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|| News Item: Posted 1998-12-05

Leading Off: Travel Hassles
By Robert Hanashiro

Travel, whether it's loading up the trunk of your car to drive to the section 2 little league championships in Fresno or flying off at the last minute to Beijing to cover the U.S. gymnastics team's visit there, it still involves basically the same thing: hassles.

The trick when going on the road these days seems to be getting what we need to the location we have to work. But how do we do that when the rules change or are interpreted differently from airport-to-airport?

Baggage rules vary, but generally speaking, you are allowed 2 checked and 2 reasonably-sized carry-ons. With United slicing their carry-ons to 22" and installing steel frames at x-ray security checkpoints at 39 domestic airports to weed out "over sized" carry-ons BEFORE you even get to the gate, seems to have taken the lead in limiting bags.

Another thing most frequent fliers do not realize is that the suggested government regulation for baggage is 3 items TOTAL per passenger, meaning if you check 2, you can only bring aboard 1. United is aggressively enforcing this rule in several airports as well.

But what probably disturbs most of us is the inconsistency of the enforcement. For example, on a recent trip to the Bay Area, I checked three bags (Lightware case, cart and clothes bag) at the UAL ticket counter at Burbank. On the return flight home, when I checked these same items at the ticket counter at SFO, I was dinged $50 for an excess bag (plus the agent was nasty about it).

What up with that?

The old trick of over-tipping (read: bribing) a skycap to get four bags checked is becoming harder to do with more airlines using computerized baggage systems. I recently checked four bags on a trip to Colorado Springs (cart, clothes, Lightware case with Dyna Lites and a lightstand bag) with a generous "tip" to the skycap. When I checked in at the gate, the agent there determined from my computer record that I had checked four and hadn't yet paid the excess bag charges. She let me off the hook for just one over ($50) and with a warning that "big brother" is watching what we check! On the trip home, I shipped the lights and stands via Fed-Ex economy.

Unfortunately this is not going to get better. And it'll probably get worse.

We have to travel lighter, which means we have to travel smarter.

This issue of Sports Shooter is devoted to travel and hopefully will inform, entertain and help you in the future. Below is the printed rules for carry-on and checked baggage for 6 of the largest airlines.

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