Skip to comments.Airline Confiscates Empty Cigar Lighters Packed in Checked Luggage
Posted on 06/08/2003 1:05:01 PM PDT by ml/nj
Something Special in the Air
I am sitting on American Airlines Flight 1844, to Chicago from Santa Ana, Calif., as I write this story, and I am trying to control my rage. A Screwdriver has helped take off the edge.
About 30 minutes ago, American Airlines agents took two empty S.T. Dupont X-tend lighters out of my checked-in bag, and said that they needed to be destroyed. They claimed they were "dangerous goods" that could endanger the lives of my fellow travelers -- apparently the equivalent of weapons of mass destruction in today's airline world.
I was actually at the gate waiting for the flight when my name was called over the loudspeaker. "Sir, they have found two cigarette lighters in your bag and they need to be destroyed," said a woman who was working the check-in desk, rather officiously.
"Those two lighters are worth about $300," I said. "You can't just destroy them."
"I suggest you go and speak to the American Airlines employee who checked you in, but I think that you might miss your flight," she said, not really bothered and obviously saying her comment in hopes that I would relent to losing my lighters.
She looked horrified when I hightailed it towards the check-in desk. It meant going through the security gauntlet again, which included taking off my belt, shoes, eyeglasses and IWC stainless steel watch -- thank God I left my flak jacket at home.
Ms. Karen Lawson, the American Airlines compliance officer at John Wayne Airport (what would the Duke do in this situation?) couldn't have been less helpful. It was as if she was speaking to bin Laden himself as she explained that such dangerous goods as my lighters should be immediately destroyed. But she would give me two hours to find someone to pick them up, if I wished. "I can't give you any more time," she said, "and I am doing you a favor giving you two hours."
I explained that my 95-year-old grandmother, whom I had been visiting in California, was not up to the task of retrieving my lighters from her wretched grasp. "Couldn't you just give me the lighters back?" I asked politely.
"I am unauthorized to do that, and I could be fined if I did so," she said. She looked very annoyed that I was still standing in front of her.
I changed my tactic. "I fly more than 60,000 miles a year with American Airlines and I only have two hours to find someone to get my lighters? Surely, you can help me somehow?"
She said, "That's all I can do for you."
There was no use continuing. I spun around and ran for the security check to make my way to Gate 8 for the flight to Chicago. But I was really upset. It wasn't the money lost. It was something more disturbing. I felt that American Airlines had taken something more from me. Those were my lighters, personal things that I valued. One of them had traveled around the world with me. They were like old friends.
I understood and welcomed the security measures in the airport, but it all seemed so arbitrary. I had checked in lighters (empty of butane) on American Airline flights from the Dominican Republic to Miami as well as Miami to Las Vegas with no problem, a fact I explained to Ms. Lawson. But she would have nothing to do with it. Perhaps she wanted the lighters herself?
In any case, I hope she -- or whoever else ended up with them -- enjoys my lighters. And I hope she enjoyed the opportunity of being some sort of mini-dictator. What she should have done is offered to mail the lighters to my office in New York. Or, she could have simply said that she was extremely sorry for the loss. But she didn't care, and attitude like that is why few will shed tears when another few thousand American Airlines employees are fired, or their company closes. But I wish her, and American, no bad will.
Maybe she didn't care because I was a smoker. I certainly didn't have any prejudice for her officious, unthinking demeanor.
We all know what it is like to be a cigar smoker in America, so we are used to being treated poorly. Don't check your lighter in your luggage. Don't smoke in public places. Don't buy Cuban cigars. Don't inflict secondhand smoke on others.
I just wish some people could say it all with a smile.
Besides everything else, I guess I wonder why the Airline wouldn't charge the guy ten bucks and mail his dangerous cargo wherever he wanted it mailed. Treating customers like that is a sure path to bankruptcy.
I'm surprised they let him have one of those!
The author apparently treats his "old friends" in a fairly cavalier manner. The part of American Airlines' web site dealing with baggage policy states clearly "Ask before you pack your luggage or carry on board the following items, as they may be classified as dangerous goods or weapons which are restricted for transport by air ... Flammable Liquids or Solids: Fuel, paints, gas torches (including micro-torches and torch lighters) ...
A little due diligence on the author's part before traveling could have prevented his expensive surprise. Sorry, but I can't buy into the "poor li'l oppressed cigar smoker me" spin on this one.
(And another thing: I just can't see paying $150 for a freaking lighter. But hey, if you really want a $300 pair of socks, this is America I guess ...)
Go to www.tsa.gov and download the list of prohibited items.
The multi-tool is probably okay in checked luggage.
As much money as they are losing each day, I doubt it will matter much to them if you tell them you won't fly on their airline anymore, but you'll feel better for having vented.
Do you mean due diligence like emptying the lighters before packing them? Why would an airline still want to confiscate empty lighters from checked baggage stowed in an inaccessible part of the plane? What more was he supposed to do?
Your right, first off, they were checked in, he had no access to them, secondly, if its an issue, they can have them mailed back to him, 3rd, if they gave him 2 hours, he should have said okay, and called a lawyer up to retrieve them, and filed suit. Even threating to call a lawyer to retrive them, would have scared the hell out of them.
On the other hand I have already figured out that anything that matters needs to be Fed-Ex'd the day before