By Joe Shortsleeve, Chief Correspondent for WBZ-TV I-Team

BOSTON (CBS) – Fees, fees, and more fees.  That’s the story when it comes flying these days.  The I-Team found travelers might be paying more for their luggage than they should.

After reviewing inspection records over the past two years and accompanying city inspectors on a spot check of the scales at Logan Airport, the I-Team found many of the scales used to weigh luggage don’t give accurate readings.

Once any piece of luggage is over the weight limit today, the fees can add up very fast.

Kendra McGann now travels with a smaller bag after her experience last year.  “My bag was 60 pounds and they wanted to charge me $90,” she exclaimed.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports.

It’s now a common sight to see travelers checking in and desperately discarding items to keep their suitcases under 50 pounds.  That tends to be the magic number because once you exceed that threshold the fees add up quickly.

One international traveler at Logan said, “We are in fact very worried about the fees.  And I think we tried to pack so we wouldn’t get any fees.”

George Hobica of said, “It used to be that the airlines weren’t that fastidious about overweight luggage, but they needed more money and now they are.”

The airline industry took in $2.5 billion in all baggage fees thru the first nine months of last year. That’s an increase of 23% from the same period in 2009.

That makes an accurate scale more important ever.  Just a few ounces over, and you could pay big bucks.

Boston’s Inspectional Services Department makes an annual surprise check to make sure the scales at Logan are accurate.  As we went thru Terminal E with their inspectors, they found 9 of the 23 scales operated by the Massport failed and condemned them.

One operated by Southwest also failed to meet appropriate standards.

Inspector Brian Oliver slapped one condemned sticker after another on these faulty machines, at one point saying, “There’s no confidence this scale is accurate.”

Some of the scales were off by as much as two pounds.  Others didn’t zero out, meaning they were indicating the presence of some weight despite the fact nothing was on the scale.

Massport spokesperson Phil Orlandella, however, told us they check the scales on a daily basis to make sure they are zeroing out.

When asked how more that 30% of the scales could fail if they are examined each day, Orlandella replied, “That’s a good question.  I don’t know the answer to that.  It could be that somebody missed something, or something happened mechanically.”

Inspection reports from the past two years indicate Massport had also been citied for having inaccurate scales due to stickiness or the fact they were broken.

Bob McGrath, the Assistant Commissioner for Weights and Measures for Inspectional Services, told us he isn’t buying the explanation these scales are well taken care of.  He added, “These scales take a lot of abuse and that means they should have regular maintenance, and it shouldn’t be ‘wait for the inspector to show up’ to indentify the problem in order to get it fixed.”

Faulty scales aren’t just a problem at Logan Airport.  Other airports have been failing these tests as well, which means you could be overcharged twice.  Once when you leave, and once on your way home.

And the results can vary.  In Los Angeles, a recent report found 94% of the scales passed inspection, while just 73% did in Ontario.

Hobica said, “The airlines are making a lot of money with overweight bags.”

He showed us a chart found on his site which lists the fees and penalties for each airline.  For example, a bag which weights more that 70 pounds can cost an additional $120 at one airline.

Hobica actually travels with his own personal scale to make sure he’s not overcharged because of a faulty scale.

Although the total amount of money customers could be overcharged is hard to estimate, Hobica said it could be tens of thousands of dollars from each airport.

He added that it’s not uncommon these days to actually pay more for your luggage than your actual ticket.

Massport officials told the I-Team tests conducted in other parts of the airport delivered better results than what we witnessed with the ISD.

Comments (20)
  1. bvd says:

    Thank-you very much I-team. On last June we had a trip to Vietnam. Delta carried us from Boston to JFK. We tried to scale 6 my luggages twice at home with 49 founds each. Then we came to Airport two hours before the flight time. When we check in, All my laggages are 51 or 50.5 founds each. They told me that take out the stuffs or fine $50 dallars each. Then took me an hour to to take out stuffs and repack to save money. Then we got a long long line for check-point and we late for our flight. We came back to the ticket counter, they said I have to pay $50 for each ticket for them to reschedule to other flight. However, I thought my scale is wrong untill now I know the Airport’s scales are wrong. I hope They have a piece with the currence weight to check each scale everymorning. The best way, they have to has a piece with currence weight stamp by goverment avariable any time when the customers request for test the scales if they thought that scale is wrong.

  2. Pretty soon people will have to wear all the clothes they want to bring on a trip.

  3. 1ocjennifer says:

    Let’s not forget …the heavier the luggage the more fuel costs. Why should I pay for somebody elses bag weight. If you have a lot of stuff then you need to pay. Just as if you were shipping fed ex. Why is this such a mystery?

    1. Cynic says:

      Why don’t we levy a charge on Everyone else for NOT BEING YOU.

    2. Robert says:

      The only fair way is to weigh people and charge according their weight. Why should a person weighting 300 lbs pay the same as another weighing 150 lbs Weight the people not the luggage.

  4. Cynic says:

    The Luggage fees themselves are an Overcharge.

  5. fishfry says:

    @1ocjennifer: Boy, talk about missing the point! Many people are being CHEATED by the airlines and their faulty scales. You aren’t paying bag weight for someone else. People are getting ripped off.

  6. jim says:

    hi wbztv went to fort mayer bag was over cost 50.00 well extra bag would be
    30.00 brought home a extra bag. jimmghjim ps jet blue

  7. jim says:

    well try agan went down on jet blue to fort myers 50.00 for bag what is the cost for extra bag 30.00 came home with exta bag

  8. bvd says:

    Dear Delta ! This is bvd and don’t get me wrong, you are good. Next time if am travel, I still go with you. My points above is if the scales are wrong we have to correct them. Also we have something to prove that the scales are correct and that make more trust between you and me or your customers. I did not said your scales are wrong in the past and you cheated people. Read the article above, It say (9 scales failed out of 23 in terminal E) but you are in terminal A. Thank for understanding.