The Exchange

Delta Passenger Abandons Baggage to Avoid $1,400 in Fees

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Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Talk about skipping out on the bill.

A passenger on Delta Airlines early Tuesday left four of his seven bags at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, apparently because he didn’t want to pay more than $1,000 in baggage fees.

NBC News reported Tuesday that the passenger, who was en route to New York’s JFK Airport, abandoned four bags to avoid $1,400 in fees. Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said the TSA was notified of the unattended luggage at around 1 a.m. local Seattle time near the check-in area for Delta Airlines. As a precaution, law enforcement responded to clear the bags.

One of the bags was determined to be suspicious. “The Bomb Disposal Unit responded and deployed a robot to investigate the luggage," said Christina Faine, spokeswoman for the airport, in an email. "After X-raying the bag, the bomb techs cleared the contents and determined that there was no threat.”

The TSA’s Feinstein said the passenger was identified and law enforcement officials with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates JFK Airport, met the flight and interviewed him when he arrived. Officials determined there was no criminal intent by the passenger.

A Delta spokesman said unattended bags are not a common issue for the airline.

Anyone who’s flown in the past few years knows how airlines nickel-and-dime passengers on food, drinks, baggage, seat selection, early boarding and wi-fi. And it’s getting worse. A report published in May by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that U.S. airlines collected nearly $3.5 billion in baggage fees from passengers in 2012, up from $3.48 billion in 2011. And Delta Air Lines (DAL) has sat at the top of the list every year since 2009, according to the bureau. In the first quarter of 2013, Delta brought in $191 million in baggage fees – the highest amount – followed by United, US Airways and American Airlines.

Baggage fees on Delta are currently $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second checked bag (both on domestic flights). Delta allows up to 10 bags to be checked per passenger on flights, but you’ll have to pay. Your third checked bag costs $125 and bags 4-10 are $200 each.

“We’re assuming this is extremely heavy luggage,” said Randy Petersen, founder of Flyertalk, in an email. “In fact, looking at Delta's normal overweight luggage fees, we can assume that one or more of these bags weighed more than 100 pounds and at some point reached the weight of a normal passenger.” Petersen said it would have cost the passenger more than $2,000 to move those same bags with just a day delay via FedEx.

Neither the TSA nor Delta would reveal the passenger’s identity but it’s safe to say he wasn’t traveling light and he incurred the airline’s overweight bag fees. What's more, Delta charges separate fees for each limitation a passenger exceeds: size, weight and quantity. Delta's website says: “For example, if an extra piece of baggage exceeds the weight and size limits, it will be subject to three fees: one for the extra bag, one for exceeding the weight limit and one for going over the size restriction. Fees are charged for each additional bag, each way.”

“Granted, $1,400 is a whole lot of fees," Petersen said. "But truly if any passenger is relying on an airline to carry that many ‘overweight’ bags, surely there is some responsibility to know estimated weight and inquire with the airline before.”

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