U.S. Airways collected $516 million in baggage fees in 2012; pas - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

U.S. Airways collected $516 million in baggage fees in 2012; passenger’s video shows luggage left in rain

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PHILADELPHIA -

For airline travelers, it's almost impossible to fly without shelling out at least $25 per bag.

But do those fees mean your bags are being moved with care.

For one passenger at Philadelphia's International Airport - the answer is no.

For the big U.S. air carriers, it's not just passengers in their seats that fuel the bottom line.

It's the baggage in the belly of airliners that push profits.

In fact, last year the airline industry raked-in a stunning $3.4 billion in baggage fees alone.

“In all honesty it's brought the airlines back to profitability,” said Todd Lehmacher, senior communications manager with U.S. Airways.

Which brings us to video shot by a stranded air traveler in Philadelphia's International Airport a little over a week ago.

In a driving rain in the early evening of Sunday, July 28th, two U.s airways baggage handlers are seen pulling luggage from the underbelly of a jetliner.

But they don't place them in a wagon to be hauled off - they toss them to the rain soaked tarmac.

And it's not just a couple of bags, the tape shows eight pieces of luggage, consumers have likely paid at least $25 for, being hurled onto rain-soaked piles.

“It was just like shocking - it was just - you couldn't believe what you were seeing at that moment,” said Matt Wascavage who shot the video.

“Not placed on the ground, literally taken off the conveyor belt and thrown on the ground in the rain - it was a driving rain - those bags were landing in puddles,” Wascavage continued.

Wascavage had plenty of time to record.

Just back from a Maine vacation, he was stuck at the airport while sheets of rain pounded the region, grounding planes.

“Why unload the plane if you're not going to take the bags and bring them in or transfer them to a cart to take them to another plane?” Wascavage said.

He also recorded while a U.S. Airlines worker backed a baggage handling vehicle away for the jet leaving the piles of luggage on the tarmac to be pelted by the rain.

"I think what you observed was not necessarily our employees acting as we'd like them to behave with bags."

Lehmacher says that after U.S Air's Philadelphia Leadership Team viewed the video, it opened an investigation.

He says throwing any item is not acceptable – especially paid baggage.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, last year U.S. Air took in $516 million in baggage fees.

It was the 4th highest of the country's major airlines.

Wascavage says the bags remained uncovered on the tarmac for 30 to 45 minutes until a handler returned to get them.

Lehmacher says the record rainfall on that Sunday caused big problems for the airline and may be the reason the bags were left behind and there was no cart to haul them away.

He says the airline will try to answer those questions in its probe.

He adds this luggage cart seen on tape was likely for bags going to other places.

Douglas Kidd heads the National Association of Airline Passengers, a nonprofit which presses for among other things, changes in airline fee policies.

He believes U.S. Airways should have made sure its workers had a way to protect and move the rain-soaked luggage.

"For them to be out in the rain is one thing. For their not to be a baggage cart to receive the bags off the plane - that to me - is inexcusable," said Kidd.

"U.S. Air is in a business of providing a service and if that's how they provide a service it's certainly not up to par,” said Wascavage.

U.S. Airways says its investigating the tossed bags but it claims its workers did a quote "phenomenal job in the chaos" brought by the weather and that 80 percent of its planes got in the air that day.

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