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Arrived Safely

Sort of.

When I had the privilege of paying American an extra fifteen bucks to check my bag today, I had no idea how much extra service they'd be rendering. Apparently, with this new program, they've come up with an innovative new luggage-handling process that enables them to expeditiously lose your suitcase on a non-stop. And it only took me an hour and a half after the wheels touched down to discover this new capability.

When I got to the carousel that was supposed to be for my flight, it was full of luggage from not one, not two, not three, but four different Dallas flights, as evidenced by inspection of the tags. Apparently, another innovation that the airline has come up with is to get the luggage to the airport before the passengers arrive, and then helpfully leave it all on the carousel, so that the few bags from your own flight from Fort Lauderdale won't feel lonely and ostracized, and can fit in better with the crowd. Or perhaps the aircraft simply arrived in LAX sans occupants, the latter having somehow been spirited away en route by Bushco to be shipped off to Gitmo for the ritual waterboarding and holy book defilation, with the airline complicit in both the act and the cover up.

I reported the miscreant item to the baggage service.

"Did you look at the bags we have outside the door here"?

No, that hadn't occurred to me, because I lacked the imagination to conceive that a bag would be removed from the carousel by the authorities with hundreds still milling around seeking their luggage.

"Let's go over and look."

We go back over to the carousel.

"Sometimes it might have a Dallas tag on it, because it might have gotten rerouted."

This, as there remained hundreds of Dallas arrivals on the swirling machine, whose contents I had now seen several dozen times.

I marveled at an airline that could get a bag rerouted through Dallas and somehow end up there at the same time as I, who took a non-stop from Florida. Does the luggage get to skip the layover?

Bottom line: I am now the proud owner of a receipt that informs me that in the event they locate the missing suitcase, it will be delivered to my room. So I am here for a business meeting in the morning with no clothing except that on my back. Well, OK, and my keister. And, yeah, my feet. But still.

I have to say that I agree with the sentiment.

[Update on early Monday morning]

Well, when I check the web site to track it, it seems to have shown up overnight. It's supposed to be delivered sometime this morning to my hotel. No word on where it had been sequestered. I was kind of wondering if someone else took it off the carousel. They're not bothering to verify tags any more at LAX, as they did in the olden days.


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Dave G wrote:

American sux ballz (spoken as a frequent flyer). I vastly prefer Southwest. AA just does not "get it". They do not understand that they are not the only game in town.

Karl Hallowell wrote:

This is why I always have a carry on with a couple of days worth. It's far from impossible to lose it too, but the odds are much better that this bag gets through.

Tony G. wrote:

I had the pleasure of working for AA after they took TWA.

After what they did to me and my co-workers, I am soooo enjoying watching that airline go down the tubes.

tony g wrote:

So where's my comment about how much I hate AA?

Jonathan wrote:

Don't forget American's new "on time" program. This is where on a two-hour flight the plane leaves on time, arrives on time, and then sits for 20-60 minutes at the destination airport because some screwup made a gate unavailable. But don't complain, you arrived on time.

james w wrote:

I agree with all you guys. I wish that the major carriers would just suck it up, quadruple the prices of tickets and get Ma and Pa Kettle, their screaming kids, and the rest of the $200 R/T riffraff off the planes.

Stop daily flights to markets that don't really need them and don't even go there until they have rounded up enough passengers to make the run profitable.

Take 50% of the seats out and bring back the leg room and first class meals and liquor. Wouldn't hurt to reimplement the forced retirement of cabin crews at 30 or marriage or 15lbs overweight.

That way air travel gets back to the people it was intended for and who made it profitable, business travellers.

Let the commoners get back in their station wagons and see the USA from their Chevrolet.

Call me when that happens and I'll reactivate my Executive Platinum card and cancel my MarquisJet card.


Richard Stone wrote:

I agree with James W.

jon wrote:

That delivery to the hotel room is so convenient, I don't know why they don't allow you to check your bags straight there. If you are going to pay $15 per bag anyway, it would be nice to up it to $30 and not have to worry about them at all.

Jonathan wrote:

Southwest, and similar carriers abroad, provide good service at competitive prices and are profitable, so I don't think James W's point holds.

As for luggage, if FedEx and UPS were smart they would start marketing door-to-door overnight and second-day luggage service.

Mike Y. wrote:

Yeah; I've had the pleasure of flying all the way back from China to LAX, only to have to pay the $15 PER BAG (times 3!) to get our bags all the way home to Dallas.

Commercial Flying is loathsome. I might just get a current flight physical to re-up my Private Pilot license.

I can't say enough good about the flight crews. Or the ticket / check-in folks, really. But the whole process is horribly messed up.

Jason Coleman wrote:

More than once I've packed a box with clothes and other items and sent it ahead to a hotel. This is especially handy on those marathons where you're catching shuttles here and there for this meeting and that. Everything you need for day to day can fit in flat rate boxes (shirt, underwear, socks, toiletries).

Yes it requires extra planning and packing, but you can carry-on a slim folding bag for suits and a briefcase for papers and a laptop and skip baggage check in and claim.

Going overseas, staying for while someplace or taking a family group, just send a large box as freight a few days before you leave and you still have room in luggage for things you forgot to pack and send ahead.

I've lost bags 3 times, I've never had a package go astray.

cubanbob wrote:

" Jonathan wrote:

Southwest, and similar carriers abroad, provide good service at competitive prices and are profitable, so I don't think James W's point holds."

Southwest is Greyhound with wings.

James W is spot on. There is a difference (and there really used to be) between an airline and a bus with wings.

Back in the day I remember paying $400 to go from MIA to LGA on National Airlines when coach had leg room and the seats were nearly as wide as what passes for first class today except back then you could have a row to yourself and lay across the seats and sleep. Not to mention better looking and more attentive stewardess.

Re regulate and get the bus and station wagon crowd off and leave flying to the business traveler. Another curse from the Carter Administration.

Jeff wrote:

Yes, Ma and Pa Kettle should never fly and leave it all to the business traveler! What B.S. and elitism that is conveyed.

I fly between Ft. Lauderdale adn Baltimore twice a week and, while I hate it, the low cost afforded by Greyhound w/wings makes this small businessman profitable and able to (gasp!) hire people and the such.

But don't let Ma and Pa Kettle take a quick vacation! Wouldn't want to give up a couple of inches of leg room and hip room in order for the masses to travel

Kay wrote:

Just flew US Air from Philly to Ohio this morning. I'm only here overnight, so no checked bags, but in addition to charging $15 first bag, $25 second bag, they are now charging for ALL beverages. Coffee and tea are $1.00, sodas and bottled water are $2.00 and beer/wine are now $7.00.

It took our single flight attendant all of two minutes to walk her cart up and back down the aisle. She said she hates it because after that she has nothing to do but twiddle her thumbs for the rest of the flight. Although I have a feeling that she's in the minority among flight attendants...

Pete Zaitcev wrote:

Private will give nothing to the business traveller. Firstly, it's an expensive pursuit. You must have a turboprop or a jet for the dispatch reliability. Secondly, with distances out West you get to pilot a whole day and get tired like a dog before your business meeting.

I knew several people who fly everywhere up and down the Atlantic seaboard where distances are much smaller. But then they keep getting delayed by weather which is often much worse on the wrong coast.

Carl Pham wrote:

I just flew back from Indianpolis to OC on American, and they were an hour and a half late getting off from Dallas. We sat on the runway for 30 minutes, power off, with the cabin heating up nicely from several hundred heat-sources a.k.a. passengers in it. If that happened to me twice a month, I'd be ready to chew through the side of the airplane. But since I fly maybe once a year, it didn't bug me too much.

The simple ugly fact seems to be that the market for airplane travel is dominated not by those who do it once a week, but by those who do it once a year. If you're going to do it only once a year, you're willing to put up with a lot more annoyance, delay, security theater, baggage hassle et cetera in order to get a lower price.

Or it could just be that people in general aren't intelligent enough to predict ahead of time when their valuable time is going to be wasted, and make different choices. It's the same mystery that lies behind why we (in Los Angeles) suffer through unbelievable levels of traffic every day, e.g. 8 lanes in each direction blocked solid for three hours starting at 3.30 PM. What's up with that? Why don't we revolt, start patronizing toll roads, limo services, et cetera? If we knew that, we'd probably know why we put up with air travel the way it is, too.

TheOldMan wrote:

I still think the freight model is what should be used. Your airline ticket entitles you to move 250 pounds from point A to point B. How you distribute that between your lard and your luggage is up to you. Forget the charges for extra bags, just add it all up.

JMHawkins wrote:

Hmmm, $15 for the bag. $15 is the fee around here for a trip to the dump (er, transfer station). A coincidence, I'm sure...

Neil wrote:

So did you get your $15 back?

CujoQuarrel wrote:

As to bags going missing on a non-stop.

Check to see if they were 'delayed' by homeland security.

Had that happen to me so they could do who knows what to them.

Larry J wrote:

Private will give nothing to the business traveller. Firstly, it's an expensive pursuit. You must have a turboprop or a jet for the dispatch reliability. Secondly, with distances out West you get to pilot a whole day and get tired like a dog before your business meeting.

I knew several people who fly everywhere up and down the Atlantic seaboard where distances are much smaller. But then they keep getting delayed by weather which is often much worse on the wrong coast.

It depends on a lot of factors. For trips of up to 300-500 miles, it can be faster to go by private plane than by an airliner. For example, I can drive 30 minutes to fly commercial out of Colorado Springs but to limited destinations. Or, I can drive about 70 miles to DIA (allow about 75-90 minutes depending on time of day) and then wait an hour or more after clearing security for my flight (which is often delayed for hours). Assuming my flight is on time, a flight of 500 miles will take maybe an hour and 15 minutes gate to gate. Then I have to fight the crowds and drive to my destination.

Or, I can drive 15 minutes to a Meadowlake Airport, crank up the clamshell and have my Piper Cherokee ready to go in another 15-20 minutes. I routinely cruise from 105-120 knots for 4-5 hours (leaving a healthy fuel reserve) depending on how much fuel I want to burn (6.5 to 9.5 gallons per hour dependin on the speed for my plane). Sure, it's an expensive undertaking but my plane is 40 years old. It cost less than many of the cars in the parking lot at work. I have an instrument rating which gives me more flexibility in travel time. It'll never be as safe as airline flight but it's a lot more fun. If you need to cover longer distances, you can get a faster plane such as a good old Mooney for perhaps $60K. Maintenance and insurance costs will vary depending on the plane's condition and the pilot's experience.

Dan wrote:

If you're only staying for a few days, learn to pack a carry-on with all your clothes and other needs. There are some creative packing techniques you can find on the web for really hauling a lot of stuff. Plus, since you're allowed a laptop bag as well, get a big one and stuff it with stuff you need. For trips of less than a week, you can usually get away with this. Then no baggage carousel waits, etc.

tolkein wrote:

If the US wasn't so protectionist and allowed UK (and, you wish, airlines like Quantas, or Cathay or Singapore or Emirates) and Euro airlines to fly in the domestic US you'd have some proper competition and the US airlines would have to shape up. Whenever I fly from the UK I always want a UK carrier as I find the US carriers seem to hate their passengers. I haven't had an enjoyable US internal flight. Ever.

Ken Murphy wrote:

I try to avoid flying if at all possible. LEAG conference in FL in October - driving. ISSDC in Houston last month - drove. The flight on AirTran to Grandma's funeral earlier this year was okay, though I accidentally slid the cushion forward and saw what lay underneath (shudder) as I was putting it back. My United flight to Beijing was terrible, and the flight back was misery heaped on suffering and larded with physical pain. I promptly asked HR to NEVER, EVER book me on United ever again. By contrast, the Air China flights from Beijing to Shanghai were absolutely wonderful. Boarding was quick and efficient. I was blown away that there was ample legroom for my 6' 4.5" frame. The landing in Shanghai was one of, if not the most skillfully executed landings I have ever experienced. I would gladly fly Air China again.

Based on my background as an aircraft finance guy, I would say:
-One of the airlines needs to go away. This has been true for at least three years. Merging one away won't do it. The easiest solution would be for NWA to split their cargo and passenger functions and sell them off. The routes are a bit problematical as you need FAA approval for the buyer. There are some decent assets, but NWA has a lot of planes that need to be parked or converted. DAL has a lot of good assets, but the company seems to have a stronger emotional base than NWA. UAL is, I think, poorly managed in the sense that they don't have passionate flying guys at the top, they have business school MBA types, which means MBA solutions to any issues. All four of the individual flights that got me to China and back had issues of a electrical or mechanical nature. The attendants were not happy campers. I didn't think it was possible to feel cramped on a 747 (never have before), but UAL proved me wrong. AMR has management/staff issues, and all those MD-80s from TWA. Management needs to wake up to the depth of the resentment felt by the rank and file towards the self-serving largesse that management heaps upon itself. LCC is kind of an interesting case, and I'm much more uncertain about their future than the others. The merger of UAW and AWA put together an interesting asset pool, and if they can make it work they should be okay. CAL, I think, will be okay. They're pretty conservatively managed. It's a puzzle to try to figure out which should be the one to go away.
-Prices have to go up. No one has an inherent 'right' to fly cheap. I think the fee structure is the wrong way to go, that should all be rolled into an all-in ticket price.
-Prepare for exclusive contract vending machines on aircraft, accompanied by a further down-sizing of cabin crew.
-As bad a movie as was 'Soul Plane', the producers may have been onto a few things as far as cost-cutting measures go.

Until one of the major airlines disappears, then things will continue to fumble along as they are into the indefinite future. If one does disappear, then the market will be able to try to find a new equilibrium, possibly even a profitable one.

P.S. I love to fly Air France.

Brother J wrote:

I had a very similar experience to Rand on US Airways the week before last. Non-stop from IAD to PHX. My bag went to DAB via CLT instead. I blame Bag Karma. Charge $15 to check my bag and it will cost the airline far more than that to actually get my bag to me. I've posted the details at

John Schan wrote:

So have you asked for your $15 back? Seriously. If you paid them $15 to deliver your bag and they don't, it would seem to me to be fraud. If they don't find it, I would seriously consider a lawsuit (possibly a class-action suit) to recover damages.

Maybe this will cause airlines to pause before considering charging passengers to transport their luggage.

james w wrote:

"John Schan wrote:
So have you asked for your $15 back? Seriously. If you paid them $15 to deliver your bag and they don't, it would seem to me to be fraud. If they don't find it, I would seriously consider a lawsuit (possibly a class-action suit) to recover damages."

Yes, John, the answer is always a class action lawsuit. The lawyers take millions and we all get a coupon good for two "free" bag checks when used in conjunction with a full fare ticket. What a nation of whiney little pissants we have become.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on August 3, 2008 7:34 PM.

Off to California was the previous entry in this blog.

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