American Airlines: Unwarranted & Predatory Baggage Fee

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Nov 30, 2018
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#1
I was charged a fee for the return leg of a SEA-NYC trip on 11/27/2018. American Airlines claims that it was an "oversize" bag, despite the fact that it was the *same* carry-on bag with the *exact same* contents. Later, at the gate, waiting for my flight, AA allowed several other passengers to check in their (oversize) luggage FREE OF CHARGE, while I was charged the $25 fee, plus an additional $5 fee. When I requested a courtesy refund from the airline, the request was refused.

AS I mentioned in my mail to Sean Bentel, this is a fine example of predatory baggage fees that are imposed on passengers under the guise of FAA regulations, which, according to the mail from Tony Rizza, in AA customer relations,
"Recently, some audits have pointed out a lack of consistency on our enforcement of carry-on baggage policies. As a result, our agents have received additional training related to carry-on baggage requirements and are working hard to consistently apply them."
To compound this, airlines continue to generate profits, even with predatory fees, and decreased customer satisfaction overall. As stated in my note to Bentel, AA is rated 9th in the industry overall on Airline Quality Rating (AQR) here https://airlinequalityrating.com/.

Below is a recount of the steps I took to resolve the issue.

I called the JFK field supervisor's office, Frank Morales, and received a call back from "Jennifer" in his office, who promised to look into the situation and return my call. With no response as of today I sent this letter to Sean Bentel per your site's information:
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sean,

I recently arrived back from a round-trip flight from Seattle to NYC (Flight 2522). My son is a frequent flyer on AA, and I was considering that option, until yesterday.

The return trip back to Seattle was an abysmally bad experience. I was told my carry-on bag, at the security checkpoint (which I had stowed in my compartment, Seattle-NYC) was too large, despite the fact it was precisely the same bag with the same contents with which I traveled from Seattle. So American levied a $35 fee for the privilege of traveling back home (a situation that later added an hour-long wait to my schedule at SeaTac Airport baggage claim). Not the usual $25 fee, but $30. I found bitter irony in the fact that, while waiting for my flight, many travelers received a free oversize baggage upgrade at the gate before boarding.

I contacted one of the gate agents, and to my shock, was told to simply file a complaint on AA.com for my "issue." I later left my name and contact information with Frank Morales's office at JFK, then received a call from a supervisor that they'd "look into it." My thoughts on this matter are simply that, to build consumer loyalty and gain a new customer is it not worth refunding the $35 dollars to you airline??!!

It seems that much work is to be done to raise the rating (9th in the industry, overall) on https://airlinequalityrating.com/ for your airline, improving American's performance and quality so you can deliver the great travel experience that people like me are looking for.

I await your prompt response and resolution of this matter.

Sincerely,

Michael Venables

I then received this response from AA customer relations:
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

November 29, 2018

Hello Mr. Venables:

I saw the email you sent to Mr. Bentel and know you are looking for a quick response.

We are sorry for any confusion when you traveled with us recently caused by our agent's application of our carry-on baggage policy during your trip to Seattle. Since you travel with the same baggage on most flights and haven't encountered this issue before, we can understand why you would question what happened. Please allow me to explain.

The Federal Aviation Administration diligently audits airline conformity to certain mandated policies and procedures – carry-on baggage being just one of the areas of compliance assessment. Recently, some audits have pointed out a lack of consistency on our enforcement of carry-on baggage policies. As a result, our agents have received additional training related to carry-on baggage requirements and are working hard to consistently apply them. Accordingly, we may be allowing fewer carry-on bags than we previously have.

Our carry-on baggage policy can be reviewed in its entirety at www.aa.com/baggage. In brief, it states the dimensions of any carry-on item cannot exceed 45 linear inches. The combined weight of the carry-on and personal items also cannot exceed 40 pounds.

Because your carry-on baggage exceeded our policy Mr. Venables, the item had to be checked. In this case, our agent judged that the total amount, size or weight of your baggage exceeded the carry-on allowance, and we assessed the applicable amount. Since our agents are adept at accurately calculating these charges, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to second-guess the amount we charged. Too, I don't have the benefit of actually seeing your items -- as our airport agent did. From experience as a traveler, however, I know that sometimes our luggage is larger than we realized. That's why our agents have specific free baggage allowance guidelines to follow. So, we don't make adjustments for baggage charges after the fact and have to deny your refund request. I am sorry.

Mr. Venables, we appreciate the opportunity to address this issue and hope the information we have shared will help make your next trip with us a smoother experience. We look forward to seeing you on board again soon.

Sincerely,

Tony Rizza

Customer Relations

American Airlines

AA Ref#1-27954716431
 
Jun 30, 2017
990
907
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Maui Hawaii
#2
I was charged a fee for the return leg of a SEA-NYC trip on 11/27/2018. American Airlines claims that it was an "oversize" bag, despite the fact that it was the *same* carry-on bag with the *exact same* contents. Later, at the gate, waiting for my flight, AA allowed several other passengers to check in their (oversize) luggage FREE OF CHARGE, while I was charged the $25 fee, plus an additional $5 fee. When I requested a courtesy refund from the airline, the request was refused.

AS I mentioned in my mail to Sean Bentel, this is a fine example of predatory baggage fees that are imposed on passengers under the guise of FAA regulations, which, according to the mail from Tony Rizza, in AA customer relations,

To compound this, airlines continue to generate profits, even with predatory fees, and decreased customer satisfaction overall. As stated in my note to Bentel, AA is rated 9th in the industry overall on Airline Quality Rating (AQR) here https://airlinequalityrating.com/.

Below is a recount of the steps I took to resolve the issue.

I called the JFK field supervisor's office, Frank Morales, and received a call back from "Jennifer" in his office, who promised to look into the situation and return my call. With no response as of today I sent this letter to Sean Bentel per your site's information:
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sean,

I recently arrived back from a round-trip flight from Seattle to NYC (Flight 2522). My son is a frequent flyer on AA, and I was considering that option, until yesterday.

The return trip back to Seattle was an abysmally bad experience. I was told my carry-on bag, at the security checkpoint (which I had stowed in my compartment, Seattle-NYC) was too large, despite the fact it was precisely the same bag with the same contents with which I traveled from Seattle. So American levied a $35 fee for the privilege of traveling back home (a situation that later added an hour-long wait to my schedule at SeaTac Airport baggage claim). Not the usual $25 fee, but $30. I found bitter irony in the fact that, while waiting for my flight, many travelers received a free oversize baggage upgrade at the gate before boarding.

I contacted one of the gate agents, and to my shock, was told to simply file a complaint on AA.com for my "issue." I later left my name and contact information with Frank Morales's office at JFK, then received a call from a supervisor that they'd "look into it." My thoughts on this matter are simply that, to build consumer loyalty and gain a new customer is it not worth refunding the $35 dollars to you airline??!!

It seems that much work is to be done to raise the rating (9th in the industry, overall) on https://airlinequalityrating.com/ for your airline, improving American's performance and quality so you can deliver the great travel experience that people like me are looking for.

I await your prompt response and resolution of this matter.

Sincerely,

Michael Venables

I then received this response from AA customer relations:
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

November 29, 2018

Hello Mr. Venables:

I saw the email you sent to Mr. Bentel and know you are looking for a quick response.

We are sorry for any confusion when you traveled with us recently caused by our agent's application of our carry-on baggage policy during your trip to Seattle. Since you travel with the same baggage on most flights and haven't encountered this issue before, we can understand why you would question what happened. Please allow me to explain.

The Federal Aviation Administration diligently audits airline conformity to certain mandated policies and procedures – carry-on baggage being just one of the areas of compliance assessment. Recently, some audits have pointed out a lack of consistency on our enforcement of carry-on baggage policies. As a result, our agents have received additional training related to carry-on baggage requirements and are working hard to consistently apply them. Accordingly, we may be allowing fewer carry-on bags than we previously have.

Our carry-on baggage policy can be reviewed in its entirety at www.aa.com/baggage. In brief, it states the dimensions of any carry-on item cannot exceed 45 linear inches. The combined weight of the carry-on and personal items also cannot exceed 40 pounds.

Because your carry-on baggage exceeded our policy Mr. Venables, the item had to be checked. In this case, our agent judged that the total amount, size or weight of your baggage exceeded the carry-on allowance, and we assessed the applicable amount. Since our agents are adept at accurately calculating these charges, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to second-guess the amount we charged. Too, I don't have the benefit of actually seeing your items -- as our airport agent did. From experience as a traveler, however, I know that sometimes our luggage is larger than we realized. That's why our agents have specific free baggage allowance guidelines to follow. So, we don't make adjustments for baggage charges after the fact and have to deny your refund request. I am sorry.

Mr. Venables, we appreciate the opportunity to address this issue and hope the information we have shared will help make your next trip with us a smoother experience. We look forward to seeing you on board again soon.

Sincerely,

Tony Rizza

Customer Relations

American Airlines

AA Ref#1-27954716431
AA is consistently, week-in-week-out, the #1 source of complaints on this site. They really don't care. Since they are the world's largest airline they feel they do not have to please anyone/everyone. The # of complaints about AA is greater than United, BA, and Delta combined.
You can pursue your issue up the cust serv chain at AA, emailing one per week until you get a final answer.

https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/american-airlines/

Keep your expectations low-they may offer you some mileage credit.
 
Likes: jsn55
Mar 29, 2016
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#3
It would seem that the agent basically admitted to violating state law by agents estimating weights and measurements. The deli counter at the market can't estimate the weight of your pastrami and airlines can't guess the weight of your bag.
 
Likes: Neil Maley

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
15,230
14,010
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#4
How much did the bag weigh and what are the measurements? Just because one let it through- if it was oversized - then you got away with it one way.

If you can answer that the bag indeed was undersized had underweight then you have a legit claim.
 
Likes: jsn55
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
What type of hand luggage was it? Was it put into a sizer?

You mention that some other people were forced to gate check their bags and not charged a fee. If a person has status or an affinity credit card they are not charged for a checked bag.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
I have a question about the complaint:

The return trip back to Seattle was an abysmally bad experience. I was told my carry-on bag, at the security checkpoint (which I had stowed in my compartment, Seattle-NYC) was too large, despite the fact it was precisely the same bag with the same contents with which I traveled from Seattle

So was it a TSA person or one of the initial airport employees that staff the security line that did not let the luggage pass? AA staff are not at the Security lines at an airport, it is either TSA or a ground handling agent.
 
Apr 4, 2017
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#7
As frustrating as inconsistent policy may be, just because you were allowed to bring the bag onboard for one segment of your journey does not mean it was not overweight or oversize. It simply means it wasn't caught on the first go around. Additionally, most domestic carriers have just raised the price of the first checked bag to $30, up from $25. You were not charged an "extra" fee, but rather the current fee for checked luggage.

You mention that some other people were forced to gate check their bags and not charged a fee. If a person has status or an affinity credit card they are not charged for a checked bag.
Airlines frequently solicit checked luggage at the gate in order to reduce the number of bags brought onboard, which is accepted free of charge regardless of status. This helps speed the boarding process since fewer passengers are looking for overhead space.


So was it a TSA person or one of the initial airport employees that staff the security line that did not let the luggage pass? AA staff are not at the Security lines at an airport, it is either TSA or a ground handling agent.
Airlines are stepping up carry-on enforcement overall, and are increasingly contracting handling agents to police security checkpoint lines and stop the flow of noncompliant bags before reaching the gate.
 
Likes: jsn55

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
15,230
14,010
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#8
And the gate agents weren’t asking for oversized bags - when you are in the last boarding groups, there is not enough overhead bin space. Almost every airline tells those that are in the last boarding groups they need to gate check their bags. It has nothing to do with the bag sizes - it’s simply because there is not enough overhead space.

I think you misunderstood the situation. Are you a frequent flyer?
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#9
Airlines are stepping up carry-on enforcement overall, and are increasingly contracting handling agents to police security checkpoint lines and stop the flow of noncompliant bags before reaching the gate.
I can only hope that this paragraph is correct, it's action by the airlines that's LONG overdue. Thanks for posting this, Anegada.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#10
As frustrating as inconsistent policy may be, just because you were allowed to bring the bag onboard for one segment of your journey does not mean it was not overweight or oversize. It simply means it wasn't caught on the first go around. Additionally, most domestic carriers have just raised the price of the first checked bag to $30, up from $25. You were not charged an "extra" fee, but rather the current fee for checked luggage.

Airlines frequently solicit checked luggage at the gate in order to reduce the number of bags brought onboard, which is accepted free of charge regardless of status. This helps speed the boarding process since fewer passengers are looking for overhead space.

Airlines are stepping up carry-on enforcement overall, and are increasingly contracting handling agents to police security checkpoint lines and stop the flow of noncompliant bags before reaching the gate.
When AA did not allow a carry on with Basic Economy tickets they charged people at the gate for oversized. Yes, in general the forced gate check is not charged.

I have not flown out of Terminal 8 at JFK in years, but I know that it has a number of airlines -- it is the terminal of AA and their alliance, like Cathay. I think after check on all people are funneled to a central security screening area. I do not know if AA has its own security line that would have someone just enforcing AA rules or whether there are general ground handling people that are getting strict because of all the passengers.

I still am not sure where this happened....
 
Nov 30, 2018
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#11
Apologies for the late response to all the comments.
@Neil Maley I don't think I misunderstood the situation. My ticket allowed one carry-on bag per leg of the trip. It makes no sense that the SEA-NYC trip would have one bag allowed, but that the NYC-SEA leg would disallow the exact same bag.

To clarify, I was flagged by the security staff (using the sizer) and then proceeded to the nearby AA desk, where the AA agent helped me. After paying the $30 fee , which the agent confirmed would have been only $25, had I simply added it on check-in (I had previously checked in online). The AA desk at Sea-Tac airport did not "miss" anything. They confirmed that I was allowed (1) carry-on bag.

None of the people who checked their bags in later at the gate (that I could observe) had AA affinity cards, as a general announcement was made that oversize bags would be free-of-charge.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#13
If the bag was too big to fit through the security machine or sizer I am not sure why there is blame on AA.

What type of bag is it? SEA may be more lax with the size.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Mar 14, 2018
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#14
I think AA has some personnel before security at JFK to flag oversized bags. But it doesn't really matter who it was.

MPVenables, you are allowed one carry on bag that is smaller than 22"x14"x9". If the bag didn't fit in the sizer then it was larger than allowed. AA's carry on size restrictions (which actually are approved and audited by the FAA) are clearly posted on their web site. The fact that AA didn't catch this in Seattle doesn't mean that they won't catch it in JFK.

The bags that were checked for free at the gate were not oversized. They were checked because there wasn't enough room for them in the plane's cabin.
 
Nov 30, 2018
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#15
How much did the bag weigh and what are the measurements? Just because one let it through- if it was oversized - then you got away with it one way.

If you can answer that the bag indeed was undersized had underweight then you have a legit claim.
Fair enough. The bag was just slightly over the sizer. Sea-Tac AA personnel did examine the bag, but they used weight as criterion, not size.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,456
7,246
113
San Francisco
#16
Just to be clear to our other readers, bag criteria is published by each airline, but some agents don't adhere strictly to the policy. If you fly out without charge and are charged for the same bag on your return, you got lucky on your outbound flight.
 
Likes: JVillegirl541

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
15,230
14,010
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#17
Fair enough. The bag was just slightly over the sizer. Sea-Tac AA personnel did examine the bag, but they used weight as criterion, not size.
Then the AA personnel followed proper procedure by requiring you to check it. You got away with it at one airport because they didn’t follow procedure.

Take this as a learning experience about bag size and weight for the future.
 
Likes: Nancy