LA County

Holiday Travel: Are Airport Luggage Scales Accurate?

If you are one of those people who thinks baggage fees for flights have gotten outrageous, brace yourself: an overweight bag could cost you the price of an airline ticket itself on many airlines. 

As the holiday travel season gets underway, NBC4's I-Team looked into whether airport’s luggage scales are accurate. 

Airlines restrict the weight of a single piece of luggage to 50 pounds. Frequent flyer Brian Allen believes safety is the primary reason.

"Look, they have to balance the weight in the plane to make sure the plane can get off effectively," he said. 

Heavier planes burn more fuel, costing airlines more money, which is why they charge you on the spot for overweight bags.

But how do you know you're not being overcharged?

Inspector Adam Reecio is with LA County’s Weights and Measures. The agency annually certifies the accuracy of luggage scales.

"Each scale is given an allowable range. If a scale is outside of that range we do issue a notice of violation to the business which requires them to either fix, calibrate or replace the device," he said. 

Weights and Measures uses 25 pound weights to measure scale accuracy.

An inaccurate scale that favors the airline will have a red tag and should not be used. A blue tag means it’s weighing light, favoring consumers. It can be used but should be fixed.

How accurate are luggage scales at SoCal aiports? Randy Mac investigates ahead of the 2018 holiday travel season.

Reecio says violations do occur.

"It does happen but most of the time they are accurate," he said. 

LA County’s Weights and Measures shared data with the I-Team showing the number of incorrect scales at LAX, Burbank and Long Beach airports.

At LAX last year, inspectors examined 536 scales only 20 were incorrect. 

Burbank had only one bad scale and in Long Beach this year, only one scale showed the wrong weight -- and that was in favor of the customer.

"My personal experience is that the scales here seem to weigh lighter than my scale at home weighs, so I want to weigh myself on these scales obviously," Allen joked.

Jokes aside, if you have concerns you’re being overcharged for the weight of your luggage, there's a solution is simple.

Ask that they place it on a separate scale to make sure the numbers are matching.

Other tips:

  • Weigh your bag at home. That way you know if you’re over the 50 pound limit.
  • Pack items on top that can be easily removed and placed in your carry on.
  • Put your heavier items in a carry on or wear them.
  • Pack and check an extra bag. Those fees on many airlines are cheaper than paying for overweight bags between 51-70 pounds.
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