The run-in began when she was moments from boarding her plane in Boston heading back to Phoenix.
“When we went up to the counter. I was wearing my son in a carrier, the cooler was on the seat of the stroller and the women said ‘You have too many bags,'” Sara Salow explained.
The Mesa mother says she and her husband had four items between them: a stroller, diaper bag, backpack and a small cooler filled with frozen breast milk.
“I’m like, ‘ This is a diaper bag, which I thought was exempt; that backpack is his personal item and we have the cooler —I didn’t have a personal item,'” said Salow.
Salow had done her homework by calling the airlines ahead of time. Based on her ticket, she and her husband were allowed one carry-on bag each.
American Airline policies also listed a number of exempt items that can be carried on at all times, which included strollers, diaper bags, breast pumps and breast milk containers. None of those things count as carry on items.
Salow says she had no problem with the stroller, but when it came to her small cooler with eight bags of breast milk, airline workers told her she’d have to check it for $150.
“We were pretty mad; I immediately started crying,” said Salow. “It was humiliating, they kept telling us it was because we were basic economy passengers; it really felt demeaning.”
Other passengers offered to take the cooler on board as their carry-on item but the airline worker again said no.
Salow says she eventually decided to leave the $50 cooler behind with the breast milk rather than pay the $150 fee. Salow even says the agents yelled at her saying she should be thankful they saved her $150.
Turns out they didn’t save her anything.
She says not only was she given a bogus price, in reality, she shouldn’t have been charged at all.
In a statement to ABC15, the airline said:
“The customer should have been allowed to fly with the breast milk and we apologize that a mistake was made in this case. We have clarified our policies with our team members.”
The airline says their policy was not specific enough prior to this run in, something they have since changed.
Salow says while the experience left her with a bitter taste, she’s glad to take one for all mothers out there.
“If it means it will never happen to another mom, it was worth it,” said Salow.