The Logic of Airport Madness: Part 1

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 at 2:26 am | 1,622 views | trackback url

I tend to travel a lot.. not as much as Rasmus, but I travel quite a bit. I also travel with a lot of gear: laptops, chargers, tools, various sundry adapters and other things. This stuff tends to get quite heavy.

There’s a fairly recent change in the baggage regulations that limits each bag to 50 pounds each. For a full-size piece of checked luggage with suits, shoes, toiletries and so on inside, you can reach 50 pounds quite easily. The empty bag alone is probably 10-20 pounds of that total weight (wheels, handle, supporting zippers and rails).

I just flew out to interview with Red Hat tonight, and the checked bag I brought with me, was 60 pounds exactly on their scale. The nice woman at the counter explained that it would cost me $50.00 for that extra 10 pounds of weight ($5.00/pound over the weight limit). That $50.00 would also be charged to me on the return trip.

If I wanted to buy gifts or bring extra things back with me that I didn’t bring on the initial flight, that would be even heavier. I asked her why the airlines were charging an extra fee for the extra weight.

She calmly explained that with the price of fuel going up, they need to charge for the extra weight.

Now here is where it begins to get weird: She explained that I could take that extra 10 pounds out of the bag, put it into a second bag, and check 2 total bags, and not pay the $50.00 fee for being over the weight limit.


I asked her why there was no fee, and she said because now with two bags, they could redistribute the weight better on the plane.

What? It’s still the same amount of weight!!

It’s not like I’m forbidden from taking the extra weight on the plane. The same 60 pounds of luggage is going on the plane anyway, either in 1 bag + $50.00 for the overweight fee, or 2 bags with no overweight fee.

So it has nothing to do with the “cost of fuel going up”. They’re using the same fuel to transport the single bag as they are for two bags. In fact, two bags with 60 pounds of luggage inside them is heavier than 1 bag with the same 60 pounds of luggage inside it.

Also, luggage is secured inside racks and crates under the plane. They don’t just put some on one side and some on the other, to “redistribute the weight” properly like that. There’s more weight in the fuel inside the wings, than there is in the belly of the plane as luggage. It’s not like having all the weight on one side of the fuselage, is going to cause the plane to corkscrew and spiral through the sky, doing loops.

But apparently I’m not supposed to ask these logical questions at the counter. The security people next to me were getting antsy and fidgety, so I tried to hurry the point and complete my check-in transaction.

So the woman behind the counter says that she can sell me a SECOND bag to put the “extra” luggage in. I ask her how much that second bag would cost, and she says “$25.00”.

Great, so I can pay $50.00 each way for the overweight fee (for $100 total), or I can pay $25.00 to buy a bag at the counter and “waive” the overweight fee charges. I ask her for other options that don’t involve me spending more money to transport the same amount of weight.

Then she says she can give me a cardboard box, and tells me to take 10 pounds of luggage out, and tape it up in the box and just use that as my second checked bag.

So that’s what I did. Hrmph.

When I travel with this much gear, both checked and carry-on, I always get stopped at the security checkpoint for several minutes while the security people poke through my bags, run them through the scanner 3, 4 and 5 times, gather in a group looking at the scanner monitor to try to figure out what is what, and then let me go on my way.

Here’s where the airport logic gets weird again:

I had a large plastic sports thermos full of water that I’d been drinking all night, and there was about 8oz of water left in it. The security guard said I would have to throw that away, or drink it on the spot. I asked him if they lifted the restrictions on the 3oz bottles, and he said yes, but I’d still have to toss/drink what I had in my bottle, because I was not allowed to take that volume of liquid on the plane.

So I drank it down on the spot, and as I was drinking it, he said:

“…you can purchase another bottle to drink on the other side of the security checkpoint, and bring that on the plane if you want.”


So the “rule” about not taking liquids past the security checkpoint has absolutely nothing to do with the safety of the plane at all, if I can go past the checkpoint, buy a 20oz bottle of some beverage, and bring THAT on the plane.

But I can’t bring my 8oz of water in my clear thermos, and bring that on the plane? What the…

Ironically, I made it through that checkpoint without my water, but they apparently didn’t find anything wrong with me taking my Leatherman Wave onboard (a multi-purpose tool with several obvious, and very dangerous blades on it), or the Colibri butane cigar torch I inadvertently forgot in my computer bag before I left today.

The “logic” that the airlines use with everyone these days really blows my mind. It’s not logic, it’s anti-logic.

Last Modified: Wednesday, December 5th, 2007 @ 02:26

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