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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Where to put it all... » » Advice needed on airlines and excess gear/baggage charges (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of eSamuels
Next month, I'll be flying to a gig (flying from Seattle to Nashville). Normally I would trim down my props to a bare minimum, as I do have 2 versions of the show I'll be performing - an assistant version (intended for local shows), and an unassisted version for travel that packs somewhat lighter.

But as this is a really important show, and I want to present my full show with an assistant (as they are covering the costs), I'm endeavoring to pack as efficiently as I can. I've got everything down to 3-ATA cases, 2 of which seem to be within airline guidelines (under 50 lbs, less than 62" total diameter, etc.). The 3rd, however, will be over 80 lbs, and over 62" (but within their acceptable maximums). The way I read the airline's web site (using AA as an example), the charges (each way) for checked bags are as follows:
1st bag - $20
2nd bag - $30
3rd bag (up to 5th bag) - $100
Then come the real gouges!
Overweight bag 50-70lbs - $50
Overweight bag 70-100lbs - $100
Oversize 63 - 115" - $150

And the charges are cumulative! So, 'on paper,' that means that an overweight (let's say 90lb), oversize, 3rd bag would cost $350 each way, for a total of $700! My God, my return ticket is only $250!!!

As there are 2 of us traveling, each will bring one suitcase (1st checked bag), and claim one of the ATA cases as our second piece of checked baggage. This still leaves 1 ATA as extra baggage. So, even if the largest, heaviest case is checked in first, it still gets charged for all the extras.

Suffice it to say, I looked into alternatives, including Freight Forwarding, but the costs seem not much better.

Then, of course, comes the stress of "what if some/all of the checked baggage doesn't arrive?" In that regard we're scheduled to arrive a day early - just in case!
If not, my backup is that we become a (really bad) song and dance show!

Suggestions/feedback from those who fly often carrying extra gear? Is there an airline with a more 'liberal' checked baggage policy?


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Profile of eSamuels
Well, for anyone interested, here's an update.

All the major airlines are essentially charging the same (exorbitant) rates. Certainly no price fixing there!

But some of the 'next tier' airlines are far more reasonable. Alaskan, for instance, is less than half the cost for additional and oversize/overweight baggage, and they don't compound added fees (and their fares are competitively priced). So, if your bag is both oversize and overweight, they only charge you one 'penalty' fee (as opposed to the 'majors' who compound all possible fees!).

The other interesting note, is that if you book a flight on Alaskan, as an example, that continues from a hub with, let's say, American only pay Alaskan's one-time baggage fees, all the way to your destination.

Good info to have if you travel with gear!
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Profile of KeithP
I'm reading your posts and I really appreciate an insite into this problem. Please keep posting. I wish I had a helpful post, but like many of us, we haven't been though it. Again, thanks for posting!

Pete Biro
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Why not ship the material Fedex Ground?
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Profile of Magicalpro
If you fly southwest first 2 bags are free.

Lucky for me my wife flies so much on United (about 100k miles a year)when I fly United my first 2 bags are free with them also.
Kurt "Lee Curtis the Magical Wizard" Flickner
Magic Estate Sale
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Profile of eSamuels
On 2010-01-10 20:47, Pete Biro wrote:
Why not ship the material Fedex Ground?

It's actually not much cheaper, and will require more administrative activity at both ends (for instance, having cases delivered to the hotel before I arrive can be a hassle).

As for Southwest, couldn't help but noticing on the weekend during the many NFL games I was watching, how they're heavily marketing their 'no charge baggage' policy,. Unfortunately, they weren't an option on my route.

Regardless, everything is booked, and I'll be sure to report, upon my return, how the baggage adventure went! (I'll also be preparing all my contingency effects, in the event that my props don't...well, you know)

Autumn Morning Star
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Profile of Autumn Morning Star
You could ship it by air cargo and meet your oversized bag at the airport, or your could ship by UPS or Fed Ex and require a signature. It will be cheaper and it will most likely arrive ontime. Make arrangements with the hotel manager, ship the bags to them, and have them call the moment they come in. Hotel managers are used to receiving bags, especially with the airline limitations. Oh, the news just came on and said the airlines are INCREASING the bag fees again.

In case of baggage loss, always know where the nearest local magic shop is in the town to which you are going. Call to get an idea of what they have, simple effects that you can use to save your show.

If you lose a bag, file it with the airlines, take names of everyone you speak with, put the supervisor's number on your cell, then go to the magic store and shop. After 24 hours, the airlines have to pay you for 'first needs' supplies or $75 worth of stuff [you must give them receipts]. Prior to your flight, think of things that can carry your show easily, like comedy, ropes, silks, easy to find magic. The mark of a great performer is being able to think on their feet.

I hate to say it, but Northwest lost a bag of mine and it was gone for over a month. Yes, OVER a month! I had tags inside, outside, but Northwest did not care enough to look for it. They just wanted to pay me for it. Finally, KLM called me from Amsterdam and they found my bag laying on the tarmac, but I had to contact Northwest to arrange to get it. Northwest said they could not make long distance calls, even to their partner airlines, so I had to rely on KLM to go above and beyond to get me my bag, which they did.

Let us know how things go!
Wonder is very necessary in life. When we're little kids, we're filled with wonder for the world - it's fascinating and miraculous. A lot of people lose that. They become cynical and jaded, especially in modern day society. Magic renews that wonder.
Doug Henning
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144 Posts

Profile of griffindance
Get a PPL and join a flying club.


Screw it! just walk, dragging all your props behind you whilst carrying your assistant on your back. Anything to avoid the large arrogant pain in the arse that airlines are.

I love travelling, hell I even like flying. I just can not stomach airlines anymore. My personal hell would be a RyanAir flight out of Heathrow. Overpriced, arrogant staff, security as intrusive as a prostate exam and an attitude that any inconvenience is in fact the passenger's fault.

Im looking into the Private Pilots License!

Eric please get back to us on your freight issues!
David Charvet
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Profile of David Charvet
I have shipped large props ahead via FedEx Ground (as Pete also suggests). Just ship them directly to the hotel with "HOLD FOR ARRIVAL" and your date of arrival. If your client is paying for "the big show" they should understand that transportation is part of the deal. Just build it into your fee. Or, start working on an act that packs into a carry on bag that will fit under your seat (as Billy McComb used to do.) When buyers start paying to see YOU and not your props, it opens up a whole new world!

Alaska Airlines IS the best at this point for low excess bag charges.
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