PHOENIX - A new report by the state Department of Weights and Measures shows some Arizona travelers may have been cheated at the airport.
Kevin Tyne, the agency's director, said his inspectors found that nearly one of every four scales used by airlines at Sky Harbor, Tucson International and Phoenix Mesa Gateway airports were out of compliance with state regulations.
Tyne acknowledged some of these were technical, like failing to post notices of exactly how much extra it costs when a bag is considered overweight. But he said inspectors also found scales that were not working right.
And while some of the weight errors were in the traveler's favor, some were not.
Tyne said that can be critical - and expensive.
He said airlines charge anywhere from $50 to $100 for every bag that clocks in at more than 50 pounds. And those who travel heavy - 70 pounds or more per bag - can face additional charges of up to $200.
At the very least, Tyne said, travelers need to know what they're facing.
"Some of the airlines were not putting the charge for the overweight bags" next to the scales as is required in Arizona, he said.
But inspectors also found inaccurate scales, determined by certified weights that his agency uses.
Shawn Marquez, the agency's compliance director, said the simplest thing for travelers to do is use their own bathroom scales to try to keep their bags underweight.
It gets a little stickier if the airport scale records a higher number.
Marquez said travelers should first make sure that the airline's scale resets to zero. If it does - and if the bag still comes in heavier than anticipated - then speak up.
"What you can do is say, 'Reweigh this thing for me, check it again,' " he said. "That means pulling the bag completely off, not just moving it around, pulling it off until you see zero, and double check it."
Marquez said a passenger who is still not satisfied should pay the overage and call his agency. If his inspectors find a problem, Marquez said, that could be the basis for the traveler to seek a refund.
While it's up to the airlines to ensure scale accuracy at all times, Marquez said it's not surprising that some of them get out of whack.
"Those scales take an absolute beating," he said. "If you watch when you're at the airport, people are just throwing those bags on there."
Marquez said the other problem is that ticket agents, in helping customers put their bags on the scales, actually walk on them.
"Well, they weren't designed to be walked on or dumped on," he said.