Lost Bags

Update: See Lost Bags: Followup for the resolution of the problem. Airtran sent me a replacement bag.

On May 7th, 2006, I and my brother were booked for Airtran #109 from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Atlanta (ATL), to transfer to Airtran #182 to Washington National Airport (DCA). We arrived at MCO to find that #109 had been delayed such that we would miss the Atlanta transfer to #182, but later learned that #182 had also been delayed due to weather conditions, so we would be able to make the transfer after all.

The transfer at Atlanta that night was the fastest we had ever done: walk from the Boeing 717 at Gate C9, to get on the other Boeing 717 at Gate C10, which pushed off almost as soon as we had boarded. I wondered as we took our seats whether there had actually been time to transfer our bags in that short period.

We found out after landing at DCA that no, there had not been time, as neither of our bags showed up on the baggage claim — though we did notice that other transfer passengers from Orlando had gotten their bags. Upon learning that all bags from Airtran #182 had been unloaded, we entered the baggage service room and filled out the requisite Lost Baggage forms. These were difficult to understand, and the bag description fields gave no indication that a handy numbered baggage-type chart was hanging on the wall right behind me for reference. The attendant told us that upon receipt of the found luggage, it would be delivered to us at the address we had given on the forms.

The next day, someone from airport services called to say that our bags had been found and could either be picked up, or they could deliver them straight to my residence within a four hour window. I was quite happy about this, opted for delivery, and called work to say I would have to take the afternoon off so I could receive the bags within that window.

At around 3pm, the bags had not arrived yet, and I received another call from the same person at airport services, asking to confirm my address. I asked why the bags had not been delivered, with the four hour window almost up, and the person on the line told me that the four hour window was from the time that the bags came to them at the Baggage Service office, not from the time we were informed the bags were found. The bags had just arrived there, so my four hour window was supposed to be until 7pm. This misinformation left me rather angry, and I asked if my bags could be prioritized, as I had work to attend to. They told me that this could be done.

At around 6pm, the bags still had not arrived, and I called again. The conversations that occurred here were quite confusing, with the contact at National Airport attempting to conference me with the mobile phone of the bag-delivery driver, getting only a voice mail message, and accidentally (?) hanging up on me twice. People who know me, know that I am a fairly calm person who doesn’t normally raise my voice in any situation, but this had me yelling. This travesty of service was a complete outrage.

The delivery finally arrived at 7:30pm, half an hour past the end of the four hour window. The bags were quite battered: the hard lining of my suitcase had been crushed, so that the top of its frame was misshapen, and my brother’s TSA-approved padlock was missing. Fortunately nothing else had been lost — or stolen.

I suppose there are a few lessons to be learned here: always try to go carry-on, and pick up bags at the airport rather than request delivery. This whole affair — careless management of checked bags on delayed connections, poor communication with ground services, and untimely delivery of found baggage — has left me sour about ever trusting AirTran or Washington National Airport ever again with my travel, especially with checked bags.

(CC:’d to Air Travel Complaints, AirTran, and National Airport Operations.)

Update: See Lost Bags: Followup for the resolution of the problem. Airtran sent me a replacement bag.


  1. PLR says:

    My boyfriend and I checked in on May 20, 2006 in Orlando for a flight to Dallas on #854 Air Tran, which connected through Atlanta. The agent at the check-in counter took my ID along with my boyfriends – who by the way does not share my last name -and checked us in under the first couple he found with my last name – the agent assumed we were married and did not even look at our names on our ID. I specifically told him we were traveling to Dallas with a connection through Atlanta — he smiled and said sure and put tags on the three bags which were being checked and then gave me our tickets. I did not look at our tickets because I assumed that the agent was competent. Arriving at the security checkpoint I realized that our tickets had not been issued to us and had be issued to a couple that had my last name and were traveling to San Francisco. My boyfriend and I ran back to the Air Tran counter for the error to be corrected. He issued us new tickets and promised us he would run and have our three bags re-tagged.

    We arrived in Dallas and of course our bags did not. We filled out the standard lost claim forms. I explained that I believed that our bags were in San Francisco because of the mess in the beginning. She agent in Dallas called the agent in Orlando that had checked us in and he assured her that he had caught the bags and retagged them. We left Air Tran lost baggage counter basically feeling like they would fill the form and never look at it again. The same day I tried calling a dozen times and was not able to get through. The next day I sat and dialed the Dallas office over and over and finally an agent picked up and she said that our bags had be found on America West and she had them in her car. Instead of waiting for our luggage to be delivered I said I would come pick them up. I arrived at the airport to find three bags and only one of them actually mine. The other two were the couple’s luggage that I had been ticketed under to begin with. So not only had the original ticketing agent screw up by not verifying our name on our ID’s he did not verify the names on the bags that he had re-tagged to be sent to Dallas. WHAT A MESS. The agent in Dallas said she had called a dozen times and could not get anyone on the phone in San Francisco. I personally called the couple whose bags I received because they would have no idea where their bags were as well. I received a call late Saturday night and was told my luggage was delivered to the couple in San Francisco and was refused and was defiantly in San Francisco. As of today Monday May 22, 2006 the airline has not located my bags and after personally calling San Francisco two dozen times I finally got through, explained my problem and was promised someone would get back to me — they have not.

    Everyone I seem to speak to have said they will work on it and call me back — however it’s not their job. Also earlier I was told that they would look for it for two more days and if they can’t find them I could submit a claim. It’s funny because no one I have spoken to has even spoken to anyone in San Francisco. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! The customer service SUCKS and the security is very questionable to say the least.

    (CC:’d to Air Travel Complaints, AirTran, and National Airport Operations.)