Beware faulty check-in scales

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Pretoria - Travel – especially international travel – is expensive enough without having to pay thousands for “overweight” baggage.

If you have ignored the weight limits, and opted to travel heavy, then you should be prepared to pay up. But what if the scale at the check-in counter is inaccurate – either intentionally or as a result of poor maintenance – and it overweighs your suitcase, and you’re made to pay for “extra” weight unjustifiably?

A few years back, Consumer Watch carried the story of the businesswoman who was told at an SAA counter at Joburg’s OR Tambo airport that her bag was 24kg – 4kg over the limit – and made to pay about R1 000 for the “excess”.

But a funny thing happened to her “overweight” suitcase when she got to Europe. It got a whole lot lighter, despite the fact that she’d bought things along the way.

“In Stockholm it weighed 18.1kg, in Frankfurt 18.2kg, and in Geneva 18.5kg.”

Finally, when she checked in at Zurich airport to fly home, it weighed 20kg.

At the time, I gave this advice: weigh your luggage at home to make sure it’s within the weight limit, and if you’re told at the check-in counter that it is over the limit, insist on having it reweighed on a scale at another airline’s check-in counter.

So why I am repeating this? Well, partly because the holiday season is almost upon us, but mainly because of a news report which caught my eye last week.

Twelve check-in counter officials at Durban’s King Shaka airport have been fired for tricking a UK-bound passenger into believing that her luggage was 8kg overweight, and making her pay R2 000 for it – a reduction from the R4 800 she was originally asked to pay.

All BidAir employees, they were arrested as part of a bribery and corruption racket bust after a covert operation by the police’s crime intelligence unit.

Unfortunately for them, the woman, who flew on Emirates via Dubai last month, had weighed her bags at home, where the domestic scale read 30.8kg.

And, suspicious about her King Shaka experience, she then weighed them again on a scale when she arrived at Manchester airport, where they weighed the same – 30.8kg. On her return home, she laid a charge of bribery against the officials.

So, the advice stands – find out what your chosen airline’s weight restrictions are, then weigh your bags at home before leaving for the airport.

Luggage outlets and Automobile Association shops sell a good range of specialised, relatively inexpensive hand-held scales for this purpose. Take a cellphone photo of the reflected weight, and if an airline scale reflects a bigger number, and you’re told to pay for excess weight, stand your ground and produce your “evidence”.

If a stand-off develops, insist on having your luggage reweighed on another airport scale. - Pretoria News

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