Gadgets that may help beat airline baggage fees

December 20, 2010 7:24:03 PM PST
If you are flying this holiday, the last thing you want is more airline fees. Airlines raked in an estimated $3 billion in baggage fees in 2010-- a new record. You can be charged up to $100 extra for a bag weighing over 50 pounds.

When Karen and Margo flew from Australia to the U.S. for a little visit, they purposely brought empty baggage. now that they're heading home, those bags are bulging.

"We went shopping in New York and bought about 10 pairs of shoes," Margo said.

Those shopping sprees now might cost them even more for overweight luggage fees. If a bag exceeds the 50 pound limit, it costs an extra $60 at American Airlines. So Margo and Karen are trying to guess the weight before check-in and 7 On Your Side figured, this was the perfect time to try out these portable luggage scales.

"Really good because normally you have to try to stand on your weighing scale," Margo said.

Across the terminal, Hazel Carmona had the same dilemma. Her aunt's bulging suitcase appears dangerously close to the limit, so she tried out the scales too.

"So, it's got 48.6 pounds," she said.

Just barely under the limit according to the Balanzza digital model. It gives about the same reading and works much the same way except you have to hold it up until it beeps and it's also a physical challenge.

Finally, she tries an old fashioned analog scale made by Travel On -- no digits or batteries. It says the bag is a little overweight at 51 pounds. Now what really matters is what the American Airlines' scale says.

"It was right on the dot. It was very accurate," Hazel said.

It read 49 pounds -- not far from the portable scale readings and no extra fees.

Karen and Margo had a little more difficulty lifting and getting accurate readings. Margo decided to try the Balanzza.

"No, I didn't get a reading on that, no it's not working," she said.

Eventually, the Balanzza says the bag is 53.8 pounds, just a few shoes too many inside. For Karen, the TraveLite flashes red to warn her bag is overweight -- at 51.6 pounds.

The analog scale says the bag is 55 pounds. At the American Airlines scale, Margo's bag weighed in at 60 point five pounds -- six pounds more than the Balanzza's reading. Karen's weighed 58 pounds, six pounds more than the Travelite, and three pounds more than the analog scale.

"We came with empty bags and we're going home with excess baggage," Karen said.

All three travelers said the scales are pretty good indicators, but be ready for the heavy lifting.

"If you're not a very big person, i think you're probably not going to be able to use it unless you're really strong," Karen said.

"It's probably the only problem because it hurts your back a bit pulling it up," Margo said.

"They are quite heavy, but you do save a lot of money. It's definitely worth it," Hazel said.

The scales range in price from about $10 for the analog model to about $25 for the digital scales. The airline fees range up to $100 even if the bag is just one pound overweight. Check your carrier before you pack.


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