Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lost luggage

Good news on the baggage front. In 2011, according to SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques) which looks into such things, 99.1% of airline-checked luggage was delivered to the right place at the right time. That is a 20% improvement over 2010 and means a savings of $650 Million to airlines – good news for airlines. And for those that check bags, that in the past may have been lost or delayed, it is also good news. However, the bad news is that most of the people checking bags on domestic airlines are paying a fee to have that bag transported. What does that mean to airlines? $3.36 BILLION. That is what those fees generated for airlines in 2011. So that is a net gain to airlines of $4 Billion in 2011.

Because of the bag fees fewer bags are being checked and more are being carried on, creating another se set of problems. Now the fight is for bin space, particularly in the back of the plane. Because of service reductions, more people with more carryon bags are being crammed onto fewer flights.

The improvement in baggage handling is due in large measure to greater and better use of technology – the scanning of baggage tags at every point in the process. Delta, in particular has been a leader in this.

The big problem continues to be the transfer of bags from one flight to another – that’s place where something can still go wrong. This is exacerbated by the fact that because many flights are cancelled, over booked or delayed, the chances of misconnects are increased. But even if the passenger is able to make the connection, the luggage may not.

I try at all costs to avoid checking a bag but sometimes it is not.

I only had one really serious lost luggage incident. About fifteen years ago I travelled to Mexico City for a week’s vacation. My checked suitcase did not get to Mexico City with me. I called the airline, but they could not seem to figure out where my suitcase was. I was told to call back. That became a regular routine for me: call the airline, no result. Finally, I was told that my suitcase was in San Diego and would be on the next flight to Mexico City.

It wasn’t. Nor was it on any subsequent flight that I was always assured that it would be.

Finally on the day I was returning to the States, my suitcase arrived.

I still have a very nice – and pricey - shirt that I bought in the hotel gift shop.

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