Woman “trapped” in airport for eight days over baggage fees

There’s an interesting story making the rounds in the “news” (in the age of Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage, can you really call it that?) the past couple of days about a lady that was “trapped” in San Francisco Airport for eight days.

She wanted to start a “new life” so booked a ticket on US Airways with (supposedly) only $30 to her name. When she went to check-in with US Airways they wanted to charge her $60 for her two checked bags, which is money she didn’t have. Apparently she booked her ticket through Orbitz which didn’t at the time disclose checked bag fees (new regulations require that they do), and she apparently hasn’t flown for five years, so wasn’t aware there were fees to check a bag.

Because she wasn’t able to pay the checked bag fees she missed her flight, and as a result had to pay $150 to change her flight, making the expenses total $210.

She was subsequently “trapped” in the airport for eight days, before an airport church offered to chip in to pay for her fees.

If the story is as simple as it sounds on the surface then I feel bad for her. It’s unfortunate that at the time third party booking sites didn’t disclose bag fees. At the same time, you don’t have to be a frequent flyer to know about bag fees — if you ever watch TV, read a newspaper, or browse the internet you’ll see there’s a story about them just about every day. Furthermore, she could have checked US Airways’ website to see baggage regulations, as they lay it all out pretty clearly on their website. Still, none of that is her fault if she legitimately didn’t know about the fees.

But I still have so many questions about this story:

  • She called all her friends and relatives and no one was able to pay her $60 in fees given the urgency of the situation?
  • She asked if she could pay the fees when she arrived at her destination. If she didn’t have the money and none of her friends or relatives had the money, how was she planning on paying?
  • I understand circumstances can be dire, but how do you plan on starting a “new life” with $30 in your pocket? Surely it can’t make sense to move to a new place and leave the area you’re familiar with if you have nothing?
  • Looking at her in the video, it looks like she could have carried on one of those bags, which makes me wonder if this was all for nothing?

Look, I feel bad, but the skeptic in me thinks there’s more to the story. But I don’t know what the motive could possibly be. Watching the video with her interview makes me even more skeptical.

What do you guys think? Did she legitimately not know about checked bag fees? If she didn’t, does she have any fault in the situation for not checking the airline’s website?

One thing’s for sure — the fact that every headline reads she was “trapped” in an airport is ridiculous.

Filed Under: Media
  1. Absolutely ridiculous… Can’t say I have too much sympathy for her.

    However, I did think it was funny when she kept going in the First Class line at the ticket counter… hehehe

  2. this lady is an imbecile who does not deserve to be in the news. the only people i feel bad for are the poor agents who had to deal with her idiocy.

  3. Has she been living under a rock for the past 5 years? Even if she hadn’t set foot on a plane, it seems like mainstream news outlets do pieces on rising airline fees at least monthly. There quite hard to miss…

  4. We often forget that not everyone is as fortunate as we are. Let’s not judge her. Here are some things that could have happened:

    1. SF is not her hometown. She went to SF for a job, a dream, or a guy, and it didn’t work out. Maybe she lost her job or house and she’s going back to her parents.
    2. Not everyone is blessed with lots of good friends with money to spare. Maybe she didn’t have any real friends in SF.
    3. None of her friends/family could lend her the money in time for her not to miss the original flight.
    4. She wanted to dump the big bag but they wouldn’t let her citing a security violation. She could have been creative here.

    Here’s the shocker: Not everyone is aware of airline rules as simple as this one. Some might not even know about frequent flyer programs, oh the humanity!

  5. Something as important as flying for the first time (or at least it’s something she does VERY infrequently), you’d think she would try to find out some information. Its not like she couldn’t afford the internet – she did book on orbitz… Surely the ignorant still know how to google…

  6. She doesn’t look homeless or anything. There’s no way she could come up with an extra $30?

    You’d think she’d have a credit card? If she needs one, she should sign up for the Amex Gold Rewards 75K sign up bonus. Then she’d have enough miles to fly a lot.

  7. I’m telling you, this whole thing stinks to high-heaven. First, she was traveling in April… 6 months ago. So either the video footage is 6 months old, or they brought her to an airport and shot footage of her. The story mentions “she was stuck in this terminal,” thus making me think she’s back at SFO. I guess if the footage was new, that would explain why she doesn’t look like she only has $30 to her name and that she must have been using different bags because without a doubt one of those could have fit in an overhead. So what, did they fly her back from Idaho for this story? She must have really turned things around.

    Also, if she booked on Orbitz, obviously she must have booked with a credit or debit card. So she got rid of those before she travelled?

    What about good old-fashioned begging? If a woman was at an airport and desperate for $30 to get on a plane to start a new life, I would have helped her out, and I’m sure she could have found a generous soul there. It is San Francisco after all.

    Also, she made some calls which makes me believe she has/had a cell phone. Surely that cell phone monthly bill was at least $30 a month.

    I don’t know. Things just aren’t adding up, and I don’t like it one bit!

  8. not everyone has access to the internet or watches TV, much less pays attention to these things. i actually know many people in this situation, they are not stupid they are just not clever about working the system as people who read these blogs. so maybe she had help, us air is a crappy, almost ryan air kinda airline, just got off a trip with 0 benifits as a star gold so i can understand

  9. If I were approached by somebody with such a story, AND THEY DIDN’T WANT ME TO GIVE THEM CASH BUT INSTEAD GO WITH THEM TO THE TICKET COUNTER, I’d consider helping them out for karma. (If they wanted cash, heck no!)

  10. Really disappointed in some comments above. I hate to tell you this but there are plenty of people down on their luck… that don’t have a clue about the travel world.
    How often have we read on this forum that a parent or friend had no idea about something or other.

  11. I do sympathize if she truly wasn’t aware. Yeah it’s easy to judge but there are people who haven’t flown in a long time and news bits on airline fees probably don’t catch your eye if you’re not a regular. Now I sympathize, but I don’t think US could’ve done anything different since their rules are consistent for everyone.

    It does seem odd that she booked online but didn’t have a credit card available. But who knows, maybe she was leaving an abusive relationship and didn’t have a card of her own to take with her; maybe she was just an clueless; who knows – with these news stories you never really see the whole story.

    I would’ve tried some begging if it were me – I would’ve paid her extra $30 fee if she had asked.

    I’m actually surprised SFO doesn’t have a Traveler’s Aid or similar. While they wouldn’t have paid her bag fee, they could’ve helped point her to some sort of aid group for temporary shelter or whatnot.

  12. I don’t want to comment on the story itself but I am incredibly surprised that US travel booking sites are not disclosing baggage fees and making it clear what they are with each option offered. Australian booking sites have been doing this for ages indicating that Qantas flights include 1 free bag and indicating the additional fee payable if you book cheaper fares with Virgin Australia.

    It’s not difficult, so why don’t they do it.

  13. Why couldn’t she just exit the airport outside the view of US Airways, walk to a trash can and empty her bag and/or discard it?

  14. ever seen the food people leave? lots of people dont cleam up and dont eat everything. when u need to survive u do what u have to do

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