I have traveled for my work for about 15 years now. This has involved flying to Mexico, Sweden, England, Estonia, Japan, Singapore, Australia, many places in the US and Canada and even Ottawa. In fact, Ottawa 15 times last year! Fortunately they have a casino across the river. I try to play poker when I’m on the road and occasionally watch major league baseball. I think my record is 7 weeks in a row (home on weekends) but I usually travel 2 to 3 weeks a month.

In all my travel I have never lost a bag and I check them regularly. Three times I have had bags delayed. Two of those trips was through Chicago on a connecting flight where there were only 45 minutes between planes. Both ways the TSA opened my bag (and left me a polite note) and that probably caused it to miss its plane. Both times I got my bag back one day late. The third time was much longer. It was with Air Canada flying back into Toronto and there had been a baggage handler strike plus an Air France plane had landed very abruptly and spilled passengers out onto the tarmac and even highway 401. No one was killed but it helped bring even more disruption to the airport. I did not get my bag back for a couple of weeks and was starting the brutal process of applying for insurance for my clothes and other goods.

So I have three stories of missing baggage in 15 years of travel. Sometimes I do carry on, but if I am away all week I usually check everything because it is easier to throw it into a larger case and let the airline take care of it. I have only my large backpack with two computers and a tablet to worry about on the plane and when we land I usually wait between 5 – 15 minutes for my bag. When my shortest regular trip to Ottawa takes over 4 hours (including driving time to/from airports) this is not much extra time.

This background brings me to the main cause of my article: those “people”  who insist on bringing all their bags onto the plane! I board first because of my frequent flyer status, so I get to watch the many customers who carry far too much luggage and try to stuff it into the ever diminishing space overhead. Even though the airline plays a message on every flight about “placing the heavier articles under the seat in front of you and lighter articles only should go in the overhead bin” it never works out that way. What is most fascinating is how the desperation increases as more people board and there is less and less space. The last thirty people open bins that are already packed, try to stuff their bag into a space that is far too small and many wind up shoving suitcases under the seat in front of them and having their legs cramped for the rest of the trip.

Many travelers are smaller women who seem to like large bags that are just under regulation “cabin baggage” size; they are often challenged to lift them up over their heads and into the bins. So other passengers have to help which makes the dance even more fun when these folks discover there is no room.

As I watch this anxiety producing ceremony I often want to call out “you could check that bag and just relax!” I know that if I said this, most of these passengers would snap back with some sort of ‘lost baggage’ horror story. They would probably cite some problem they had, or that their friend had. Yet in my 15 years of travel, I have had virtually no incidents.

Perhaps people want to keep their “baggage” close to them? Are they afraid of giving it way to the airline? Their fears are not rational, just like those who prefer to drive whenever they can even though airline flight is so much safer. But when confronted by statistics, many people will say “but in a car, I am in control and I am not in an airplane.” Yes, you are in control until the loose tire comes flying at you or the crazy drunk crosses the median. In the plane two professional pilots and millions of dollars worth of technology protect you. But even then, perhaps some of us want to maintain control of our “stuff” even if it means staring with a dazed and shocked look at overhead bins bulging out with other people’s “stuff” and the announcement comes to take your seat and close all of your tray tables……

2 responses to “Baggage

  1. The issue is cost, and this is something that annoys me as well. I assume you enjoy preferred status on the airlines you fly, but for the vast majority of the flying public it is both a hassle and significant extra cost to check bags.

    I flew American Airlines a few weeks ago, and if I have any status at all in my AA profile it would be “loser”. $25 each way to check a bag, plus the pain in the butt factor of having to pay for it at check-in, get four receipts to not lose (fee + tax), and then expense it.

    If you’re a family of four just looking to go to Disneyland, that’s an extra $200 which is significant for a family vacation.

    I am not at all surprised that the boarding process is a zoo, that it annoys all levels of customer, and likely costs the airline money as they need to staff extra people to put overflow bags in the belly and extend the turnaround time of their fleet.

    I enjoy flying JetBlue, who still has free bag check. The experience is very different, one might even call it civilized, when people aren’t encouraged by the airline to stuff all of their worldly possessions into the overhead bin.

  2. As usual Pete, you just make too much sense!

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