Article

Preposterous Excess Baggage Fees Prompt A Letter Of Thanks?

| posted on July 22, 2010

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am typing this letter to thank you for the profound service you have done me personally by raising the fee to transport surfboards on your United Airline flights.

You see, as a surfer, and the managing editor of the world’s leading surf publication, SURFER Magazine, I had somehow lost sight of just how vital a simple surfboard is to my pursuit. United Airlines’ revised fee structure reminded me of its significance.

Advertisements in magazines (my own included) have placed a premium on what we in the industry term “soft goods.” Items such as clothing, sunglasses and wetsuits are thrust on surfers and have, in many ways, distracted us from the reality that without surfboards, there would be no surfing at all. However, by charging a premium fee to carry surfboards, United Airlines has reminded me of the importance of my board.

Recently, the demands of my job required that I fly to the north shore of Oahu–widely considered to be surfing’s Mecca. My plane ticket from Los Angeles to Honolulu (UA 81 14/12/08) cost me a total of $314. The fee for me to bring my surfboards along was $700 ($175 per board X 2 boards = $350 each way). Therefore according to United, my surfboard is more valuable as an entity than I (a human being, I feel compelled to remind you) am. While some might consider this insulting, I am of the opinion that this is fairly accurate; as a lifelong surfer, my surfboard has become more a part of my life than anything else, and considering my line of work, the surfboard allows me to provide for my wife and small dog.

The message from United Airlines HQ is clear: “Don’t take your surfboard for granted.”

It is obvious to me that the person who decides on the excess baggage fees at United Airlines holds surfboards in the highest regard. He or she must be a surf purist; someone who believes that the surfboards are more important than any of the other things that advertisements have us chasing.
More important, even, than the person who owns the board.

It’s a bold statement to be sure, and I can’t help admire the passion. Especially when you consider the following:

  • My boards weigh less than I do (28.3 times less, in fact)
  • My boards do not require a comfortable seat en route to Honolulu.
  • My boards do not need to watch the in-flight entertainment.
  • My boards will not take advantage of the complimentary soft drink service.

No, my board does not need any of those things, and contrary to any logic the person in charge of luggage fees has deemed the transportation cost of my surfboard to Honolulu more expensive than the cost to transport my person.

The message from United Airlines HQ is clear: “Don’t take your surfboard for granted.” Your fee structure taught me that lesson. It was an expensive lesson, but those are generally the ones you remember the longest. It is a lesson that the young gentleman in front of me at the check-in counter won’t forget either. His tears over the fact that he would have $175 less to spend on his vacation, assured me of that fact.

Naturally, since the lesson is learned, its doubtful I will need to be re-taught it. And while I am grateful to you, I am requesting that I be exempt from any future “lessons”. Failing that, I may have to consider bringing my wife along to Honolulu on my next trip instead of my surfboard, since her ticket would cost less than my baggage fees would. I am sure that my wife would appreciate the vacation time. .

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Brendon Thomas
Managing Editor?
SURFER Magazine?
33046 Calle Aviador?San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675?
www.surfermag.com

HEARTFELT REPLY FROM UNITED AIRLINES CUSTOMER RELATIONS:

Dear Mr. Thomas,
I regret to learn about your disappointment with fee for taking ?surfboards.

Mr. Thomas, most airlines base fees on the cost of doing business at a ?realistic profit. Since our customers need specific services for a ?variety of reasons, we consider such factors as customer demand, type of ?service needed, as well as the fees charged by our competitors. Please ?be assured, we will be monitoring this situation closely because we want ?to ensure everyone is treated fairly. Still, your comments are ?important to us and I will share your concerns with our Baggage? Management Team, as well as our Reservations Management Team for their ?review of the product.

Feedback from our valuable customers such as? yourself are taken into consideration when we review our policies.?? You are important for United. I hope you will give us an opportunity to? renew a positive and valued relationship with you.

Regards,
Amit Madan?
United Airlines Customer Relations

  • Adam

    A very well worded letter Brendon, thank you for refreshing my initial reaction.
    An update from November 2012, United Airlines’ value of the surfboard currently stands at $200 each way.
    Perhaps there is an opportunity for local shapers setting up store at arrival lounges across the UA network!
    Kind regards,
    Adam

  • brian wilkinson

    Nice one Brendon I have the same problem transporting a bodyboard to Portugal via TAP Portugal. 50 Euros each way!.Portugal being the European mecca of surfing. Its a captive audience.Whats the point of owning a decent board if it becomes too expensive to take it.Maybe a concerted effort by the surfing media to highlight the unfairness. surfers bring revenue to these countries. I was in two minds wether to go to Newquay in Cornwall rather than travel abroad. Maybe this will make my mind up next holiday. Cheers Brian