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Beware of carry-on weight on SAA at Johannesburg airport

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On October 5 my sister and I (two middle-aged women) were flying from Johannesburg to Washington Dulles on South African Airways. At the entrance to passport control in Terminal B, our carry-on bags were weighed by a SAA employee, and we were told that they were over the limit of 8 kg. Our bags were within the size limitations and were only overweight by a small amount. We had already missed our flight the previous day because our SAA connecting flight was late, so all we wanted to do was board our flight. We apologized and explained what was in the bags (my camera and telephoto lens, meds, etc.) and why we couldn’t go back to Terminal A and send them as checked bags as he asked us to do. It was only when my sister had an asthmatic attack and a near medical emergency that an ACSA employee interceded on our behalf, and we were allowed to proceed.

It was certainly an unpleasant experience, but what really concerns me is that I have recently spoken with two friends traveling separately who have also experienced the same situation at the Johannesburg airport during October. One of them offered $5 which was readily accepted. My other friend who is South African said that she was told by the attendants to “persuade us.” She was unaware of the connotation and pleaded with them until they finally let her go through even though her bag weighed 14 kg.

Bottom line: If SAA is going to weigh carry-on bags, why don’t they do it at the check-in counter when it would be possible to remove some things from your carry-on and put them in the checked bags. To be sent back to Terminal A and told to check the entire carry-on is unreasonable as carry-ons contain things that SAA recommends that you do not put in your checked luggage. Also, have the attendants who weigh the bags at the passport control location discovered that people might be willing to pay them off in order to take their carry-ons on the plane. Is this the way SAA is gearing up for the World Cup?

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