Good news, I think. The New York Times reported in February, 2013, that airlines are doing a better job of keeping track of passengers’ checked luggage. According to the Department of Transportation, for every 1,000 people flying domestically only 3 reported lost, delayed, etc. bags. A frequent flier, I have definitely noticed not only greater reliability but also speedier delivery of luggage at destinations. This, however, doesn’t reduce anxiety if my bag hasn’t appeared on the conveyor within 5 minutes.
The good news about improved bag handling, alas, has exceptions. For one, it doesn’t include luggage on international flights. Also, improvements might at least partially be explained by the fact that fewer travelers check bags.
Speaking of anxiety, perhaps my worst case occurred after an international flight. Ruth & I took TAP, Tranportes Aéreos Portugueses, from Newark to Lisbon. At Portela Airport well before dawn, we waited for our suitcases until all other passengers had left.
In the TAP office, a very bored young woman who hadn’t been trained in eye-contact, smiling, or showing sympathy, tapped on her computer and told us our bags would be on the next flight.
The answer to my first question was, “In about 2 hours”. The answer to my second was, “we’ll deliver them to your hotel”.
Having heard the “on the next flight” lie before and feeling very uneasy, we decided to wait in the terminal. The woman assured us that we could leave the area, have some coffee, and return to the carousel when we heard the next-flight announcement. Stupidly, we did just that.
Of course, when the arrival was announced we couldn’t get back in. Fortunately, a kind security sentry saw our distress and issued passes for us to return to the TAP office where the woman was gone but another just like her was in charge.
Back at the conveyor, we waited again until all deplaned passengers had left. No bags.
Back in the now familiar office and after the usual programmed answers, Ruth asked if TAP had a place for unclaimed bags. The answer was, of course, “Sim!”. “Can we check it?” Ruth asked. The answer was, of course, “Absolutamente não o!”
Long story short, after a lot of unpleasantness on both sides, the woman agreed to accompany us to this room. The size of an airport hanger, this cavern was literally stuffed with forlorn, abandoned bags. In less than a minute but 4 hours after we had landed, I spotted our suitcases and we were on our way into Lisbon.