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January 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 25, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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$350 to Fly with a Pony Bottle?

from the January, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Frequent Undercurrent contributor Lawrence Schnabel had plans to fly from Los Angeles to North Carolina for a dive trip, only to find that his baggage charges would be about the same as his ticket.

“I flew on Delta for a dive trip in North Carolina. I had planned to take a 13 cu-ft., eight-pound pony bottle because the dives would exceed 100 feet in depth. I have never been charged extra when I pack my pony in my dive bag but Delta’s Web site said any scuba tank would be charged $175 to transport. I phoned Delta to see if this included pony bottles. Yes, indeed -- and the Delta rep said the $175 fee was each way, $350 total! As the North Carolina dive shop had no ponies to rent, I shipped mine via UPS but paid $91 because I needed it to arrive in four days.”

Other airlines also slap a high price on a pony bottle. American Airlines charges $100, United charges $175. Head to Asia and the charges rise as high as $250. And yes, these fees are for each flight leg.

So if you want to tote a tank, check the airline’s policy before you go. Or, says Schnabel, “You can risk packing the pony in a dive bag and pray the check-in person does not bring up the exorbitant charge. But you may have nowhere to store it at the airport if you’re asked to pay up.” Forget about bringing it as a carry-on item -- airline reps told us no air tanks, even small ones, are allowed through the security line.

As for shipping ahead, an eight-pound pony bottle going cross-country runs about $50 on second-day delivery by FedEx, UPS and the post office. If you’re diving in Micronesia, an American territory, the postal service charges $17.15 for three-day USPS Priority Mail, while UPS charges $230 for five-day shipping. A five-pound box to the Caymans is $86 for USPS, $112 via UPS, and it will take five days to get there.

As for other baggage, there are plenty of overage charges. On a recent flight, I had four pounds too much in my one checked bag, so Delta wanted $150 extra. I removed two books and carried them by hand.

- - Ben Davison

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