Not Without My Baggage

Q: Recently I arrived at the airport for baggage check-in approximately one hour before the scheduled departure of a Delta flight.  The line was long, and the attendants were slow, delayed by what appeared to be unusual check-in issues.  My turn finally came, and I stepped to the counter 30 minutes before departure.  I was told that my baggage could not be checked, because Delta was required to close check-in 30 minutes before departure.  I ultimately was given two options as the plane was being called for boarding: take a flight later in the day (for which they would check my baggage); or fly without my baggage.  I asked if they could check-in my bag (which I would open for thorough inspection) and send it on the later flight.  I was told that this was impossible to do.  I could not take the later flight and still meet the commitments at my destination; so I flew to my destination without my baggage.  Later in the day I was able to arrange for someone to retrieve my bag at the originating airport.  I have two questions.  First, is this required procedure for airlines?  Second, if it is, what is a person to do in such circumstances (what if I had no one to call to pick up my bags at the airport)?

A: Airlines suggest that travelers show up at check-in a minimum of one hour before flight time, and they can pretty much enforce their rules as they wish. You were really cutting it close, especially since you were checking baggage. There's no telling how long the check-in line or security will take, and it's better to be safe than sorry, as you've seen. I have several suggestions: next time you fly, give yourself more time if you're checking bags; don't check bags at all--pack light and carry on your luggage; if that's impossible, then send some of your luggage ahead via UPS or US Mail (have your hotel or the office you're visiting hold the shipment for your arrival).