Hello from Queenstown, where you get to wake up to this every morning:

2016-02-28 13.27.44

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies getting here due to a snafu we had at the airport with our checked bags. To put it simply, we ended up shelling out $120/bag per person as the result of a series of mistakes we made.

Let’s start at the beginning. We purchased our tickets through Amex Travel, and we bought them for a Virgin Australia codeshare operated by Air New Zealand. At the time of ticketing, there was a notation saying that checked baggage fees were not charged at the time of booking, but as far as I’ve seen it says that for all tickets, and since it was an international flight, we assumed that a baggage allowance was included in a ticket. Furthermore, Michael has Star Alliance Gold status through a status match to Copa Airlines, which theoretically entitles him to an extra checked bag. So we were doubly good, right?

Note the specific exclusion of Lufthansa Group seat-only fares but no mention of any other airlines.

Note the specific exclusion of Lufthansa Group seat-only fares but no mention of any other airlines.

When we went to access our booking online (a month out, a week out, and a day out), we found that we couldn’t actually do so. We assumed that this was the result of it being a codeshare, so again, we resolved to sort it out at the airport.

That should have set off a red flag or at least convinced us that it might be worth calling Air New Zealand to get everything squared away. Whats more, Air New Zealand is a pretty reputable (read: non-low cost carrier like Spirit or RyanAir) airline, so it was probably fair to expect the same treatment as we’d get with a U.S. domestic carrier.

It was therefore much to our dismay when we were paying for our bags and told that we owed a whopping $360 dollars (I managed to drop enough weight from my bag for it to be considered a carry-on) for our three bags. Not only were bags $120/piece, but also the representative claimed that Michael’s status granted him nothing in the case of a seat-only fare.

What the hell?

Sure enough, here are the terms from Air New Zealand’s website:

NZ *A Gold Benefits

I tried pretty much every trick in the book, saying that we wouldn’t have checked a third bag if we had known Michael wouldn’t get his benefit (which the representative called by basically threatening to go retrieve the bag after it had already been shipped off) as well as checking the price of a normal fare (had it been less than $240, it would actually have been cheaper for Michael to buy a new ticket and take two bags). Moreover, as if to rub it in our face, the rep told us that it would have been only $55 to buy the bags online (as it turns out, she’s wrong about this — we would have had to first upgrade to a normal fare from a seat-only fare and then purchased the bags).

Seat-only fares cannot purchase extra bags at the normal rate.

Seat-only fares cannot purchase extra bags at the normal rate.

Frustrated, but without other options, we forked over the money. But as annoying as it was, we didn’t dwell on it. After all, we’re in one of the most beautiful parts of the world that any of us have ever been to, and we’re all together.

In sum, be careful when booking through third parties, especially with foreign carriers and particularly now that United and Delta are/have rolled out equivalent no-frills fares, but don’t beat yourself up over it if you miss something. Because even we make mistakes sometimes…

Happy travels!