I believe UA/CO missed something re: baggage fees

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by KenInEscazu, Oct 1, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    It appears to me that UA/CO missed a detail on their new baggage fee structure. As a current CO Gold Elite, I get 3 bags up to 70 lbs. each between my home in Costa Rica and the USA. If a bag weighs over 70 pounds, however, I must pay the same overweight fee as any non-elite passenger - $400.

    A non-elite would pay $200 for a bag weighing 51 to 70 lbs. and the same $400 for one weighing 71 to 99.9 lbs. Logic would lead one to the conclusion that my charge for the 71 to 99.9 pound bag should be $200, since my first $200 fee is waived for the 51 to 70 category.

    $200 for under 30 lbs. is absurd to me. $400, on the other hand, will sometimes pay for me to make another round trip run with 210 lbs. total in free bags. I will never again carry one pound over 70. It is unlikely that I would have ever done so for $200, but there could be a time when that might be reluctantly justifiable. There is NOTHING 29.9 pounds or less that I could carry to justify paying $400 dollars.

    I found this out the hard way. I had a super early departure from DFW one morning, and I was certain that the agent was mistaken about the $400 fee. I paid it, thinking that surely CO would make it right when I brought it to their attention... Nope.

    Surely this was an oversight on the part of those who restructured the Elite, Premier... whatever they call us anymore. I'll soon be CO Platinum, but there is no break defined anywhere online for even GS. I'm a big fan of this airline, but this leaves an extremely bitter taste in my mouth.
     
  2. AZjohn

    AZjohn Silver Member

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    Hi KeninEscazu,

    As a person who lives in two places (Zurich and Tucson) I know how important it is to occasionally need to bring a lot of stuff from the US to Europe. Many times I have 3 suitcases at 70lbs each (I do weigh them with my portable electronic scale).

    But being a 1K for several years, I really paid no attention to what the current baggage fees and overweight charges are. When you wrote about $400 charge if we exceed 70lbs my jaw almost hit the floor.

    You just reinforce I need to make sure my bags now weigh 68lbs just to leave a little room for any error. I know I have exceed 70lbs limit on a few trips (maybe by a couple pounds at most) and guess I have been extremely lucky the agent let it slide. Don’t want to take that chance again.

    Cheers,

    John
     
  3. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Not really. The charge for a bag > 70# is $400. You don't pay per pound, you pay for the weight band that the bag is in.

    There are some passengers who get first bag free thanks to a CC. That doesn't mean that they get the first charge they would incur waived; it means the first bag they check is free even if it would otherwise be charged.

    There is no charge of $200 for 30 pounds.

    Hardly. The rule is rather explicitly clear and you went over the weight allotted. When you use the company as a cargo service it isn't all that surprising that they charge cargo carrier rates.
     
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  4. PanAm
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    PanAm Silver Member

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    Never thought about it, but that does seem to be poorly structured on UACO's part. Did CO provide any explanation when you contacted them or just a "sorry"?
     
  5. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    Just a "Sorry." Although the rep did acknowledge that she saw my point, she was unable to do anything about it.

    @Wandering - I know that there is no $200 charge for 30 lbs. My point is that since we get the first 70 lb.s for free, non-elites would have to pay $200 for the 51 to 70 "band," and we are offered no elite discount for reaching the 71 to 99.9 "band," then if properly structured, we should be paying an additional $200 for reaching the 71 to 99.9 "band." If a non-elite pays an extra $200 for going over 70, then why do elites have to pay an extra $400? (Please tell me I don't have to break this down for you like an attorney.)

    So if it were structured the way that seems logical, we would be paying an additional $200 for 30 pounds. Even then, that is absurd to me. American always charged me $50 for the 51 to 70 "band," and $100 (total) for the 71 to 99.9 "band." That was as an Aadvantage Gold. I'm not sure if that is any better than non-elite passengers, but it was sometimes worth $100 for me to be able to bring home something that can't be purchased in Costa Rica at any price. It is NOT worth $200, and $400 is downright offensive.
     
  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Your view of "structured correctly" is great in that it is better for you. My point is that just because you want it that way doesn't mean that's what the rule is and attempting to interpret the policy by your version of the rules rather than what they actually are is going to result in you being frustrated.

    The non-elite pays $400 for a bag weighing > 70#. So does the elite. The rule is not that is it $200 and then another $200. The rule is, "For bags exceeding 70 lbs. (32 kg), but less than 100 lbs. (45 kg), the rate charged will be $400.00 per piece." Pretending that the rule is written otherwise won't get you anywhere and certainly won't do you much good in pretending to be an attorney.

    The rule is quite clear on what you should be charge and that is 100% consistent with what you were charged. Feel free to lobby for the rule to be changed but there are at least two other instances I can cite where the policy is applied similarly and the rules are still enforced. But don't pretend that the rule isn't what it is simply to support your position; that's not the case at all.
     
  7. PhlyingRPh
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    PhlyingRPh Silver Member

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    3 bags at 70 lbs each is still an extremely generous perk given the baggage regime for non-Star Gold pax. Don't forget the worldwide industry standard for international flights lands somewhere between 1 bag/ 44lbs and 1 bag /50 lbs. Even if *A airlines gave us 2 bags at 50 lbs each, it would be a 100% bonus. At the point one is required to pay a $400 fee, one has just used $600 worth of complimentary baggage services.
     
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  8. TennisPro
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    TennisPro Silver Member

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    It seems like they realllllly want to discourage bags that are greater than 70 lbs each. If I were a baggage handler, I would really want ot discourage them, too. :)

    But I do see your point. I'm just happy that we get 210 lbs of luggage for free! (3 X 70 lbs)
     
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  9. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    I agree - the allowance we get is generous.

    There are probably few people who check bags more than 70 lbs and/or there are extra efforts they have to make for heavy bags that cause the *A airlines not to make a concession. Why not pack into 69 lbs bags?
     
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  10. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I care for my 85 year-old father who has Alzheimers. He requires some things that aren't available here, and he wants a LOT of things that aren't available here. It doesn't matter how many times I tell him we don't have it here, he still asks for Wolf Brand Chili. That's one of his hundreds of examples. Everything he wants and needs has a weight attached to it, and I try to make him as comfortable as possible. Whether I bring his "stuff" back or not, he'll be asking me to go to the store here to pick it up for him. Every time I tell him we can't buy it here, it's as though it is the first time he has ever heard such a thing.

    There are also some things I like/need to buy for myself. I can accept the deprivation of US products much better than my Dad, but I still have some that qualify as business needs.

    I'm sure that there are a mere few of us who travel frequently between the USA and other countries and need an occasional extra few pounds. This can't be a significant profit center for them, and I stand by my original statement that I truly believe they simply overlooked this when calculating the new pricing structures.

    I'm surprised that so many are finding 3 bags to be generous. Charging for luggage is a relatively new idea. How quickly the flying public has accepted it shocks me. I'm guessing that those defending the new charges aren't among those of us who need to bring stuff home. And it all balances out. Going up I carry three almost empty bags stuffed into two, so they are only giving me a perk in one direction. They don't offer me any credit for flying light on my way north.
     
  11. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Not at this level. Airlines have never operated as cargo carriers for passengers and they've always had limits at the top end for the number of bags or weight permitted. The 3x70# allowance is at roughly the same point it has been for many, many years. This is not new.

    Indeed. And they don't offer me any credit for never checking bags. This mentality doesn't really mesh with your view above about how charging for baggage is new and it should just be part of the package. If it is just part of the package then you don't deserve an allowance because it isn't a separate fee.
     
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  12. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Not really - TennisPro's view is much more likely. Handling bags over 70 pounds is a significant operational difficulty, and they very much want to discourage it as a matter of routine. You mentioned AA providing a break in the past - currently their policy appears to be not accepting bags that large for that route at all - http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/baggage/baggageAllowance.jsp

    I don't think they're really angling to make money with the fee, rather using it to better streamline baggage handling (and increase operational efficiency/decrease costs)

    If you want to bring mass amounts of US products home, I would suggest to ship them.
     
  13. Ygor
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    Ygor Gold Member

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    At the rate they are charging ($400), the airline is almost telling you to ship it!
    Trust me, coming from Brazil, I understand what it is to travel with a ridiculous amount of luggage. Everytime a relative comes here to shop, I have to deal with carrying bags that feel like there is a VW Bug packed inside.
    Shipping stuff to Brazil is prohibitively expensive, and customs will steal half of your stuff.

    But I would guess Costa Rica would be a much cheaper destination to ship stuff to, give the amount of snow birds that now live there, and the obvious short distance. If I were you, I would ship as much as you can. Carrying 3x 70lbs is no fun, wether it's you, or the baggage handler, so why play mule when you can travel in much more comfort? Or just make sure you don't go over 70lbs.

    The rule sucks, but it is what it is. If you do think about it, the allowance is very generous. It is not just "a few extra lbs", but an extra 160lbs over the regular 1pc/50lbs the average joe gets.
     
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  14. global_happy_traveller
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    global_happy_traveller Silver Member

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    i believe the weight pricing is set high to discourage people checking in heavy items and not trying to 'rip' the customer off.

    Problem behind is the airlines go through a lot of workplace health and safety issues with baggage handlers because the items are so heavy.
     
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  15. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    Historically international coach passengers got a baggage allowance of 20 Kgs, 44 lbs. I don't remember if this was per bag or total, but seem to think it was total. C/F passengers got 30 Kgs. In some regions of the world, the weight based system still applies. My recollection is that the price per extra kilo was 1% of the full fare (don't remember if that was Y or F, but it quickly got very expensive.)

    The U.S. led the push to a more generous piece-based system, and that continues to be used both domestically and for international flights to/from the U.S. However, the airlines have tightened it considerably by limiting standard baggage to 50 lbs per piece, and reducing the number of free bags.

    I believe that today the standard for international travel is only one 50 lbs piece for free, and the rest costs extra.

    If as a Gold you get 3 x 70 lbs or 210 lbs, that means you are getting 160 lbs for free - and that's probably as much chili or other goods as the airline is going to let you bring along for free. If you want to bring more, you'll either pay heftily or need to ship it. Or make more trips and accrue more EQMs!

    While it may not totally meet your needs, I think the Gold allowance is very generous compared both to the historical norms and to what's available to others. I don't think you'll find any other airline with a more generous allowance, nor will you likely find the airline willing to discount their fees when you exceed the allowance.
     
  16. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    It's funny... I was just having a conversation with friend Friday evening about online forums and how depressing it is to see the English language destroyed. I specifically cited Milepoint as the exception, noting that I believe the average IQ here to be well above that of many other forums.

    I still believe that to be true, so apparently it is my failure to clearly express the reason that I believe there is an error in the way they structured this charge for passengers with rank. Please allow me to take another shot at it.

    If a non-elite passenger carries a bag of 70 pounds, they pay $200. If they carry a bag of 71 pounds, they pay $400, or $200 more for the weight over 70 pounds.

    If a Gold or higher ranked elite carries a bag of 70 pounds, they pay nothing extra. If they carry a bag of 71 pounds, they pay $400, or $400 more for the weight over 70 pounds.

    The result is that a Gold or higher ranked passenger carrying 71 pounds or more in any one piece loses the $200 advantage provided them by the program entirely. Going from 70 to 71 costs a non-elite an additional $200. Going from 70 to 71 costs a Gold or higher elite an additional $400.

    The non-elite baggage pricing structure clearly identifies the value perceived by UA/CO for each weight category. Their pricing structure makes obvious that they find the 71 to 99.9 pounds/bag to be worth $200 more than the 51 to 70 pounds/bag.

    There are an abundance of cheerleaders here who seem to think that they "know" more than me about how this difference in pricing structure came to pass. Maybe one or more are right. I don't know. All I said is that I believe they missed this discrepancy when setting up the pricing for elites. I was not looking for an argument, as I'm not making claim to any inside info. Some here agree with me. Maybe now even those who disagree will understand that I believe that UA/CO genuinely appreciates the regular business that we loyal FFs bring to them, and that they didn't intentionally structure this particular charge to be more costly to elites than to non-elites.
     
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  17. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Unless you are suggesting that you have destroyed it by continuing to suggest that things which are quite clearly stated mean other than what they express I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. :confused:

    Not to me. I completely understand your point. I just happen to think you are wrong and that you're interpreting things in order to fit your world view.

    The implication that waiving some fees - namely the original $200 for overweight bags - means that other fees should be waived is a rather specious claim.

    I do not believe this is at all accurate.

    You didn't get a argument. You got corrected. If you see that as an argument then I suppose that's your prerogative. Not everyone is going to agree with you simply because you presented your opinion. If you're not comfortable with that then sharing your views in an open community might not be the best approach.
    But they didn't. It costs EXACTLY the same to non-elites and to elites. In both cases it is $400. You're suggesting that the fees should be based on relative costs, not absolute costs. None of the fees are written that way and I see no reason to believe that there is any reason to believe this is a mistake rather than a conscious plan. And I'm not so sure that decision is a bad one.

    I'm sure that the airlines do appreciate their loyal elites. In fact, they appreciate them so much that on the route you noted they are free to carry up to 210# of baggage between 3 bags and not pay a penny for it. A non-elite would pay $40 for the second bag and $150 for the third bag. On top of that you would pay $200 for each of the three bags as they are all over 50#. That's a savings of $790 for your elite status.
     
  18. global_happy_traveller
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    global_happy_traveller Silver Member

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    i see where you are coming from...... but another way of looking at it from an airline perspective is...... 50-70 lbs, i will give premium members a benefit of doubt............. 71+ lbs, I really don't want to accommodate this because it will require more intensive labor, it poses greater risk of injuring my employee(s) and I would highly discourage people from checking in such heavy bags.

    while i understand the pricing for elites is not gradual, one missing piece of the puzzle is the rationale for the pricing structure. Is it simply the heavier the bag, the more fuel it requires to send it? Or are there other reasons we do not know/understand.
     
  19. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    I totally understand the logical discrepancy that you have identified, and I also agree that it could be characterized as unfair or illogical or incorrect.

    At the same time, I suspect that, on the one hand, it affects sufficiently few people that it will not be worth the computer programming or policy setting and employee training to make any changes to account for it; and, on the other hand, given that 3 x 70 lbs allowance is quite generous, and there are ways to minimize the impact of the costs (e.g. if you have more than 210 lbs of stuff, pack into 3 - 70 lbs cases as your free allowance and bring another 50 lbs case to pay for), that it could seem greedy and unappreciative to ask for more. As a similar example, on another airline where I have top status, Alaska, I only get 2 50 lbs bags for free, and if I show up with a single 60 lbs bag, I have to pay the overweight fee, even though I'm not even using my second free bag. You learn to work with policies and appreciate the *A generosity.
    I'm not really trying to cheerlead, but I appreciate that *A Gold gives me a pretty generous allowance.
     
  20. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    Probably three factors:
    • The extra weight displaces cargo and mail revenue
    • The bags over 70 lbs may be difficult to impossible for a single employee to lift and position within the cargo hold and otherwise handle
    • It's revenue - and probably most people who have a single case over 70 lbs have little alternative but to pay it.

    Note that UPS won't accept shipments over 70 lbs at all.
     
  21. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    I actually don't think that there is any communication gap in play - people just disagree with your position.
    There are a number of assumptions required regarding how the airline operates to arrive at that conclusion, and I (and others in this thread) don't believe them to be accurate. UA/CO does not appear to be pricing luggage at some "perceived value" - they're pricing either at what they believe the market will bear, or (in my opinion at the higher end), what they think the market will not normally bear, to allow them to streamline operations.
    Once again, I don't think there is a communication gap. My read on this is that people understand exactly what you're saying, but don't agree with it, and feel that it's a bit presumptuous to complain about baggage rules and allowances that are much, much more generous than nonelites get, and at par or better with what the competition offers.
    The appreciation of any frequent flyer program for its membership extends about as far as they think the benefits provided will drive overall revenue and profitability. The normal free allowance more than covers that.

    Frequent flyer allowances/freebies don't normally act as a fixed-value credit - there's no refund if not used, and they do not necessarily stack to provide additional discounts for fees not waived.
     
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  22. jupper
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    jupper Silver Member

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    The logic would apply if the allowance we got is a discount. Instead I think most of the documentation usually states something about certain fee(s) being waived. I believe kids under a certain age can travel for less, but I don't believe that once they're a couple of months over there's a grey area pro-rata rate.

    Now as to the grammatical differences thereof... Basically, the baggage handling is optimized for 50lbs, they can deal with up to 70lbs, but I believe anything above that requires special handling (because the handlers aren't allowed to lift etc.).

    I can understand your logic, but I can also understand why the airlines in general don't want to be abused as cargo freighters. Differentiating a lot of baggage pricing might seem nice, it would confuse the hell out of me, and even more out of the general public. I can see the scenes and DYKWIA at certain airports unfold with full scale riotting... :)
     

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