINES — UA654
      INTERNATIONAL ONLINE CONNECTING OR STOPOVER TRAFFIC ONLY

      * PRICING RULES VALIDATING CARRIER DEFAULT OZ
      ** 01FEB DEPARTURE DATE/ 14DEC IS LAST DATE TO TICKET
      * FARE MAY CHANGE UNLESS TICKETED *

      TICKET BASE USD TX/FEE USD TKT TTL USD
      ADT01 964.00 231.10 1195.10
      *TTL 964.00 231.10 1195.10

      FBC ADT BLOW
      ADT CVG OZ X/CHI OZ X/SEL OZ MNL964.00NUC964.00END ROE1.00OZ
      XT9.20BP192.70YQ7.50XF CVG3ORD4.5
      TX 16.70US 5.00AY 9.20BP 192.70YQ 7.50XF

      BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE
      ADT
      OZ CVGMNL 2PC
      BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM
      BAG 2 – NO FEE UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM

      —————————————————–

      1 UA 654G 01FEB FR CVGORD SS1 754A 814A/O $ E
      2 OZ 235B 01FEB FR ORDICN SS1 1200N 450P#1/X $ E
      3 OZ 703B 02FEB SA ICNMNL SS1 750P 1100P/X $ E

      * PRICING RULES VALIDATING CARRIER DEFAULT OZ
      ** 01FEB DEPARTURE DATE/ 14DEC IS LAST DATE TO TICKET
      * FARE MAY CHANGE UNLESS TICKETED *

      TICKET BASE USD TX/FEE USD TKT TTL USD
      ADT01 964.00 230.20 1194.20
      *TTL 964.00 230.20 1194.20

      FBC ADT BLOW
      ADT CVG UA X/CHI OZ X/SEL OZ MNL964.00NUC964.00END ROE1.00OZ
      XT9.20BP191.80YQ7.50XF CVG3ORD4.5
      TX 16.70US 5.00AY 9.20BP 191.80YQ 7.50XF

      BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE
      ADT
      UA CVGMNL 1PC
      BAG 1 – NO FEE UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM
      BAG 2 – 70.00 USD UPTO50LB/23KG AND UPTO62LI/158LCM

      1. Except what happened at the airport to the complainant still has nothing to do with codesharing. The issue wasn’t the rules, it was that the employee did not know them.

        1. IMO Delta/Air France/KLM baggage rules over the Atlantic are the same. And, regardless of your coded flight [number], at TLS you likely will be checking in with an Air France personnel. And since EuropeUSA has been ONE PC since I can remember, then the issue here is only whether the bag was actually OVERSIZED. That is where the error is. If the baggage was not oversized then that second bag should have been charged E50 (or E70 as of today) only.

          So the issue was definitely the [Baggage] RULES, and codesharing might not have anything to do with it in this particular case. If you want to charge based on DIMENSION then you need to measure it first. You cannot just look at it. Those are the rules of the game.

  2. I’d have that law go even further. Whichever airline sells you the ticket and takes your bags is responsible for those bags all the way to your destination, regardless of which airline actually operates the flight(s). This protects the customer from “lost luggage buck-passing” between airlines.

    And in response to what I know will be airline apologists whining that it’s unfair, life is unfair. I know it, you know it, it’s about time the airlines knew it.

    Any airline which loses a lot of bags, thereby costing it’s code share partners money, will be forced to improve it’s baggage performance or it won’t be a code-share partner for very long. If airlines A, B, and C codeshare, and C loses lots of bags, how long do you think it will take for A and B to cut C loose? Not long.

    1. “And in response to what I know will be airline apologists whining that it’s unfair, life is unfair. I know it, you know it, it’s about time the airlines knew it.”

      And what is the airline’s response when you miss a flight for reasons beyond your controls? “Life is unfair. Too bad for you.” I guess the apologists will say that life doesn’t have to be fair for the customer and when it is not fair for the airlines, then the customer has to pay. Lose-Lose for the customer.

      1. Air France refunded the godforsaken fee. And very few airlines tell you you are SOOL if you miss a flight under the flat tire rule.

    2. Impossible. You would not be able to do so logistically – between not KNOWING which airlines loaded it originally, bags are sorted by flight they are on, and handled by that airline’s ground crew. You can’t just have everyone on all ground crews wandering around willy-nilly thru other airline areas.

  3. aren’t Air France and KL effectively the same airline now? wow, they merged in 2004! i would have lost any bet on it being that long ago. Why wouldn’t one half of the equation not have the same rules as the other?

  4. Any chance of getting more facts and clarifications? I looked online at Delta, KLM and Air France and it appears all three have the same baggage restrictions. Can we be sure that the agents in Portland were correct? What were the bag dimensions? Perhaps they SHOULD have been applied in Portland and weren’t. Just a thought.

    Also….which airline refunded her?

    “I contacted Delta, which, unsurprisingly, referred the matter to Air France. After some more back-and-forth, the airline agreed to refund the 200 Euro it erroneously charged you when you left France.”

    Which airline is “the airline”? It sounds like AF refunded her, which seems odd as they should be collecting on behalf of KLM which means KLM should have the money.

    Ground handling by an airline on behalf of another is not the same a code sharing. How does the code share affect this? Had her ticket been issued with a KLM flight, and she flew on a KLM aircraft with an interline connection to a Delta flight, I do not see how she may not have had the same problem.

    Does the DOT rule apply to the first flight in your PNR, or the carrier on the first leg of your outbound journey as well as the first on your return?

    Sorry for so many questions, perhaps I may have missed something and I’ll revisit after the coffee kicks in!

    1. “Can we be sure that the agents in Portland were correct? What were the bag dimensions? Perhaps they SHOULD have been applied in Portland and weren’t.”

      According to the story, when the OP returned to Portland, they had a Delta agent measure and confirm it was within limits… “When I landed in Portland, I immediately sought a Delta agent and had the bag measured. That agent put a note in the file that the bag in question was within their size limits.”

      So to answer your questions, yes the Portland agents were correct. Bag dimensions were within the limts. And no, they should not have been applied in Portland.

      1. Also he states that the AirFrance agent did NOT measure his luggage. Superman with dimension calculating vision or just arrogance?

      2. Again, that’s her side. I tend to believe it was correct as well, but just a thought. We do not have the facts as the OP did not state the actual dimensions.

        Anyway as Chris indicates now, this case is old, so even the current baggage allowances may have changed.

  5. It’s just a shakedown. A gate agent sees that a traveler is far from home, not at the moment traveling with the “airline that brung him,” and is probably operating under a Highway Patrol-style revenue performance quota.

    Codesharing is evil.

  6. To answer this poll question, Chris says it best, “It’s too bad you didn’t take this trip before the new federal regulations went into effect that say the baggage rules of the first carrier apply to your entire flight.”

    So the answer is “No.” Federal regulations are clear as to whose rules apply. There is no confusion.

    1. The difference is after the DOT rule the baggage allocation, size and extra fees are indicated with the quoted fare and the ticket receipt. The OP would have some documentation on hand to argue with a French person in TLS.

  7. So, what are the rules?
    Airlines must apply the baggage rules of the first airline selected as the Most Significant Carrier (MSC) throughout a passenger’s entire journey and the amount that passengers pay for checked bags and other items, such as a pet in hold, must not vary during their trip This ruling becomes effective on 24 January 2012.

    What is IATA Resolution 302? IATA Resolution 302, which became effective on 1 April 2011, defines which airline’s baggage rules (both allowance and charges) apply on an interline or codeshare journey. It uses a geographic-based process to select the MSC on the checked portion of a flight (that is, from where a passenger checks a bag to the point he or she picks up that bag). Resolution 302 specifies that the MSC is the airline flying the passenger, also known as the operating carrier. The US DOT approved IATA’s concept for baggage disclosure with the exception that the MSC must be the marketing, not operating, carrier.

    My comment, for a USA to Europe and vice versa trip, the new DOT ruling would make little difference since IATA 302 was already active and the route had long been a one piece standard.
    The only question here is what constitutes and oversized item. Had this been a surfboard over 42 inches long, then sure there would be a problem. But most of the time the acceptable dimension of a bag or item is no more than 62 inches of height + length + width. About a year or two ago, the first additional bag would have been €50. So, the refund should have been €150. Over refunded.

  8. Was it too hard to say in France… “I’m sorry but I don’t understand this. DL measured the bag in the US before I came over and it was compliant. Can you tell me which dimension is off? Thank you.” Especially if the OP’s statement that it was based on an eyeball measurement is correct, the agent them has to prove it. If you say it in a nice way and play up the dumb American, they might have backed down.

    Also the whole KLM vs AF thing is a red herring. Its the same company.

    1. From the sound of it the OP seems to have handled things very well throughout so I’d guess she did politely ask the agent. But the agent didn’t have to prove anything because at that moment he/she had total control of the situation. And the dumb American thing typically only has two outcomes: 1) They let you do whatever you want out of pity and/or just to get rid of you, or 2) They stick it to you because you’re a dumb American!

  9. I don’t think that the rules are confusing as long as you travel on one airline. What is confusing is when you have a code share between airlines that have different rules. The code share partner really need to have one set of rules when they send you to a different carrier.

  10. Warning to travelers, while US airlines can be the bigger dicks in terms of not allowing you any checked bags, European airlines can be bigger dicks in terms of the size of your luggage. Just try to take a carry-on bag with anything actually placed inside on Virgin Atlantic, just try…

  11. I am continually amazed at companies willingness to pass the buck. If a company would just step up and take responsibility they may just find they get a customer for life. And, in this day and age, the one or two companies who do step up would be such an anomaly that they would stand out. Do you really think apple products are that great or do you think that maybe, just maybe, it might have a little something to do with the customer service attitude that pervaded the company at least while Steve Jobs ran it. We’ll see if the attitude stays in place but, for me, so far, so good. And, yes, I’ll pay a bit more knowing that I really be treated right when a problem arises.

    1. Airline products are a lot more complicated than Steve Job’s products.

      For one thing, airlines have to operate within the regulatory oversight of many different countries and there are too many cooks in the kitchen of IATA.

      Jobs wanted to create very simple to use products. Airline’s, the opposite 🙂

    2. Ah … the customer service attitude that says that their product isn’t bad that I’m just holding the wrong way… or would that be the company that has launched marketed multiple apps/services that just don’t ever work the way they are supposed to. Lucky for us that he isn’;t around anymore or we’d have to listen to how good their Maps app is

      About the only good thing Steve did is establish who is in charge and have very real penalties when they fail.

  12. Air France nailed me for a $150 overweight charge (6 pounds over according to their scale) at Heathrow a couple of years ago. I knew it was bogus but I was late checking in from an accident on the motorway so couldn’t do anything about it at the time. I had my bag weighed on arrival in Paris and was 1.5# over. Just another way to increase revenue from the harried passengers. I’ve become rather accepting of these unethical behaviours nowadays: baggage charges, resort fees, contributions to a hotel charity, assigned seat fees …. everywhere you turn someone is trying to cheat you. It’s so upsetting to be “helpless” that it’s better for me to adjust my attitude than fight about it when I’m trying to enjoy my travel experience.

    1. Question. Are you sure the scale in Paris is not in kilos? That is a huge difference. Also the overweight fee is the same to 32 kg. So it does not matter.

  13. I was travelling 1st class with a Delta Ticket and was coming out of Alaska on Alaskan Airlines (Delta Code share) The agent made me pay for the bags of luggage. I complained to Delta and they refunded the money. The Alaskan Agent was kind of rude and stuck on herself. They know they have you in a bind and seem to thrive on the power to make you pay. Shame Shame.
    The rules clearly stated in June 2012 that the code share airline was to abide by the booking airline’s rules.

  14. Similar experience with Alaska AIr. Booked with American, STL to PDX, one free checked bag because of American Air Mastercard. Outbound, fine. Inbound began with Alaska, they refused to honor the one free bag, even tho’ their website says “American Airlines baggage fees apply for this flight.” Printed that out, showed it to the gate agent. No luck.

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