AA Tries Charging Me Bag Fees As An Elite…Something Doesn’t Make Sense

In helping out one of my cousin’s yesterday regarding a question on baggage fees, I was reminded of an incident I had several months ago which I thought was fairly relevant to share – and for me to ask readers for advice on.

Back in September, I was at the Frequent Traveler University in Chicago. To make a long story short, I came to the event with my usual carry-on suitcase and briefcase, and was preparing to return home with that, plus an additional large wheeled Pelican case, with a video camera inside, that would need to be stored and brought to the next FTU in DC. No big deal, I thought since I could easily check this under my free bag allowance, being both an AA Executive Platinum and also having the their co-branded Executive AAdvantage card.

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To provide some clarifying information, I was booked in economy for the journey home, and my upgrade hadn’t yet cleared (it would, though not until at the gate), so all I could rely on for my free baggage allowance was my status, since this provided the highest level of “coverage” at three free bags. Arriving at O’Hare, I was directed to the First Class check-in area (elites are allowed to use this line). I approached the counter and checked in for my flight, and lifted the camera case onto the scale so the agent could tag it. After a few moments, he advices that I’d need to pay a $100 overweight fee. Confused, I asked him what the issue was since I had 3 free bags of allowance, and he said each bag must be under 50lbs. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought much about this earlier, but asked him that if I was allowed three free bags, each at 50lbs, could I have one bag, overweight at 75lbs without a charge? No go. He was firm on the price. Not wanting to pay it, or have to get reimbursed for expense (which would have been a senseless purchase on my part), I re-arranged the contents of the case into two separate checked-pieces, which was acceptable to the agent and able to be checked for free.

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So, here’s my confusion, which I wanted to pose to folks for an answer (because, in all honestly, I don’t know): Is there a reason that one overweight bag is not allowed (keeping in mind it was no “more” than 2 bags worth), vs. having three separate bags? Is it because of the actual weight of the bag and having the ramp workers needing to lift it, or is there other explanation?

Looking for any insight and experience you may have!

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  1. tony says

    Airline employees hate overweight bags its a worker safety hazard especially since 75lbs is extremely overweight. Even the overweight allowance for elites on United is 32kg or 70lbs and anything over that is so excessive. It’s much safer for a worker to handle 2 50 lbs bags than one 75lb bag that’s why overweight bags always have those warning tags affixed.

    • says

      Makes sense! Thanks for the clarification. I figured that might be why, but since they attach the overweight tags anyway, figured maybe it was okay to have one free heavier piece than two lighter ones.

  2. Pam says

    I have to question the logic as well. But agents are very earnest when it comes to taking the rules literally.

    As a blogger, you might qualify for the media baggage rate, which allows up to 100 lbs at $50 per bag, 70 lbs for international flights. You would need a media badge to qualify, but usually gate agents allow me the 100 lbs with my free checked bags when I show my media badge.

    As a professional photographer, I have to question why you would carry on your clothing yet check expensive and delicate equipment in as cargo. Pelican cases are great, but I always carry on whatever equipment I can and check my clothing. My pelican (or Think Tank depending on the job) weighs a ton, yet it goes onboard with me. Loss or damage to a video camera would not be covered under the airline’s policy.

    • says

      The camera case was too large to take on board. It wouldn’t have fit in the overhead bins, so I was forced to check it. It was like one of those cameras you’d use to shoot a professional movie and the case itself was about the size of two suitcases (or so).

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