Baggage scale violations at Sky Harbor

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by Warren Trent, Sybil Hoffman

azfamily.com

Posted on November 4, 2013 at 9:51 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 6:11 AM

PHOENIX -- Baggage fees bring in huge numbers for airlines, but what would you think if the scales used to weigh your luggage were inaccurate? Last year alone all airlines combined brought in $3.5 billion dollars in baggage fees.

The 3 On Your Side team went in search of answers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Shawn Marquez from the Arizona Dept. of Weights and Measures told 3 on Your Side,"We showed up unannounced, we showed up early in the morning."

Right before the busy travel season, when there is plenty of hustle and bustle at Sky Harbor International Airport, you may see state government inspectors. "As the customer moves through, we'll move through."

They are armed with weights, taking meticulous notes and even shooting video. They're conducting a surprise inspection of airline baggage scales. And on this day, 3 On Your Side caught it all on tape. Marquez said; "I will tell you, we're a little disappointed this year."

Marquez went on to say inspectors found of lot of issues, "Displays missing, digital displays where the customer is able to see the actual weight, blanked out, really a lot of maintenance issues."

Inspectors taped off two of the 43 US Airways scales for being non-compliant. Violations were also uncovered at several other airlines. Among them; American Airlines, Delta, United and Southwest. Marquez showed 3 On Your Side video shot by inspectors, "this is a video of the scale we found that when we talk about the weight is fluctuating, there's nothing on here and the scale is fluctuating."

Those fluctuating numbers could mean extra fees for passengers. U.S. Airways charges 90 dollars if your bag weighs between 51 and 70 pounds. We spoke with airline passenger Peter Baez who said, "Airlines are making some fees off of baggage."

But not all scales in question at Sky Harbor were weighing heavy. Inspectors also discovered some scales coming in light. “When we do find those things like that, we lock those scales down.”

Then something happened that took even the inspectors by surprise: two pieces of plywood underneath the cover of the scale! When it was pulled out, the inspector was left shaking his head. Marquez commented, "I don't know why it was there, what it was doing there. We removed it, we seized it actually, and civil penalties will certainly be written because of that.”

This recent inspection covered Sky Harbor and Tucson International Airport. Marquez said, "We checked approximately 192 scales, and a 70 percent compliance rating is really sub-par."

Airlines have 30 days to get the scales back in line. After all, keeping the scales in compliance will ultimately save you, the consumer, from surprise fees.  "If you're going to be charging somebody on a device, the device has to be accurate it can't be inaccurate, it can't be all over the place and have a bunch of issues."
  
Again, state inspectors say only 70 percent of scales were accurate. US Airways told 3 On Your Side they immediately got their scales fixed and they're now back in service.

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Sky Harbor International Airport Inspection Results
 
Alaska Airlines - Notice to comply issued, no overweight luggage charges posted, directive to repair scale weight identification on all scales.
 
American Airlines - 1 scale failed- would not start on zero; scale was showing a weight with nothing on the scale, 1 scale missing serial numbers. Overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Delta Airlines - 1 scale failed - would not return to zero, 1 scale failed- customer weight display inoperable, customer unable to see the weight indication. Overweight luggage charges posted.
 
United Airlines - 2 scales failed- weight inaccurate (favorable to the customer) 2 scales failed - tamper proof calibration seal broken. Notice to Comply issued - no overweight luggage charges posted.

City of Phoenix Aviation Department - (Volaris) - 2 scales failed, weight inaccurate (favorable to the customer) 1 scale failed would not start on zero, missing identification plate. Overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Frontier Airlines - All scales passed- overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Hawaiian Airlines - All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Jet Blue Airways - All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Spirit Airlines - All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Great Lakes Aviation LTD - All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Southwest Airlines- 1 scale failed, weight inaccurate (favorable to the airline) 2 scales failed (favorable to the customer). Overweight luggage charges posted.
 
US Airways - 1 scale failed, weight inaccurate (favorable to the customer) would not maintain a zero, weight would fluctuate, 1 scale failed, thin pieces of wood placed in between scale platform and load scales. Overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Air Canada- City of Phoenix- All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
City of Phoenix- Jet Airlines- All Scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
City of Phoenix - British Airways- All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
City of Phoenix- Aero Mexico - All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
 
Tucson International Airport Inspection Results
 
Alaska Airlines - All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
American Airlines- All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
US Airways - All scales passed, overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Southwest Airlines - 1 scale failed, weight inaccurate (favorable to the customer) 3 scales failed for scale serial number marking requirements.
 
Delta Airlines- 4 scales failed for weight inaccuracies (favorable to the airline) scale illegally modified - wood has been found under the scale platform, scale incorrectly marked as 600 lb capacity but blanked out at 518 pounds. Overweight luggage charges posted.
 
Ø    United Airlines- 1 scale failed, digital display shows zero with weight on the scale platform. Overweight luggage charges are posted.



 

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