One of the biggest hassles when flying is the fear of lost baggage. Nothing is more frustrating than to be standing at the bag carousel waiting anxiously for luggage that never comes. In recent years the airlines have gotten much better at handling baggage. In 2008, only 3.6 bags per 1,000 passengers were misplaced (compared to 5.4 per 1,000 in 2007), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. This improvement has a lot to do with new technology that tracks bags through the whole journey.
Scott and Elsie, in the Airport Authority’s Landside Operations Department, have years of combined airline experience here at SAN. They worked with me on my “baggage issues.” I asked them the following questions:
After I check in my bag at the ticket counter, what happens to it?
- First, TSA checks every single bag that is checked in. Remember you can ONLY lock your baggage with TSA-approved locks.
- Next, it is handed off to the airline to be sorted by flight. Most airlines use either automated or hand-held bar code scanners to track your bags based on the bar code of your bag tag. It is sorted on carts by flight. As your bag is loaded it is scanned again to ensure your bag is loaded on the correct aircraft.
What happens to my bag if I am connecting?
- Same process; it is scanned and resorted extremely quickly. The problem comes when people connect between airlines that are not partners – those bags are the lowest priority. The airlines are largely aligned in “alliances.” SkyTeam, Star Alliance and One World are some of the biggest. Staying in one alliance on a single trip will help ensure that your bag will make it with you to your final destination.
What are some tips people can follow to help their baggage make it?
- Remove all old luggage tags.
- Place your name, address and itinerary inside your bag in case the tag falls off.
- Do not buy black bags—bright colors are easier to spot.
- Use bright metallic tape on your bag to identify it rather than “poofy” tags that can get caught in the belt system.
- Do not over-pack bags. Do not use tape to hold a bag shut!
- As the agent places the tag on your bag, make sure it is correct. The three-letter airport code at the top of the tag should match your final destination.
The bag tag provides a wealth of information. Most importantly, be sure to read up the tag:
- The city code at the top is the final destination (remember, San Diego is SAN).
- Also, you will see the airline’s code, flight numbers and scheduled departure time.
- At the very top of the tag you will see your name, the record locator, where you checked in and at what time.
In the sample bag tag shown above, I checked in at San Diego, flew on Delta #44 to Cincinnati (CVG) and then connected to Delta #5786 to Toronto (YYZ).
And there you have it … no matter what your therapist says, it is okay to have baggage.
Pop Ambassa-Quiz!!! The first Airport Authority employee who can tell me the final destination and airline on the tag below will get a prize! To win, you must submit your answer using the “comments” link at the bottom of this post. Good luck!