Beware of Extra Weight

08/24/2010 05:11 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Josh Troke Medical student, Stanford University School of Medicine

I make it a point to never check luggage at an airport. After a few bad experiences of luggage not showing after connecting flights and even lost luggage entirely, I've made this rule a priority. I'm sure a situation would come up in the future where there was no choice, but even for extended vacations, like this 10-day trip to Italy I was leaving for out of SFO, I would find a way to squeeze everything into a small carry-on piece. By not having to check a bag I skipped the huge lines at the Lufthansa counter and printed my boarding pass from one of their kiosks. I arrived at the boarding gate with plenty of time to spare, my mind already thinking of beautiful beaches and pasta with lots of wine.

"I'm sorry sir but your carry-on bag is 1 kg overweight. We have a limit of 8 kg and your bag weighs 9 kg."

It took me a moment to process. Never once has an airline weighed my carry-on bag. Sure, they've tried to place it in one of those metal bins near the boarding gate to make sure it would fit overhead. For some reason every time they try to place it in the bin it never seems to completely fit, but after a little help from me it squeezes in just fine. But this was different. Now, an agent actually found me waiting at the gate, took my carry-on bag, weighed it, and said I couldn't bring it on until I offloaded 1 kg (about 2.2 lbs). There was no way I could just get rid of 2 pounds of stuff just minutes before boarding, so in pure frustration I ended up just checking the bag (breaking cardinal rule #1) and went on the plane irritated and unhappy about what just took place.

As I went back to my coach seat in the back of the plane I looked in horror as an extremely overweight gentleman was in the seat next to mine, and I could see that even with effort he wouldn't be able to keep his arms confined to just his space seat. Not only would I have to give up my armrest, but also would have to give up about 20% of the left side of my seat space. I could look at it as an extra cushion or pillow to use when falling asleep, but his extra-hairy arms told me that wasn't going to happen.

As I squeezed myself into my seat for this now-to-be uncomfortable 11-hour international flight I thought to myself, "Wow. This guy easily has 200 pounds on me and you made a fuss at the gate about my extra 2 pounds for my carry-on!?"

There's been lots of fuss lately about charging for checked baggage and even recently carry-on items. And there's even been a lot of debate about what to do about obese passengers and how to best handle the situation of passengers taking up more than one seat (remember Kevin Smith?). I know there isn't a perfect solution that will work for every party involved, and I don't pretend to know what the best option is that will cause the least amount of backlash. But all I ask for now is that if you're going to sit me next to a large gentlemen who takes up a portion of my seat (and I doubt anyone made a fuss about him at the ticket counter!), don't harass me at the gate over 2 extra pounds of carry-on luggage.