Missing Baggage: a Tale of Two Airlines

When I’m traveling on my own I’ll do everything possible to avoid checking luggage. That will remain my strategy, at least until Ted Stevens succeeds in limiting carryons (from one carryon to… one carryon).

But when I’m on a three week trip involving multiple climates it isn’t possible. And when I’m traveling with my wife for a long weekend, and she packs enough that we have to check her bags, I tend to check mine as well. Even without a connecting flight that turns out to be a mistake.

Back in June I flew in from Melbourne on Qantas and transferred my bags to Alaska. This was in the midst of their baggage handler unpleasantness, and one of our four bags was sent to Reno instead of Seattle. The baggage service office was extremely apologetic, embarassed even. The woman who took my claim gave me her name and her direct number, so that I could call and speak to someone in Seattle directly whenever I wanted an update. They found my bag that night and dispatched it immediately out to my hotel. I had a phone call from the baggage folks even before I tried to call them!

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. American Airlines baggage services at Washington-National was staffed with a man and two women. Both women were missing most of their teeth. The woman who took my claim never looked at me. She entered my home address, but wouldn’t take my business address (in case the bag came in and was ready to be delivered during the day, of course no one would be home).

The helpful women processing the claim of the person next to me (off the same flight) explained that when flights are full sometimes weight issues prevent all bags from being loaded. The flight we came in on was less than half full, although strictly speaking I don’t know what kind of cargo load it might have had.

When the claim process was done, she didn’t speak to me. She handed me a piece of paper. I asked if we were through, she didn’t answer. Well, at least the printout apologized!

American’s 800 number for baggage is an automated system, without the option of speaking with a person. My bag apparently came in on the 6:22pm arrival yesterday, but nobody updated the system until after 9:30pm. According to the automated system, that may have been later than they do residential deliveries so I don’t yet have my bag. And the automated system doesn’t give out contact information for the delivery service.

In theory my bag should be delivered today, but I don’t know when or by whom. Thanks, American!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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