The 50-Gram Standoff: A Traveler’s Clever Revenge Against Airline Baggage Fees

Most checked bags in the U.S. are limited to 50 pounds. Anything heavier than that and you’ll pay extra. First and business class passengers, and those with elite status, may be allowed 70 pounds.

When you approach the check-in counter, and they weigh your bags, they might suggest that you do a little bit of rearranging if a piece of your luggage is overweight. Maybe you can move some items, wear a piece of clothing, or stick something into your carry on. But if you don’t have another bag?

A story of how one passenger in Europe handled this is getting attention and it’s rather sweet revenge on the airline.

The passenger doesn’t share the airline, but explains that they arrived at the airport check-in counter and discovered that their bag weighted 23.05kg (the limit is 23kg, similar to 50 pounds). He was asked to pay an overweight bag fee over 50 grams.

I was quite pleased with myself while looking at it, thinking I got it just right, but NO, the woman tells me I need to pay 50€ for excess baggage. I look at her confused, telling her it’s 50 grams, surely it doesn’t matter, she repeats herself and we start arguing until she says: “Either you pay 50€ or you somehow make the luggage 50g lighter”. (I didn’t have a carry on so I couldn’t take anything with me).

My first thought was, how sure is the airline that its scale is so well calibrated to say the bag is 50 grams over? Wouldn’t it be better to give the passenger a pass than to get weight and measure bureaucrats involved in their transaction?

But the passenger decided to take a different approach, pulling 200 grams of chocolate out of their bag. They just looked at the agent and smiled. And started eating chocolate.

I open the luggage, take the chocolate out and start nibbling at it with a grin on my face while looking at the woman, who goes from pikachu face to annoyed. She tells me to hurry up (even though I was the only one in line) so I offered her some and she just stared at me.

After eating 50 grams of chocolate – maybe they could have just stuck it in their pocket? – they were down to 23kg for their checked bag and they were on their way.

When a group of young women were confronted by the TSA’s 3.4 ounce (100 milliliter) liquid rule, they took a similar approach and pre-gamed at the checkpoint.

A check-in agent might solicit you for a bribe to waive the fee. Hopefully TSA will not.

If I’m spending miles for an international business or first class award ticket, and I have to buy a separate ticket to reach the international departure city (there are only a handful of long haul flights from my home airport in Austin), I prefer flying American Airlines over Southwest if the trip is more than two week. That’s because my elite status will let me bring a 70 pound bag, and I don’t have to worry about my wife and daughter going over the limit. Southwest gives each passenger two bags, but neither can be over 50 pounds without a fee.

I’m always going to have a carry on bag. I can always add a layer of clothes. If I’m close, I’m not paying $100 extra. But if I’m close, the agent probably isn’t really enforcing the fee anyway, and the airline scale probably isn’t accurate enough to make the case for fee over 50 grams. I’d also add that avoiding overweight bag fees is almost literally what sky caps (who do work in part for tips) are for.

(HT: Paul H)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I was stopped by airport security and not allowed to bring a small pair of scissors. That was within specifications of the TSA but not by that country. They allowed me to check it in. However, the airline said it would cost over US$100 to do so. Rather than pay, I hid the scissors in the airport and retrieved it a week later when passing through airport and put it in my checked bags.

  2. That 100ml idiotic rule was created by idiot US officials, shoes off in security to add. TSA is incapable to find guns but are eager to enforce those idiotic rules. Same comes to Europeans and other countries whose adapted that 100ml rule. Fortunately at least two countries officials do have brains. Can take 5 bottles per 1l max to flights in Brazil and 5 bottles per 750ml max in Colombia. No one is afraid and trusting own citizens and visitors. Now, even in HEL you can take bigger quantities through security control.

  3. I carry hand luggage scales with me when traveling. I am more than happy to argue about their inaccurate scales. We can do it in pounds or kilograms. Many times the scales are accurate. If they are inaccurate, it is usually on the airlines side but sometimes on my side. I check my hand scales against my doctor’s balance beam scale (that I bought) that I have at home and usually pack at least a quarter pound light.

  4. Was at CPH very recently and the regular screening line was getting on the case of a person who was traveling alone but had two 3-1-1 bags. They wanted the person to toss or consolidate the items somehow into a single one-liter bag. I told the traveler that I can help win the war on water and other harmless liquids/gels/aerosols and just toss the other bag into my bin. The screener didn’t know what to make of it but eventually smiled when realizing I was without any 3-1-1 bag.

  5. Was flying some airline where the baggage weight limit was 50lbs for me but I was allowed two checked bags. I show up at check-in with a bag weighing 50.4-51.8 lbs and they insist I get dinged for overweight bag fees. I pull out a duffel bag from within the suitcase, move over about ten pounds of clothes and was good to go. The flight was delayed due to tech problems and on arrival at the destination where I am to claim the checked bags, the second bag is very slow to hit the belt and I end up missing my onward connecting UA flight back to DC ultimately because of slow baggage delivery. I file for EC 261/2004 delay compensation and get the equivalent of €600 electronically deposited into my account. If it weren’t for that second checked bag, I likely would have made the last flight back to the DC area for the night and not cared to claim under EC 261/2004.

  6. Was allowed 2 bags on a Delta JNB-ATL. One had like 10kg in it, the other came in .4kg over. I was in a wheelchair having broken 4 ribs and the guy became obnoxious about me redoing my luggage.

    Fortunately a senior clerk intervened, said the guy was new, fussed at him and sent me on my way.

    Seriously he wanted me to get up, grab the bags and rebalance everything? Over .4kg when I was a total of 25kg under?

  7. When obnoxious check in agents yell at me, I get scared and start moving v…e….r…..y…..s….l…..o…w….l….y.

  8. Nice to see you embracing GenAI for your image creation, Gary! Aside from the occasional extra appendage that pops up like the in the image for this post, I’ve found it pretty useful (and fun).

  9. What is up with the nightmare fuel picture accompanying the article? Stop using AI generated pictures, that is just disturbing.

  10. Airline baggage scales are considered commercial devices in the United States and are subject to regulatory compliance. This means the scales need to be certified as accurate by the appropriate Weights and Measures authority. Seals of Approval are placed in close proximity to the scale readout. If the scales are not sealed, I would not consider them to be accurate, and would dispute any baggage weight just over the weight limit.

  11. I would like to know how many luggage can I take with me to Spain on American airlines because I am moving there and taking two large bags which I know I will be paying extra and three small dogs in cages to go in cargo..

  12. Reminds me of my own malicious compliance on my first international flight. Was flying out of LHR and had purchased a bottle of hard cider at the duty free shop, but no one told me about it needing to stay in the bag. Took it out to drink on the flight (which I also didn’t realize wasn’t allowed, oops) but didn’t realize the cap wasn’t twist off. No bottle opener, so I put it back in my backpack. Got stopped at the re-screen in the states on my layover and had a big oops moment that I couldn’t go through security with it. Already rechecked my bags, so what to do? got out of line, used a metal button on my jacket to pull at the cap till it came open, and drank the whole thing right in front of the security officers, even toasted them. popped the empty bottle into my bag as a souvenir and went through no questions asked.

  13. Why did you use awful AI art of a disturbing man with three arms for the thumbnail on this article? Please pay a real artist

  14. The scales are not necessarily accurate. In Hawaii, waiting to check our bags, there was a scale in line that put one bag at 49lbs, the other at 45lbs. At the counter, the first bag weighed 51lb and the other 44lbs. I pointed out the discrepancy to the attendant and she said that “all the scales” were checked daily for accuracy (something that was patently untrue). So we moved a pair of jeans from one suitcase to the other, they now weighed 43lbs and 51lbs. I pointed out that the jeans lost a pound being moved from one bag to the other. She was not amused and I ended up carrying the offending garment onto the plane.

  15. I was traveling TPA to NWI a few months ago on DL/KL. KL silver so can take 3 bags. 3rd one was a carryon but I thjought I’d check it. DL in TPA said nope, gonna cost $200 to check it to NWI. I declined. Got to the gate and, as the agent was asking for people to check carryons, I asked him if I could check it to NWI. No problem. One hand etc.

  16. I always take a digital scale with me on my carry on. I make sure all of my luggage/carry on (if needed) is within the allowed limits. Saves time and hassles.

  17. I agree with the sky cap comment at the end of the article.

    Reminds me when I was heading back to college many years ago after some holiday break. I had probably ten bankers boxes of stuff. It was a long time ago and I have no idea why that’s what I packed in. Anyway, my dad gave a sky cap maybe $40 and all my boxes flew.

  18. So who is THEY? The passenger in this story is one person singular and THEY is a completely inappropriate pronoun to describe said passenger as ‘THEY’ is a pronoun meant to describe more than one person, place or thing. HE or SHE would be correct but as we still don’t know ‘which’ of the two genders the person is then ‘IT’ would be more appropriate but if IT seems rude then simply use ‘person’ or ‘passenger’ and leave out the pronoun altogether. Anything is better and more correct that using THEY to incorrectly describe something that isn’t plural! SILLY WOKE BASTEDS!!

  19. Once had an AA counter agent tell me I was 7 lbs overweight. Since I weigh barely 100 lbs and she was a bit hefty I looked at her and said I’d be embarrassed to tell me that. She got flustered and immediately said “oh, not you, it’s your luggage.” I said that was good because I was going to have a to talk to my doctor since he told me not to lose any weight! She laughed then decided to let me pass on the extra charge for the 7 lbs.

  20. The part that’s the most hysterical about this is that the weight is still on the plane. The chocolate’s not in the suitcase, it’s in the passengers.

  21. Had same .5 problem recently. I, too, was perplexed bc I was allowed THREE bags and was only checking 1. So I took out my ‘just in case duffle’ which I always carry in my ONE suitcase and put in a pair of jeans. Seriously. Zipped up the offending .5 duffle and checked it. Problem solved. Also someone above commented about hiding the scissors. My brother faced same problem with his lucky tiny pen knife – one inch blade keychain. He went to the smokers area outside at LAX and buried in the planter. When he returned he simply dug it up. Love the people who gave shots to people at the airport!

  22. I understand 50 grams sounds petty, and it is, but that just raises the question of what the limit actually is. If you let one passenger have a bag of 50 grams over the limit, shouldn’t you then let a bag that is 100 grams over the limit since it is only 50 grams more than the person with the 23.05 kgm bag previously allowed. And then shouldn’t you let a person who is 150 grams over since it is only an additional 50 grams over the last one? Unfortunately, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Since most airlines allow you to readjust your luggage or take something out such as taking the chocolate out and sticking it in his pocket as you allude to doing, being a sarcastic passenger eating some of the chocolate and putting it back in the bag is not something to be applauded. Rules are rules, even though they seem stupid and petty.

  23. Union contract rules require two rampers to lift a bag if it is over 50lbs. That is why the weight matters. It has to be tagged that way.

  24. Never yell at the low paid peon. If you’ve never had a job like that then just know that it is hell. They’re just trying to keep their jobs. The only choices they’re given are to either enforce the rules as they’ve been instructed, or get fired. It’s cruel to yell at them. The people you want to yell at are in distant offices, don’t shoot the messenger. Check your privilege and be grateful that aren’t in their side of the counter.

  25. Just to clarify for some of you saying the same amount of weight goes on the plane, indeed it does. But the weight restrictions are in place for baggage handler safety. There are regulations about how 50-70 lb bags are handled to avoid worker injury. Would you rather load a 10 lb bag and a 50 lb bag? Or two that are 30 lbs each?

  26. The problem is employees have been handcuffed and are not allowed to buse judgement. It’s frustrating, also stupid. Just play along, the poor bastards are frustrated too.

  27. as an airline agent I think 50 gr is petty! to answer another person we make good money! we are paid well and the perks are awesome! I dont agree with many rules but I have to comply them also U SA and Europe have diferents rules ,in usa is per passenger per bag 50lb in europe allowance is per total weight,regardless of how many bags.

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