Are passengers being ripped off by Sea-Tac scales?

SEATAC, Wash. -- The state is inspecting scales at Sea-Tac Airport after earlier tests showed several scales were both under and over reporting bag weights.

Travelers jokingly call it the airport shuffle when they desperately move items from one bag to another to avoid overage fees.

Traveler Betty Cortes says she's seen the same bags come up at different weights on different Sea-Tac scales.

"I thought it was correct on these two, but the one on the end was more accurate than the first two," she said.

Cortes questioned the accuracy of the scales, and it turns out she may have good reason to.

Four years ago, before the Thanksgiving rush, KOMO News took a 50 pound bag to various ticket counters at Sea-Tac. Several of the airport scales were off, with some favoring the passenger and some favoring the airline.

State inspectors found the same thing. They found scales off by as much as 20 pounds, and with overage fees running as much as $125, a few extra pounds can be costly.

That was years ago, but inspectors made a surprise visit to the airport this week to see if the problem had been fixed.

Fifty pounds is key for passengers, because anything over that will cost them. But inspectors take the scales up to 500 pounds.

"If the scale is off significantly against the consumer, we can take the scale out of service. We can order it out of service right there on the spot," said Jerry Buendal, director of the Washington Weights and Measures Program.

Inspectors tested a Jet Blue scale and found minor problems, but not enough to pull the scale.

"We've had one scale that was a little bit off. Nothing significant at the level that it's used at, it just an indication that it needs some service," said inspector Art Fluharty.

If the testers find a scale that favors passengers, they won't take it out of service.

"If the scale is in the consumer's favor but the business is being shorted, the business can chose to continue to operate but we'll follow up to make sure they fix that," Buendal said.

Of the 192 scales at Sea-Tac, inspectors tested 128 and found two that favored the passenger and one that favored the airline. The three scales were not taken out of service because the tolerance was less than 1 pound.

Scales at the Walla Walla, Pasco and Yakima airports all passed inspection.