Monday, January 02, 2006

Lost Luggage Lessons

For the 2nd time in 3 years we lost luggage on a holiday trip to Montreal -- on a direct NWA flight!

This time it wasn't security holding a bag, or the airline running out of room, or someone misfiling a bag. Our 3 kids were slow moving through Trudeau (Dorval's) endless aerobic corridors (the secret to Quebecois physique) and by the time we got to the carousel a harried traveler had grabbed the wrong bag -- ours.

It turned up in Toronto on Air Canada and was delivered to my parent's home. The airline did fine really, but the process is a royal pain. Here are a few tips I learned:
  1. Northwest has a web site for tracking lost luggage. I didn't see this on the lost luggage paperwork, it would have saved us some calls. I came across it by accident.
  2. The silly luggage tags airlines provide are shredded in transit about half the time. Put identification in the bag and buy tougher tags.
  3. All wheeled bags look alike to travelers impaired by age, disability, inexperience, stress, hunger, etc. Ribbons tear off. Duct tape won't adhere to many bags. I'm looking for brightly colored tough nylon cable ties -- a few in strategic places would have prevented loss of my wheeled bag.
  4. If a bag is lost for over 24 hours you can be reimbursed for up to $50 of "essentials". Unfortunately the list of "essentials" was last updated in 1950. A power adapter for my laptop is far more important than a clean shirt.
  5. Speaking of power adapters, when I lost the bag I started realizing how hard, if not impossible, it would be to replace some of the gear in it. Clothes are easy to replace, a G3 iBook AV cable may be impossible to find. Montreal is not a tiny city, but I found only one store that had an iBook power adapter on the premises. It's a pain, but these things need to be carried on.
  6. AAA and AMEX don't automatically provide lost luggage insurance. Homeowners does cover it, but we have a $1000 deductible. My AMEX card allows me to insure up to $500 for $5/flight or $39/traveler/year if the trip is charged to the same card. I'm not sure the insurance is worth it really; for me the problem is more the hassle of finding replacements than the insurance costs. Domestic coverage by airlines is pretty good, but international coverage sucks -- maybe $250 for a typical bag ($9/pound).
Check out this reference too.

No comments: