The Mystery Of The Disappearing Luggage by:Wendy Stenberg-Tendys
You don't give a second thought to your luggage when you check in at an airline desk. You merely expect it will arrive at the destination on the same flight you do. Wrong! Lost, delayed, stolen or damaged baggage remains a significant problem for both airlines and travelers.
Thirty-three million pieces of luggage were lost in 2008. Admittedly that is an improvement on 2005, when United States airlines lost 10,000 bags a day on average - that is between 4% and 9% per 1000 passengers. This was the worst performance since 1990. An increase in the number of passengers, airline budget cuts, backed-up flights and tighter inspections of luggage were blamed.
Bloomberg reported in March 2009, baggage mishandling at 14.28% items per 1,000. A decrease from 18.86% per 1,000 in 2007. Approximately 5.7% to 6.73% were never recovered.
Barry Maher, who gives speeches on customer service, was one such victim. Delta lost both his bags last April, on a trip from Ontario, California, to Roanoke, Vancouver. Maher had to rush out and buy a shirt, slacks and underwear, so he could give a speech. His bags arrived at his hotel just in time for him to start his return journey. Both pieces of luggage were lost once again. Delta's staff was "uncaring," he says.
Very little has altered in airline's luggage handling systems. Airlines cannot afford to install RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to cover the two million pieces of passenger's luggage per annum. Information is not shared between different airlines, even when a piece of baggage is transferred.
When London's Heathrow Terminal 5 opened, there was a backup of 20,000 bags. Some bags were sent to a sorting facility in Italy.
While lost baggage is totally out of your control, there are one or two things you can do to lessen the damage:
- Don't put expensive, or hard to replace items in your luggage, without insurance
- Place prescriptions and travel documents in your hand luggage, particularly jewelry and cash
- Slide on identification labels can be readily pulled off, so go for something more permanent, such as extra identification inside your bags
- Make a list of the items you pack in each bag
- Travel as lightly as possible - buy toiletries when you get there, use wash and wear clothes and mix and match outfits - many airlines now charge for the second piece of baggage
- If your bags do not arrive, report it immediately. Get a phone number and name to call back if needed
- Avoid tight connections - it is asking for baggage problems
- Wherever possible go for carryon luggage only
- Carry some emergency clothing in your hand luggage
- Fancy luggage is an open invitation for thieves
- Ask the airline for cash for some basic supplies, such as toothbrush, toothpaste and razor.
Luna Leboo now bids for lost luggage, displays it online and attempts to reunite it with its owners. "I found an auction where the luggage was being sold off, unopened", says Ms Laboo.
Most airlines allow three months for the baggage to be claimed, then the luggage is sent to an auction house or given to charity. The question needs to be asked, why can't airlines do what Luna Laboo is doing? Photograph the case and put it online?
About the author
Dr Wendy Stenberg-Tendys and her husband are CEO's of YouMe Support Foundation (http://youmesupport.org) providing high school education grants for children who are without hope. A chance to fulfill their dreams at whatever level they chose to. Take a few minutes to check it all out at Win A Resort (http://winareosrt.com)
Feel free to contact Wendy on firstname.lastname@example.org