A Canadian-born curler is claiming an American Airline employee wouldn’t let her check her sports equipment bag because curling “isn’t a sport.”
Erin McInrue Savage, a curler with the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club, said she was trying to board her American Airline flight at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, but couldn’t because of her curling materials.
McInrue Savage said she went to check her equipment bag for the standard excess sports equipment bag fee of $25 when the agent stopped her.
“[The agent] said curling isn’t a sport,” McInrue Savage, 34, said Saturday the Washington Post reported, a day after documenting her exchange in a Facebook post that went viral. “I told her it’s in the Olympics.”
“[The agent] said it wasn’t an ‘elite’ sport like golf,” McInrue Savage said before unpacking her bag to show the clerk how the curling broom worked.
The airline agent allegedly tried to force McInrue Savage to pay an oversize sports equipment fee of $150. McInrue Savage, who traveled to Arizona from Oakland, CA, on a different airline, said she has paid the $25 fee for her bag in the past – as have her curling teammates. But the agent told McInrue Savage that her bag exceeded the standard sports equipment luggage size of 62 inches long.
Though curling brooms themselves are only around 48 inches long, McInrue Savage was carrying some other equipment which pushed the bag out.
During the eight-minute exchange with the agent, McInrue Savage says she removed the longer equipment and was able to get her bag under the 62 inches by duct taping the ends of her sports bag, but still had to convince the agent, who eventually relented to the $25 sports baggage fee.
According to McInrue Savage, the agent told her at the end of their interaction, “I hope you never fly American Airlines again.”
American airlines is strongly denying the details McInrue Savage recounts in her viral Facebook post – which was taken down for violating Facebook’s anti-bullying policy because it identified the agent’s name badge.
“We all agree that curling is a sport, and our colleague in Phoenix never stated that curling was ‘not a sport,’ ” American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said in a statement on Tuesday, Washington Post reported. “Our colleague is a former gymnast and coach, and has great respect for all athletes.”
“Based on the information provided in the Facebook post by the passenger, and the statement from our team member: we applied the correct policy regarding sports items,” Feinstein continued. “The passenger presented herself with a bag that was over the standard bag size of 62 linear inches but containing sports equipment, her curling broom. Our agent explained to the passenger the policy on oversize bags and that she would be willing to assist the passenger by applying the sports equipment rate of $150 vs. the normal oversize charge of $200.”
American said that the agent actually “worked directly with Ms. McInrue Savage at the ticket counter to rearrange the items in the bag, in order to shorten the bag.”
Feinstein said the agent also denies telling McInsue Savage never to fly American again.
McInrue Savage has since stuck to her story, claiming that her Facebook message, which has been reposted with the name badge blurred out, is how the experience happened.
“Maybe [the American Airlines agent] was just having a bad day,” she said. “I understand [customer service] can be frustrating, but this didn’t feel like any sort of way you want to be treated.”
McInrue Savage also would like American to make a “specific policy” regarding curling equipment.
The airline has guidelines for javelins, hang gliders and other sports, but has no official policy for curling equipment.