Reunited With My Carry On: A Story In Three Parts

Part I, in which my ostensibly gate-checked carry on travels 12,000 miles without me:

A few days ago I chronicled my gate checked bag saga. To quickly recap what happened:

  • We were flying Atlanta to New York on Delta and New York to Sao Paulo on American
  • We were forced to gate check our bags in Atlanta because we were accidentally downgraded, and it took the agent ~20 minutes to reissue our tickets
  • Our gate checked bags didn’t make it to Sao Paulo, meaning we were left without any of our belongings
  • The agent assured us our bags would be held at New York JFK, since we were flying back there the same evening
  • Upon returning to JFK the following morning we were informed our bags had actually been sent to Sao Paulo

After spending nearly 90 minutes at JFK filing a report, the agent assured us our bags would be sent to our respective homes, and would be departing on a flight from Sao Paulo to Dallas that evening. Sure enough that seemed to be the case, and the following evening I received a notification that my bag would be delivered to my apartment that night. I was thrilled when the driver called and informed me he’d be there in a few minutes.

I ran downstairs out of excitement, and when he opened the trunk I had a bit of an “oh $*&%” look on my face — it wasn’t my bag!

They had sent me my friend’s bag, and had delivered my bag to my friend in Tulsa.

Crap!

We were very clear about which bag should go where, and the printout we were given of the report even confirmed that.

So I called up the American baggage services desk and got a lovely agent that refiled the report, which took about an hour. Ultimately we decided the best option was for me to bring the bag to the airport, and then they’d send it to my friend in Tulsa, and that he’d do the same on his end.

I drove out to the airport, went to the baggage office, where I got a confused look from the agent when I said I’m returning a bag. He spent a good five minutes reading through the notes in the file, and said “wow, this is the most complicated baggage report I’ve ever read.”

The following day my bag was being sent from Tulsa to Seattle via Dallas, and I was in contact with the baggage services desk throughout the day to make sure my bag was actually being loaded on each flight. The baggage services agent recommended that I call American shortly after the Dallas to Seattle flight departed to ensure it had been scanned onto the flight, so that I didn’t make another trip to the airport in vain.

So I phoned back an hour after the Dallas to Seattle flight took off, and got a rather odd agent at the baggage services desk. I explained that I wanted to see if my bag was scanned onto the Dallas to Seattle flight, because I was hoping to pick it up upon landing.

He said “yes, it was scanned onto the flight, though there’s no way to know whether it’ll make it to Seattle or not.”

Huh?!

I asked for clarification — “sorry, I might be missing something, but if the bag was scanned onto the plane, doesn’t that mean it’ll go to Seattle?”

“No sir, that’s not how it works.”

At that point I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere, so hung up.

I decided to drive to the airport anyway, and when I got to the baggage services office the agent once again read through the file and said “no, we don’t have your bag.”

I nearly lost it at that point, but the other agent had the sense to check the back room and found it there, so I was finally reunited with my bag. Woohoo!

Gate-Checked-Bag

I know I’m a little nuts, but I have a bit of an emotional connection with my carry-on. There aren’t many material things I care about, but as someone that’s constantly on the road and rather introverted, my carry-on is one of the things always with me.

Heck, I hate to admit it, but even though I picked up a new Tumi Alpha International recently, I have a really hard time leaving my Tumi T-Tech in the closet. We’ve traveled the world together, and I kind of hate to see it spending the rest of its life collecting dust in my closet — there are so many more places we could see together!

Part II, in which it’s good I have a blog, because the most ridiculous things happen to me in airports

As I took a picture of my bag to post on Instagram, a lady seated at a desk maybe 100 feet away yelled “Hey handsome, come over here!”

For obvious reasons I assumed she wasn’t talking to me — there are many things I’m called on a daily basis (just look at the comments section of this blog) — but handsome ain’t one of them! So I kept walking and she yelled again at the top of her lungs “Hey you! Come here now!”

At this point I’m thinking she’s some overly security conscious person concerned about the picture I took of my carry-on, so decide (against my better judgement) to go and talk to her.

As I get to the desk she leans over and says “there are cameras facing this desk and the police station is right next door.”

What the…

At this point I’m not sure whether I’m being held at gunpoint or what, because it sure felt like one of those movies where they say “if you say anything we’ll shoot.”

She continues with “do you want to feed two broken families this Christmas?”

I always hate when questions are asked that way, because there’s no way to say “no.”I mean, of course I want to feed “broken” families! Who doesn’t?

I’m all for charity, but generally I’d rather give on my own terms where I can verify the charity personally and get a tax deduction for it. But she made a good sales pitch and asked for a donation. I asked if they took credit cards, she said no, but told me there was an ATM 54 feet away — yes, 54 feet.

So in addition to selling me on the idea of a donation in general, she talked me into going over there, picking up cash, and giving it to her. Rather odd interaction, but I guess I should be happy about the fact that my lost bag helped feed two “broken” families?

Part III, in which I am further confused:

On another note, in the four years I’ve been flying American, I don’t think I’ve written to customer relations even once, because on the whole American takes great care of me. My love affair with their Twitter team is pretty well-documented, and I’ve never needed to get Customer Care involved.

After this experience, however, I did send a brief note. To be clear, my issue wasn’t that the bag didn’t make it to the destination to begin with, but rather how things were handled afterwards:

  • After the bag didn’t make it to Sao Paulo it was supposed to be held in New York, but instead was sent to Sao Paulo anyway
  • Despite that screw up, and speaking directly to the agents tagging the bags, they sent me the wrong bag

In the end I spent over two hours in the baggage services office, two hours on the phone with the baggage services desk, and had to drive to the airport two extra times. So I emailed American to share my disappointment not in the bag being lost to begin with, but the subsequent service failures.

On the plus side they responded within 10 hours, on the down side the response wasn’t even relevant:

We are glad you took the time to share your impressions of our service. It’s good to know that our efforts are noticed by our customers. We want to do all we can to help to make your travels with us enjoyable. At the same time, it’s important that we know about situations which require our attention so that we can improve. In view of the details you provided, it is clear we have some work to do.

No doubt it was disappointing to arrive at your destination without your bags. The timely transportation of our customers’ belongings has our focus and we will continue to do all we can to prevent the kind of aggravating situation you endured.

As a gesture of goodwill, we have added 10,000 bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account. This adjustment will be reflected in your account very soon.

Mr. Schlappig, again, thank you for contacting us. Most importantly, thank you for flying American Airlines.

That’s a rather disappointing response as an Executive Platinum member, in my opinion — not because of the compensation, but because the response doesn’t even begin to address the concern that was the focus of my email.

Anyway, happy to finally be reunited with my bag again!

Comments

  1. Quite the saga! Glad to hear all reunited. I head to GRU, then FLN tomorrow. Hope my handluggage has better fortune.

  2. Part III, second paragraph, did you mean, “To be clear, my issue wasn’t that the bag didn’t make it to the destination to begin with, but rather how things were handled afterwards” and not “To be clear, my issue wasn’t that the big didn’t make it to the destination to begin with, but rather how things were handled afterwards”

  3. Ben,

    Just a word of advice…lose the Alaska CREW tag. Even on mainline flights, crew bags are brought up to the jetway upon arrival, rather than being sent to baggage claim since so many commuting crew members end up boarding late (cleared from the standby list) and have to check. I can’t say for sure that it had anything to do with your lost bag, but I’d bet that’s why your bag never got transferred to AA.

    Andrew

  4. It’s only going to get better at the new AA after they start merging yet another airline to already not so merged one.

  5. “It’s only going to get better at the new AA after they start merging yet another airline to already not so merged one.”

    If there’s a domestic airline that has worse dependability and customer service that what came from America Worst + US Air Biscuit I’m not aware of it. And now that mess of customer disservice is going to be running American Airlines? How nice.

  6. Going for point 2. Are you talking about those people that sit on the opposite side of the baggage hall under the sign that says “these people are not employed nor have any affiliation to the Port of seattle?”

    I am glad my port badge gives me a, for lack of a better term, cloak of invisibility, but I sure feel embarrassed for them.

  7. I’m actually surprised the worst thing that happened during your Delta marathon was that you would lose your bag. There was no way you were getting through that gauntlet without irrops at some point.

  8. Why did you and your friend have to drive to the airport and not have the airlines use a delivery service to handle pick-up and drop-off?

  9. I’d actually be curious to have you address the crew tag issue. I have a good friend who is a flight attendant and she gave me a crew tag. I’ve been meaning to put it on my bag. Is it really an issue? I think of it as just kinda cool for an air travel enthusiast. Never occurred to me that it might cause issues.

    Have you had any other issues? Anyone care that you’re not really crew?

  10. I used to date an FA and she put one of her CREW tags on my bag (for whatever good it might do) and I really never thought much of it.

    One day while going through security a TSA Employees noticed the tag and asked to see my ID. I took out my passport and handed it to the agent, but he responded, no your airline ID. I looked at him confused as I had no idea what he was walking about and he pointed to the CREW tag on my bag and said where is your airline ID.

    I explained that I do not work for the airline but I date a FA and she put one of her crew tags on my bag.

    To make a very long story short after calling a Supervisor, the Police and the airline who my GF (at the time) works for determined that I had no right to keep the “crew tag” on my bag unless I was traveling with GF.

    To this day I do not actually know what is policy or not, but it was enough to scare me from even contemplating using that tag ever again without my GF present.

  11. I always keep a small “go-bag” inside my carry on. I’ve had a few bad experiences where the gate clowns decided they were going to punish me and check my carry on bag.
    So, I open it up in front of them, grab my small bag, and then let them gate check it.
    #1 They always lose my checked carry on bag.
    #2 I always have something to wear when I get to point B.

  12. @ Eric — I’ve had crew tags from various airlines on my bag over the years, and have never had anyone mention anything. It doesn’t get any special privileges, so it’s not like an employee ID or anything.

  13. Most people don’t get anything when bags are waylaid – lucky to even get the lost bag returned. I would not kick the 10k gift which seems overly generous under the circumstances.

    As for the email, what did you seriously expect? Everybody gets form letters, particularly for something so trivial. For a guy that flies as much as you do, your expectations are pretty lofty. Or maybe you are just unaccustomed to receiving the same treatment that most people get? Honestly as a UA 1K I would not expect much more.

  14. @ Boraxo — Mishandling baggage every now and again is understandable, and I wouldn’t hold it against an airline provided that the bag is returned in a timely fashion and any incidental expenses resulting from the delay are reimbursed. Ben’s four-hour+ ordeal, on the other hand, was unacceptable, and compensation and apologies were certainly warranted.

    Against conventional wisdom, I check a bag on almost every trip. Perhaps once or twice a year, it somehow misses a connection that I myself manage to make. Delta usually delivers it to my home within a couple hours of the next flight. The one time my bag was lost for several days, and then ended up sitting in the DCA claim office rather than being delivered, Delta paid for the clothing and toiletries that I purchased for a weekend at the lake and threw in a $100 voucher on top of it.

  15. @ Boraxo — Mishandling baggage every now and again is understandable, and I wouldn’t hold it against an airline provided that the bag is returned in a timely fashion and any incidental expenses resulting from the delay are reimbursed. Ben’s four-hour+ ordeal, on the other hand, was unacceptable, and compensation and apologies were certainly warranted.

    Against conventional wisdom, I check a bag on almost every trip. Perhaps once or twice a year, it somehow misses a connection that I myself manage to make. Delta usually delivers it to my home within a couple hours of the next flight. The one time my bag was lost for several days, and then ended up sitting in the DCA claim office rather than being delivered, Delta paid for the clothing and toiletries that I purchased for a weekend at the lake and threw in a $100 voucher on top of it.

  16. Whew, you finally got your stuff back!!!

    Out of curiosity, what is it required to drive back to the airport both times or, if you’d wanted, airline could come by to pick up the wrong bag and the redeliver the correct one? If I had to do that in here in Houston and take time off work, I’d not be happy.

  17. @ Ivan Y — They didn’t offer to pick up my bag from my home and deliver it to the airport, though they did offer to deliver the bag that was being sent to me all the way to my home. That being said, the flight my bag was on landed shortly after 8PM, and they don’t do deliveries after 8PM. And I really didn’t want to wait another day for my bag.

  18. @ Lucky – thank you! I don’t fly a lot these days but having to gate-check is always in my mind. Perhaps I will use Allen’s idea of having a small bag with essentials inside a carryon so it can be taken out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *