• Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone? (Irma Bombeck)
  • US Airways made an $8 billion bid for Delta, include $4 billion in cash and $4 billion in lost luggage. (Andy Borowitz) 
  • The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage. (Mark Russell)
  • Packs two hours before leaving for a trip. Unpacks 3 months after coming home. (Don’t know who said this – but they’re talking about me!)

You might have guessed by now – this is a blog about luggage!


What Hard-Sided Luggage Says About Modern Travelers

I just read an article suggesting that the rise of hard-sided suitcases reflects a decline in civility. Whaaat??

In the five years from 2010 to 2015, hard-sided luggage’s share of the market more than doubled. This, according to the Travel Goods Association (everybody and everything has a trade association these days!),

Since most airlines are now charging a fee for checked luggage, more and more people are squeezing everything into hand luggage. And, in the battle for coveted overhead bin space on an airplane, hard-sided bags are a way for passengers to mark their territory.  “Hard-sided luggage comes across as unyielding, more powerful,” says Diane Gottsman, founder of the Protocol School of Texas. (A “Protocol School? Really??)

What Happens to Lost Luggage?

Have you ever been that person – the last, lonely soul waiting at the luggage carousel while everyone else has claimed their bags and left? And have you felt that punch-to-the-gut feeling when the carousel stops moving?

It’s the worst feeling. Especially if you’re at the beginning of your journey and not at your home airport.

But statistics would show that it’s happening less and less these days.

Instances of airlines mishandling baggage reached an all-time low last year. According to the SITA Baggage Report 2017, 5.73 bags per thousand passengers went astray in 2016 – a 12% drop compared to the previous year and a 70% reduction over the past 10 years. This comes despite the fact that global passenger volume reached record levels of 3.77 billion in 2016.SITA credits new technologies for this improvement. But it’ll get even better after next June, when an IATA (International Air Transport Assn) Resolution takes effect, requiring member airlines (representing 80% of all commercial airlines) to track bags at four mandatory points: at check-in, during aircraft loading, during transfers between aircraft and on arrival.And the airlines have an incentive to do better: money. The industry spent $2.1 billion in 2016 to recover and return lost bags.

But what to do if it happens to you? Quickly schlep to the service counter, fill out some forms and hope they deliver it to you promptly. Hopefully, you’re not leaving on a cruise – in which case your suitcase might never catch up to a moving target like a ship at sea. Before leaving the airport, you might just take a look around to see if your bag may have been off-loaded onto the floor, or is sitting with the oversized luggage in a separate area. Make a note of the items you’ll need to purchase immediately – and those you might need for the coming days. Keep all receipts. Your hotel should be able to provide some basic toiletries. If you purchased any kind of travel insurance, you’ll want to check your policy – or perhaps the credit card company with which you purchased your ticket might have some lost luggage coverage.

And then just relax into the experience of traveling. Release any attachment to fashion and forget about how your hair looks without your favorite styling tools. Remember the lesson you learned after leaving high school – nobody cares what you look like because they’re preoccupied with their own issues.

No doubt you will get your bag – eventually. But what happens to bags that are never claimed or never able to be reconnected to their rightful owners?

This place, in Scottsboro, Alabama – purchases unclaimed bags and resells the contents

When you have a captive audience waiting at a luggage carousel, why not sell something?

My Best Lost Luggage Story

My suitcase wasn’t exactly lost. But it was only going as far as Heathrow – no further.

Let me begin at the beginning: Many years ago, I attended a travel industry conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. In December. (I know, I know … not the most optimum time …) After the conference, I planned to do a site inspection in Malta, and following that, site inspections in Sicily and Rome. My flight routing was on IcelandAir from Reykjavik to Heathrow, connecting to a different carrier to Valetta, Malta. When I checked in, the IcelandAir ticket agent informed me that they did not “interline” luggage, and my suitcase would go only as far as Heathrow. Once there, I’d need to claim it and re-check it. Except I had a tight connection, with no time to do that.

There was no arguing the point – they were not going to change long-established procedures for me (even if they had known I was the “creative queen.”) And there would not be any forwarding of lost luggage, since it was only tagged as far as Heathrow and was, therefore, not lost. And I was not coming back through Heathrow, so I wasn’t going to be able to claim it on my way back home from Europe. Panic! What to do?? (These were the days before cell phones so I couldn’t call Gabriel!)

I furiously re-packed and loaded as much into my carry-on bag as possible. (These were the days before liquids were restricted.) I wouldn’t be needing any wintry clothes (although I couldn’t go to Mt Etna in Sicily because of the snow). Remarkably, I managed to get through the full week with one pair of black slacks, some reasonably comfortable black boots, and assorted tops and jackets. It was a great lesson in packing light – which I’ve never followed since – but a good lesson, all the same.

But what of my forlorn, not-lost suitcase at Heathrow? Having some “connections” to the airline which flew me to Iceland, I convinced them to fly my suitcase back to Los Angeles, where I picked it up a week or so after I got home. Otherwise, it probably would have gone to Scottsboro, Alabama!

Creative uses for luggage!

A Customer’s Best Luggage Story

This just happened a few weeks ago: We were departing on a 7:05 AM flight from Ljubljana, Slovenia and were, therefore, leaving the hotel very, very early. Everyone had a 4 AM wake-up call, with instructions to be in the lobby ready to board the bus at 4:30 AM. I was downstairs with my checklist, counting luggage and people and realized that one of my most dependable travelers was missing. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll call her Joyce (not her real name). I went upstairs to her room, #301, and knocked on the door. Joyce poked her head out and said, “I’m SO sorry! I just have to throw my clothes on and I’ll be right down.”

I went back downstairs, got everyone loaded on the bus with their breakfast boxes, tipped the bleary-eyed bellman and saw Joyce come off the elevator. Her entrance was notable – not because she was uncharacteristically late – but because she was wearing a sarong. She had packed all her traveling clothes in the suitcase, which she’d left outside her door – as instructed – at 4:15 AM. Though very embarrassed, she was a very good sport and even posed for a photo. (Her face is obscured to protect her privacy!)

Rather unconventional attire for an international flight . . . dontcha think?

If I had a stretchy luggage cover like one of these, I would not have mistakenly driven all the way home from LAX with a red suitcase that wasn’t mine! (I like the kittie one – 2nd from left!)

What about you? Do you have a good luggage story to share??