For eight days a woman from California walked aimlessly around San Francisco International Airport because she did not have enough money to pay the $60 fee to check her baggage for her flight on U.S. Airways. The woman, Terri Wessinger, stated that she was not aware that she would need to pay a luggage fee as Orbitz, the website she used to purchase it, failed to notify her of it so she was not financially prepared. $30 in her pocket, a plane ticket to Idaho, and a couple bags of troublesome luggage was, apparently, all she had in the world. Upon offering to just chuck her bags and board her flight, U.S. Airways reportedly said that she was prohibited from doing so as it would be a security concern. No friends or relatives came to her aid to lend her the sixty bucks so she could get her on the flight which she inevitably missed.
Upon missing her flight, U.S. Airways informed her that she would now need to pay a $150 ticket change fee in addition to the $60 baggage fee. Again, she claimed that she couldn’t do so as she only had $30. The airline did not bend, the rules are the rules.
But the woman did not go home. She later told reporters that she was moving to Idaho to start a new life, and, apparently, she had did not have one to go back to in California. So she Mehran Karimi Nasseri-ed it, and just stayed in the airport. The following day U.S. Airways informed her that if she still wanted to fly with them to Idaho that she would need to pay for a whole new ticket at a total cost of around $1,000.
Now, truly unable to go forward or go back, she watched the days pass at the airport. Seven more past before parishioners at the “The Airport Chapel of Christ” offered up the cash to spring her out of the jam.
U.S. Airways had this to say:
“We have apologized to Ms. Weissinger, but unfortunately are unable to offer a refund. When you purchase a non-refundable ticket, you accept the terms and conditions. If a passenger cannot travel with their bags, they need to make other arrangements.”
The bright side:
This situation provoked new federal regulations which make online plane ticket retailers to prominently display all extra baggage fees.
Ultimately, it is the air passenger’s responsibility to know their airline’s rules, restrictions, and, yes, baggage fees before walking up to that check in counter. Unfortunately, many travelers find themselves walking through mazes to find this information or are inherently too lackadaisical to look for it. Situations like those that happened to Terri Wessinger at the San Fransisco International Airport are making the airlines more transparent to both groups.