Long Lost Luggage

Posted by Andrew Groves | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

There are only two possible disaster scenarios that can occur when you ride on a plane. The first, and most obvious, is a plane crash. The second is losing your luggage.

Hold on. Let me rephrase that second one. The airline loses your luggage.

I recently experienced this disaster firsthand, and I’m now telling you about it to vent my frustration.

It all started in the St. Louis International Airport at the check-in area. Everything was fine until I realized that the airline I was flying on (which will remain anonymous) was charging me $15.00 to check my bag. Miffed at this superfluous surcharge, I reluctantly handed my suitcase over to the airline employee. My flight path would take me through Dallas / Fort Worth to my hometown Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My luggage was supposed to follow, but due to the inept nature of several airline employees, it did not.

After arriving late into Fort Lauderdale International (about 10:45 pm), I made my way to the baggage claim. Slowly but surely, the baggage carousel crept along, revealing bag after bag after bag. Time passed, and I soon realized that the crowd around me had begun to thin. And then the carousel stopped.

My bag was not there.

I made my way to the Baggage Claim office to try and straighten things out. After waiting fifteen minutes in line, the woman at the desk told me that my luggage had been left in the Dallas / Fort Worth airport. However, I was soon informed that my suitcase would be placed on the next available flight to Fort Lauderdale, a flight scheduled to arrive at 12:30 am. I described my bag to her and gave her my address so that they could ship it to my house first thing in the morning. She handed me a sheet of paper called a “Property Irregularity Receipt,” and I was on my way.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. When I gave this airline employee my address, I was speaking clearly and concisely. I even spelled out the words “Oakland Park” one letter at a time to make sure that everything was correct. Despite my efforts, I discovered after I had left the airport that the address on the receipt was noticeably different from my actual address. “40th Court” had become “48th Court” (a street which does not exist), and Oakland Park was spelled “Aokland Park.” Maybe my thick South Florida accent got in the way…

We turned around and headed back to the airport. I waited in line again at the Baggage Claim office for several minutes. When I reached the desk, I explained the mistakes, gave her the correct address very slowly, and triple-checked my second “Property Irregularity Receipt” when she printed it out for me. Everything was correct. By this point, it was a little past midnight. Frustrated, I left the airport and got home around 12:45 am.

After coming home, I called my father to explain all that had transpired that evening. During our conversation, he informed me that the airlines only deliver baggage when there is someone present to receive it. Because of my job, I wouldn’t be at my house at all the next day. Thus, my bag would not be delivered to my home. I called the airline’s 1-800 number and pressed “0” frantically until I got hold of an actual representative. I explained the situation, and the operator said that she would make sure my bag wasn’t sent out, but instead left at the Baggage Claim office. I thanked her and hung up. I called my older brother briefly to fill him in on everything and then went to bed around 2:00 am.

I woke up the next morning and emailed my boss, telling him that I would be late to work that day. My plan was to head to the airport in the morning around 8:30 or 9:00 am to pick up my luggage and head back to work. Problem solved, right? Well, when I reached the Baggage Claim office (for the third time now), I was told that my luggage had missed the 12:30 am flight. However, I was soon informed that my suitcase would be placed on the next available flight to Fort Lauderdale, a flight scheduled to arrive at 11:05 that morning. This all sounds too familiar, I thought to myself. The man I spoke with also told me that he would call my cell phone as soon as he had my luggage, which he said would be around noon. I thanked him and left for work. My new plan was to wait for the call and stop by the airport during my lunch break.

Before I continue, here’s a little side note I’d like to share with you. The cell phone that the airline was going to call had very low battery that day. Why didn’t I charge it the previous day? Because my charger was unavailable to me. Where was it? Yep, you guessed it. It was in my suitcase. Thankfully, my battery didn’t die until later that day.

Back at work, I kept my eyes on the clock. 11:00… 11:30… 12:00… 12:30… 1:00, and still no call. Fearing that making a call might drain the battery on my cell phone, I used a work phone to call the airline. After pressing “0” several times, I spoke with a representative about the status of my bag. Checking her computer records, she said, “It says here that your bag was picked up this morning at 10:30 am.” I informed her that I had not picked up my bag this morning, and she agreed to send a notice to the Baggage Claim office.

Now my biggest fear was that someone else had stolen my bag, and there was no real way to find out except to visit the airport for a fourth time. I gave them another hour and a half to call me, and when they didn’t, I got in my car and drove over to the airport around 2:30 pm. I explained my situation and handed them my “Property Irregularity Receipt.” The woman at the desk took my paper and began to look around the office for my bag like she was looking for the remote control. I’m sure she was thinking, It’s gotta be here somewhere.

As she was looking, the man I had spoken with that morning came out of a back room. He recognized me and began to help me. While looking up my records on the computer, he asked me if I’d like to help them. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Would you like to step into the back room and see if you can identify your bag?” Puzzled, I agreed. As I stepped into the back room of the office, I felt like I was breaking several federal laws. After all, who can say that they’ve entered the inner sanctum of the Baggage Claim office? As I scanned for my luggage, I noticed two workers sitting in the back room watching TV and munching on some snacks. Not very surprising, I thought to myself. They looked at me strangely as I surveyed the room, as if I shouldn’t be there. After failing to locate my luggage, I returned to the outer office.

The man at the computer said that my luggage may have missed the 11:05 flight, but he wasn’t very sure. After a little more research, he realized that the flight had been delayed. Instead of arriving at 11:05 in the morning, it had arrived about 3:00 that afternoon. At that point, it was 3:15 pm. “Carousel #8 has the luggage from that flight coming in. If you stand over there, you might find it,” he said. I rushed over to the carousel and waited impatiently for the luggage to start rolling in.

Eventually it did, and I watched as bag after bag passed me by. Nothing. The crowd began to thin, and my spirits began to wane. And then, my bag appeared. The carousel stopped. I hurried over to my bag and picked it up. I’m not exaggerating here: it was the second-to-last bag. But there it was, good as new. Exhausted but satisfied, I loaded my bag in the car and drove away from the airport. After four visits and a dozen or so blunders, I don’t want to go back to the airport for a long, long time.

Comments Posted (7)

  1. Well told Andrew, though I'm disappointed that you left out the first encounter with the baggage claim people where she told you it was lost, then went to look for it anyway. And I agree with you...if they lose it, you should get your $15 back! I'm glad it finally showed back up!

  2. Wow, that really sucks. I've had baggage problems before, especially with how much I fly, it is just a statistical possibility. But I have never in my life had a situation quite as bad as that. I feel really sorry for you Andrew! Thankfully your luggage is back. I'm with Jonathan, they should refund you your $15. I doubt they will though.

  3. OMGosh Andrew...I know this was terrible, but I have to tell you I laughed so hard at your humor. You should submit this somewhere and entitle it, "What You Get for Your $15.00" Glad YOU are back safe.

  4. Yea, you didn't mention me in this. Remember I was the one that arrived at the airport 30 minutes before your flight arrived, because it was late and then had to wait an hour for all the baggage to come through and for you to realise that your bag wasn't there and go to Baggage Claim and then to finally be leaving the airport only to turn around to get the address corrected. I feel so left out (and that was one lone run on sentence).

  5. Hey Matthew, guess who he was flying...that's right, your favorite, AMERICAN!

  6. Been there...done that... I agree on the $15.00 I also think you should submit this piece to the airline magazine....Fly America...:-)

  7. Just be glad that your bag got lost in the USA, where people normally speak english, airlines have more then 1 flight a day and you can easily find stores that sell replacement items with brand names that you know and sizes that will fit....-mattc