If you’re flying between the United States and Latin America or the Caribbean, you’d better pack light. Why? It’s December.
This is a policy that airlines don’t really publicize, and it’s doubtful that many people get a call or e-mail about this before it’s too late. But every year, usually on December 1, airlines start putting strict limits on the amount of baggage you can check if you are traveling to the warmer climates of the Americas.
Why? Apparently, passengers traveling to and from these countries are packing so heavily, the planes can’t accomodate all that baggage, along with a planeload of passengers. So they slap on a limit, and adhere to it strictly.
In most cases, the holiday baggage rule states that passengers can check two bags, but no overweight bags or additional bags. Not even for an additional fee. If you arrive with overweight suitcases and want to check the bag, you’ll have to take something out and leave it behind. Ouch.
This latter point is what catches most people by surprise, usually at the last minute, at the airport. And then they’re pissed off.
It’s a widespread practice, with minor variations. December 1 to January 10 is a common range of dates for these more draconian rules, but it’s different at every airline. For example, it kicks off on November 15 at Delta. On United, it starts on the first Sunday in December each year.
But one thing is common: Unless you’re a seasoned veteran, traveling in this timeframe between these regions, you’re in for a surprise if you packed heavily.
My seventy year old Father in-law is heading back to Jamaica today and was told that one of his bags was overweight. Not a problem right? He will simply pay the extra charge and continue on his way.
Unbeknownst to the consumer, beginning TODAY, December 1st (try to find this on their website luggage section), Spirit Airlines has suspended carrying ANY overweight luggage (51 lbs +) during the Holiday season.
So, this wheelchair ridden man is in the process of emptying his suitcase to rid the 18 pounds he is overweight AND waiting for my sister in-law to retrieve the items (they will not store or hold the items until someone can come to the airport). Whilst on the phone moments ago with the “Customer Service Representative” at the check-in counter, I said “Where is this written?” to which she replied, “Our policy is subject to change at anytime”.
Spirit Airlines gets WORSE and WORSE by the moment!!!
While Spirit Airlines is easy to flog for its litany of customer-unfriendly policies, this isn’t unique to them. And in fact, perhaps in response to angry calls and e-mails, Spirit has posted their holiday baggage rules at the top of their FAQ.
I’ve done a quick search and found the rules for Spirit, American, Delta, Continental, and United. For other airlines, search for “holiday baggage” or “excess baggage Latin America” on an airline’s site to find it.
(That search also yielded a page on Delta’s site explaining the process for checking a Christmas tree as luggage. I’m not kidding.)
But passengers shouldn’t have to go through this rigmarole. The restrictions should be readily explained to all passengers traveling in that time, and not buried deep on an airline’s website. Once again, the airlines have found a way to piss off the consumer and create bad will. Wonders never cease.
Pack light, folks.