Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Woes of the Traveling Hockey Player

I'm flying an airline that shall remain nameless (rhymes with Fourth-Best) for this trip. I had figured I'd pack all my clothes etc in my big hockey bag, check it all and pay a fee for the extra size/weight.

Turns out FourthBest's fee structure is less-than accomodating to people in my position.

While your first checked piece is free, and the second only carries a $25 fee, the third piece (and each piece thereafter) carries a $100 fee automatically.

That initial fee structure assumes that none of the items in question exceeds 50 lbs. or 62 linear (width+height+length) inches. If an item exceeds the weight restriction (to a max of 70 lbs) you pay an additional $50. If an item exceeds the size restriction you pay an additional $100.

All fees are cumulative, and apply to only one of your outbound or return trips. So, your first bag could cost a max of $150, and your second bag could cost a max of $175. That's a total of $325 each way ($750 round trip!!)

While the average flyer would not have much problem with this, the hockey player - particularly the goalie - has a very big (pun intended) problem.

My leg pads alone are 33 inches long and 12 inches wide (probably 10 inches thick at the thickest). So, putting two of them back to back accounts for a good chunk of the 62 linear inches. Then, adding in the gloves, helmet, skates, pants and chest/arm protector - not to mention the unmentionables - and you've got a pile of gear that FAR exceeds the parameters.

And I haven't packed a single article of clothing yet.

My solution was to break the stuff up into two bags, and keep each of them under both size/weight restrictions, meaning I'd only pay $25 each way.

Easier said than done. First, hockey bags with rigid sides/bottoms are automatically out. So I had to go buy a new, soft-sided bag ($35). Then I had to go buy straps to cinch the thing as small as possible. My first trip to buy straps was to EMS where I bought four sets of the longest straps they had ($17 total). My second trip to buy straps (I guess I'm not so good at the math, a 36 inch strap not being nearly long enough to fit around a bag that big) ended up at Home Depot where I bought some packing latch straps ($15, plus $1 for a bag of Skittles).

I got the leg pads, pants, skates and chest/arm protector (plus a couple miscellaneous items) in the big bag, and cinched up with the second set of straps. But I couldn't get it smaller than 67 linear inches. I even tried hurling every curse word I could think of (including some that were made up) at it, to no avail. It's not 50 lbs, but I'm going to be counting on the ticketing agent not measuring it to avoid the $100 fee.

I fit the gloves, the rest of the unmentionables and my clothes into the other bag, staying within the size/weight restrictions - but I couldn't get my helmet in there as well.

And I still haven't mentioned the sticks!

I simply will not pay FourthBest $100 simply to bounce my $100-per goalie sticks around the belly of one of their planes for a few hours. So I have enlisted Dad in St. Paul to go purchase me a new goalie stick ($50) that I will use at camp and then just leave at his house (I wouldn't have been able to buy one between when I land and when I need to use it at 8:30 tomorrow morning at camp.)

So I will be carrying my helmet onto the plane and counting on some overworked, underpaid, oft-abused ticket agent to not take the time to actually measure my bag, and hope that when it weighs less than 50 lbs they only charge me the $25 extra fee. If not, I'm going to be a much poorer and more angry NiNY by the time I get on the plane tonight.



Cortney said...

OMG that's crazy that they charge you that much now just for bringing bags on a plane - especially when that "fee" is originally built into the price of the ticket and they're just looking for extra ways to get money out of the consumer. It would almost be cheaper to just FedEx your stuff here! Where's your tournament at?

AdamBez said...

Have you heard of FedEX?

WRT - Wild Road Tripper said...

I'm sure he had, but probably either didn't think about it or was unsure about their requirements. FedEx and UPS have weight limits, too, but I'd rent goalie equipment from a pee-wee before I paid N-Worst a dime to haul my stuff.

And people wonder why Americans are getting fed up with the airlines in general, and the 'legacy' carriers (NW, Delta, United, American, and USAirways) in particular...