Problem Solver: Passengers left holding the bag on airline luggage fees

Couple charged for checking 2 carry-ons on trip home after anniversary cruise

The trip was to celebrate the Robertses' 20th wedding anniversary, and for the most part it was spectacular.

It certainly started innocently enough.

On Oct. 11, Paul Roberts and his wife, Judy, checked in online for their United Airlines flight to Southampton, England, where they were scheduled to embark on a 12-day cruise.

They paid an extra $100 to check one piece of luggage, which seemed reasonable, Paul Roberts said.

The connecting flight on United's European code share partner, Flybe, went smoothly, and the couple and their luggage arrived safely in Southampton on Oct. 13.

Cruise line employees, informed that the couple were celebrating their anniversary, upgraded their room to a suite, complete with a butler. They were invited to eat at the captain's table, with the chef providing a special meal.

"It was really a great time," Paul Roberts said.

The euphoria did not last long.

When the couple arrived at the Southampton airport Oct. 26 to fly home, they ran into an expensive glitch.

Although they had booked their flight on United, the overseas legs of the journey were handled by European airline Flybe.

While United had allowed the couple to carry on two bags, Flybe had different rules. The couple were informed that they had to check all three of their bags, and pay a fee for each of them.

"I noted that we had booked through United and discussed (the) $100 fee from United and the ability to have two carry-ons," Paul Roberts said. "I was informed that was different from Flybe policy and I would need to comply with their policy to board the flight."

He was escorted to another desk, where his bags were weighed and his fee was calculated.

Instead of paying $100 for their luggage as they had on the first leg of their trip, they were charged $849.84.

Shocked by the price tag, the Robertses scrambled to remove items from the bags to decrease the cost. But after trying to shuffle things around, they finally gave up and paid.

"I thought, 'Just pay it and I'll figure it out when I get home,'" Paul Roberts said.

When he got home, the Oswego resident emailed several executives at United and described the situation. An airline representative called him the same day and said the company's customer care office would investigate.

"That's the last I heard from them," he said.

So he emailed What's Your Problem?

He said that when he booked the flights on the United Airlines website, there was no mention that there would be different baggage fees on the return trip.

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