A couple of days ago, I went to run a VizThink workshop in New York. For those who aren’t familiar with VizThink, our sessions often use things like paper, index cards, post it notes, markers, colored pencils, and other art and office supplies. Normally, I do everything I can to do carry-ons regardless of where or for how long I fly. This time, though, it was necessary to check a bag. On my way to New York, it turns out the scale weighed the case at 58 pounds, 8 pounds over the free limit allowed by Northwest. As an “Elite” member, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to get an addition 20 or 25 pound allocation, which would have worked. Either way, I was prepared to pay the $25 fee (soon to be $50) for overweight items. First, the agent told me “you can’t take that” and I wish I could write with as much attitude as she said that. After I insisted that I’m quite sure I can take it, she said “Well, you can take it, but you can’t check it in here”. When I asked why, she was less than helpful in explaining the situation. The situation went on and on for about 5 minutes including her walking away in the middle of a conversation to work a different counter. Finally, she admitted she could check the bag for a $25 fee which was promptly paid and I moved on to catch my flight.

Frankly, none of this was suprising. Sadly, I’ve gotten used to the less-than-helpful attitude of all-too-many of the Northwest employees, so this wasn’t unusual enough to get me to write a post. What pushed me over the edge was my return trip. Other than approximately a pad of post-it notes, maybe 100 index cards, and 100 sheets of paper, I returned with what I brought to New York. The weight on the scale at LaGuardia? 54 pounds…a 4 pound difference. I wish I could loose that kind of weight that quickly. Clearly one of the scales is off, and my guess it was the one in Detroit. Now that Northwest (and the other airlines) are not allowing as many carry ons (causing more checked baggage) and charging even more for overweight bags, they stand to make a ton of money off from unregulated, inaccurate scales. If the case were only 4 pounds over, I probably could have redistributed the weight into my carry ons and saved the money. 8 pounds is a little harder to do that.

Here’s the advice…if you can, weigh your bag before you leave so you know how much to push back on the airline to try another scale.