Airport's Luggage Scales Prove Faulty, Passengers Overpaid

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A recent inspection at Logan International Airport in Boston shows faulty luggage scales might be habitually overcharging passengers.

CBS News in Boston followed city inspectors on a spot check of the luggage scales, and found many failed to give accurate readings. As the inspectors made their way through Terminal E of Logan Airport, nine of 23 scales were slapped with "condemned" stickers.

"There's no confidence this scale is accurate," says inspector Brian Oliver as he inspects one of the machines. Some scales did not zero out, while others were off by as much as two pounds.

Phil Orlandella, a spokesperson for the airport, tells the news outlet the luggage scales are checked on a daily basis. When asked how over a third of the scales could fail under routine checks, Orlandella says, "That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that. It could be that somebody missed something, or something happened mechanically."

"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 identify the problem in order to get it fixed," Bob McGrath, the assistant commissioner for Weights and Measures for Inspectional Services tells CBS News.

Faulty scales are not just a problem at Logan Airport. A recent report shows only 94% of luggage scales worked properly in Los Angeles, while just 23% passed inspection in Ontario. Last September, a British budget carrier named bmibaby admitted the carrier may have been mistakenly overcharging passengers for years due to faulty scales.

Fees for overweight bags can cause the price of flying to soar. On one airline, a bag that weighs more than 70 pounds can cost travelers an additional $120.

The fees are so astronomical George Hobica of AirfareWatchDog.com travels with his own scale in case he needs to prove the weight of his bag.

"It used to be that the airlines weren't that fastidious about overweight luggage, but they needed more money and now they are," said Hobica.

In the first nine months of last year, the airline industry took in $2.5 billion in baggage fees alone -- an increase of 23% over the same period in 2009.

Photo, jetalone, flickr
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