SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 21: An American Airlines employee scans baggage May 21, 2008 at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. American Airlines announced today that it plans to charge $15 for the first checked bag on all flights beginning in mid-June in an effort to recoup money lost due to the rising fuel costs. The airline also announced it will cut some flights and staff. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Not all the money passengers paid for curb side help with their bags at Miami International Airport made it to their airline's cash registers.
Miami-Dade Police have booked several skycaps a one-way ticket to jail after they allegedly organized a scheme that allowed them to pocket hundreds in baggage handling charges from cash-paying customers.
The investigation could include several dozen curb-side baggage handlers, most of whom loaded luggage for American Airlines.
American Airlines officials have said the people arrested so far and those being investigated are not employees of the airline. Cops have arrested 15 skycaps so far, but the Miami Herald is reporting as many as 20 will be charged.
"This investigation was initiated by American Airlines and we were actively involved throughout, working closely with the Miami-Dade Police Department, which did an excellent job," Martha Pantín, spokesperson for the airline released in a statement.
"Although the skycaps arrested are not American Airlines employees, they were contracted to provide service to our passengers on our behalf. We take these matters quite seriously and have no patience for this type of behavior. Any other information should come from the Miami-Dade Police Department since this is now a police matter."
According to sources, the crooked skycaps would charge passengers full price to check their bags. If the person paid in cash, they would pocket the difference and still load the bags on the plane without reporting the luggage to flight officials.
One skycap, 52-year-old Terry Bowens, admitted to making $3,500 after pulling the caper 130 times in just nine months. He is charged with organized fraud.
Another skycap, Luis Zapata, was arrested and charged with grand theft after he took $300 from a passenger to load five bags, the passenger limit, on an international flight. Depending on weight, that baggage bill could have been as high as $500.
All of the men worked for Eulen America Corporation, which contracted with American Airlines.
"We are deeply saddened by this situation, and note that it does not reflect on the approximately 1,400 Eulen America employees currently working at MIA,” said David Kuhns, Chief Operating Officer of Eulen America.
Such baggage violations are potentially dangerous because pilots and flight officials would not have an accurate weight as to how much luggage was on the plane.
The scam also provides a security risk because the unreported luggage could be undetected and hard to monitor or trace.