Checked Baggage

Checked Baggage

Q. Twice in as many months you have advised your readers to "carry on" their bags when flying. I just want to let you know that inconsiderate people like you who feel you are too important, or too busy, to wait for your luggage are the main reason air travel is so miserable today. Countless times when I travel I am bumped, delayed, and inconvenienced by you morons. I have a better idea: place your week's worth of clothes under your feet for the duration of the flight and free up the overheads.

I have many friends in the airline industry, from pilots to flight attendants to mechanics. They have a name for people like you who refuse to check your baggage, but sadly it is not printable.

A. While it's true that I'm an advocate of packing light to avoid checked luggage, I believe that the reasons travel is so miserable today has nothing to do with carryon luggage. It's due to the fact that the airlines lose, damage, and misdirect an ever increasing number of bags each year. It's due to shrinking seats and legroom and the airlines attempt to squeeze as much profit as they can out of each flight, which sometimes leads to over booking and bumping. I've never heard of someone getting bumped because "morons" brought too much luggage on board. I have heard, however, of traveler's vacations being ruined because the airline lost their luggage, especially cruise passengers who end up wearing the same t-shirts and shorts throughout a seven day voyage. The next time you fly and see a large number of morons in the gate area with luggage, I suggest you go up to each and every one of them and talk them into checking their bags. I'm sure you can win them over with your charm.

Q. I read about somewhere about a company that will pick up my baggage from my home, and process my airline check-in at the same time. Do you know about them?

A. I believe you're referring to BaggageDirect (800/959-4424). Currently BaggageDirect only works with ATA, Aloha Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Continental Airlines and Singapore Airlines, and only on certain routes, mostly involving Los Angeles and various cities in Hawaii.

For example, with Continental, BaggageDirect offers pick-up, check-in and delivery service if you are flying between Los Angeles, Maui or Oahu. If you're flying from any of these three cities to any other destination, they only offer pick-up and check-in. ATA, Aloha and Hawaiian also have full service from those three cities. Singapore Airlines currently offers these services for departures from Los Angeles to either Singapore or Taipei.

The service is $30 for the first passenger and $15 for each additional passenger for each service. Standard baggage allowance applies. This service is especially handy if there's big group of you traveling from the covered cities; discounts are offered to groups of seven or more passengers. All passengers have to be present with proper ID when BaggageDirect arrives for the pick-up and check-in.

Q. We are having a destination wedding and she wants to take the wedding dress on the plane. It's kind of big and I don't think it will fit in the overhead bin. She doesn't want to ship it or check it as baggage for fear of the dress getting lost. I can see the headline: "Runaway Wedding Dress...Groom and Bride Made it but Dress is in New Mexico."

A. It would be nasty if it were lost--or merely delayed--as checked baggage. I would probably try to carry it onboard. Barring that, I would FedEx it to your destination. Use the cheapest rate possible. I think FedEx loses fewer things than the airlines and they have better tracking.

I received this advice from a flight attendant in repsonse to this post:

I just wanted to respond to the answer you gave regarding the Bride's dress. I'm a flight attendant for a major carrier and fly to the Hawaiian Islands about 7-10 times a month. Needless to say, it's definitely a wedding destination.

Unfortunately, the number of brides-to-be on EVERY flight to Hawaii is countless. Many of them coming on board expecting (or at least hoping) for special treatment. Many hope for closet space to hang their garments or an empty overhead bin to lie the dress flat in.

With four to eight dresses on any given flight, I can tell you most of them have to resort to shoving it to an overhead bin with all the other carry-ons. Since closets are reserved for wheelchairs, crutches, and other items such extra supplies for the flight, toilet paper, hand towels, etc, even business men have now shyed away from the once-typical garment bags they all wanted hung in closets.

So, I agree with you; FedEx is the way to go. Get the address of the hote you'll be staying at, and call ahead to let them know you'll be Fed-Exing something there so they can hold it for you should it arrive before you do.

Q. My husband and I took a 3-day cruise leaving from Miami. When we arrived at the airport, my luggage was missing, but my husband's arrived safely. Needless to say, I had to buy clothes (at great expense) on the ship. The airline found my luggage the next day but it was too late to be of use to me, and they refuse to reimburse me for my replacement clothes purchases. What recourse do I have? And could I have done anything to prevent this situation?

A. First, of course, you should have carried on your luggage. That means packing light. If that was impossible for whatever reason, your second line of defense would have been to crisscross the contents of your luggage with your husband's: in other words, put some of your stuff in his suitcase and some of his in yours. It would be very unlikely that both suitcases would be lost.

Second, you could have arrived a day early for your cruise. It's always a good idea in case the flight is cancelled on luggage goes astray.

Finally, it's not surprising that the airline refused to help you. Airline customer service is becoming an oxymoron these days. But there's nothing stopping you from pursuing this in small claims court. The airline might simply refuse to contest the claim and settle.

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