There has been much written about the on-going scams that occur at Bangkok’s International Airport and travellers need to be very wary when entering and leaving the country. One that is not widely written about is the Excess Baggage Scam. If the check-in desk is manned by Thai staff then beware, this was how I was caught out, and it was a very costly experience.
I arrived, on the Wednesday morning, for my flight with plenty of time to spare as I had to see the Airport Quarantine in order to get an export licence for Missy Fleur. I took my bags to the left luggage area before going to the Quarantine office, they weigh the bags when you check them in and give you a receipt, the total combined weight of the bags was 30 kilos.
I had contacted Siberian Airlines, the airline I was booked to travel with, in regards to excess baggage costs on the Monday, so I was aware the cost of excess baggage was 19 Euros per kilo. I had estimated that I had about 10 kilos of excess baggage – this equated to a little over 8,000 TBH. The dog was an addition cost, you pay regular excess baggage charges for carrying a pet. She had just been weighed at the Airport Quarantine, and I had asked if I could also weigh her in her bag, she and the bag totalled 4 kilos, so I knew I was up for another 3,500 TBH. From my calculations I made it a total of about 12,000 TBH.
When I arrived at the check-in counter they weighed the bags and told me the total was 37 kilos, I was 17 kilos over the allowed limit. I was surprised as I had weighed the bags when I took them to the left luggage and the total combined weight was 30 kilos.
They then weighed the dog and said she was 6 kilos. I queried this immediately and showed them the form from the Quarantine office which stated her weight at 3.5 kilos so it did not make any sense that they were weighing her at 6 kilos. They weighed her again and said OK to the 4 kilos for her. A dog weighing 6 kilos is required to travel in the hold, they must be under 5 kilos to travel in the cabin.
Then they told me the price was 20,000 TBH for the bags and 5,500 TBH for the dog. So I was being charged at 6.5 kilos for the dog and I now apparently had 23 kilos of additional luggage not the original 17 they had stated. They then informed me that this was the cost just to get to Khabarovsk airport and then I would have to pay again for the second leg of the trip to Yuzhno and that the cost went up at Khabarovsk as it was a domestic leg of the trip and so the baggage allowance was lower and my cost would be more, they suggested about 40, 000 THB for the bags and another 5,500 for the dog. They also suggested that if I paid them for both legs of the trip they would do it for 50,000 TBH (US1,560) and thus saving me 1,000 TBH. Of course I queried this as it was the same airline and I was merely transiting, why was I paying twice?
I immediately went to check the prices to ship the goods separately which had to be done through an alternate independent office. They could not do it as they apparently only ship to Moscow, I then went to the post office and elected to send 20 kilo by mail as that had a flat rate of 8,000 TBH, given that I was only 10 kilos over weight, but they insisted that it was 17 (but were charging me for 23!) I elected to take this option. Two of the airline check-in staff then approached me in the post office and said I would need to use two 20 kilo boxes because I was 37 kilos over weight. What? What happened to me 20 kilo free allowance, it seemed to have evaporated.
I put the bags on the scales at the post office with the Airline staff still standing there and asked them why the bags were showing as only 10 kilos over weight and yet they were claiming 17 and now 37 kilos- standard answer was given, ‘Mistake’. Meaning the post office scales were incorrect. I immediately unpacked the box and repacked the bag.
The nightmare got worse when they told me that they would not accept my credit card as payment for the excess, they would only accept cash. This is always a good sign in Thailand that they are scamming you, they take the money and pocket it. On the way back to the check in counter I stopped at the British Airways desk and asked them if they accepted credit cards for excess baggage payments, of course they did, and I also checked with the Emirates staff and the reply was the same. Of course both these airlines have staff from the country of origin of the airline, whereas S7 relies on local Thai staff.
I knew I was being scammed and not matter what I said or did they insisted that I pay 50,000 TBH up front or I would not be allowed on the flight. I rang a friend who speaks fluent Thai and asked for help, he spoke to them and he said that they had set a price and if I did not pay I was not flying. He suggested that I leave one bag at left luggage and arrange for it to be shipped later. I had another friend offer to just pay the bill and argue about it later, she was standing at the bank ready to transfer the cash to them immediately. This was declined as the money would be traceable by going into one of their accounts and they kept insisting cash only, cash only. They even suggested to my friend that she transfer the money to me by Western Union, in my name, and then I could give them cash! When I refused this they told me the flight was closed and so I was too late.
I have been travelling my whole life and I have regularly had to pay for excess baggage and this is the first time that I have ever been told that they will not take a Credit Card. I have also never had an airline suggest that the only form of payment accepted is cash. This is, after all, an international airport, and there are few of those that do not accept credit card payments, or provide the ability to direct debit monies into their account.
Of course I missed the flight, and I promptly sat down and cried – always a good release after such a frightful afternoon. I then went in search of a taxi to take me back to my dear friend in Chonburi, without her I would have been a homeless woman, she deserves a big gold star for putting up with me.
Needless to say my new boss was pretty upset by all this, he had also offered to pay the excess via credit card via phone, and been refused. So the ticket needed to be transferred and the penalty paid, which was, of course, my cost. A new ticket was issued in Russia and it clearly stated that the cost for the dog, and any excess baggage, is paid once and once only.
One of the reasons that I left Thailand was because of the appalling corruption and the constant need to pay bribes for the most minor things, and there is no doubt in my mind that they saw me as someone that could be scammed as I was a woman travelling alone. I reweighed the bags before I left the airport that day and sure enough, I had 30 kilos of luggage and the dog and her bag weighed 4 kilos.
Interestingly I spoke with a lovely Russian lass I had met at the Quarantine office the day after this fiasco. She has been working for a tour company in Pattaya for a number of years. I had posted a FB message that I was still in Thailand and she wanted to know why. I explained what had gone on, and a couple of hours later she told me she had since spoken to some Russian people that were subjected to exactly the same thing on the same flight. They were charged exorbitant rates for excess baggage, one fellow paid 90,000 TBH for what they said was 20 kilos over. He paid it but was asking his travel agent in Russia to look into it. The problem is that if you pay it you will never get it back. They will deny everything and it will go around in an endless circle of changing answers and ‘Misunderstanding….’