Buy Stock In Samsonite!

- wadE

Reading this in today's edition of didn't surprise me one bit:

"Northwest Airlines botched baggage handling more than every other major airline but one last year.

Northwest had about 4.5 reports of lost, damaged, delayed or stolen bags per thousand domestic passengers, the Transportation Department reported Monday. That's worse than every major airline except American Eagle.

The average number of baggage complaints for the ten biggest U.S. airlines was about 3.8 per thousand passengers.

Northwest blamed its baggage problems on the luggage system at its new terminal in Detroit. Northwest spokeswoman Mary Beth Schubert said the Detroit baggage issues have been resolved.

The union representing Northwest ground workers say layoffs have hurt Northwest's baggage performance."

Yeah... I suppose having all of your coworkers getting fired would piss you why not take it out on a faceless strangers baggage.

I've got about as much love for the baggage handler as I do for the traffic cop.

On a flight out to NY for the holidays, I got on the plane and had a window seat with a prime view of the guy loading baggage onto the little conveyor belt that goes up the cargo door. Unfortunately I had checked my bag that day, which is something I never do. After being a traveling consultant for 6 years, you become very good at packing, but when you are traveling for a couple of weeks, you end up needing a few more clothes.

Anyway, so I'm watching the guy toss bags from the cart they are in onto the conveyor belt. Now, when I say toss, I do mean toss. The bags were leaving his hand, traveling through the air, and landing on the conveyor belt approximately 3 to 4 feet away. As I was watching I wasn't too surprised by how he was treating the bags. I've seen a lot of baggage being handled roughly during my travels. I prefer the window seats on the right side of the plane, so I see them loading stuff all the time. However, this guy was just tossing bags just a bit further than most.

So, I'm watching him throw luggage and he gets to a black hard case that looks to be holding cymbals in it. He proceeds to toss them like a frisbee onto the belt...I start shaking my head... a few bags later I spot my bag. He turns to toss it...but after all that tossing, you start to get he comes up a foot short. My bag his the front edge of the belt, and falls to the ground. I'm not kidding. I couldn't believe it.

Thankfully I know how to pack, and even with some breakables in my bag, they were packed in the middle with layers of clothes surrounding them. But really...don't these idiots know that people are watching them? It's one thing to be in the back room of the airport when the luggage comes inside and they toss it on the belts that come down to baggage claim, but this is in broad daylight, with a plane on each side of you.

This stupidity is not limited to the airlines though....

Last night I was flying home from New York's LaGuardia airport, and for those of you who don't travel often, or haven't checked bags since January 1st...all checked baggage must go through screening before going on the airplane. So, you wait in line at the ticket counter, get up front, check-in, get luggage tags, and then go wait in another line to have those wonderful government employees put your bag in this machine to be scanned. This machine is best described as an extra-large x-ray machine that says "InVision" on the side of it. It has a slanted belt on the front to bring the bags up inside the machine, then they are "pushed" out the back onto a metal ramp. If anything "suspicious" was detected, they pull you aside so you can watch one of them rummage through your carefully packed bag, and more often then not, struggle with re-closing it. I have several issues with this... the main one is the extra time it takes for this process. I have been lucky to have traveled at off-peak times this year, and most business travelers don't check baggage. What I'm waiting for is the next big travel holiday. No offense to anyone out there...but you get all these idiot leisure travelers out there with their 5 giant steamer trunks for their weeklong vacation and it's going to take about 4 hours to check-in and get your baggage checked.

But, for the purposes of today's discussion, I'm going to focus on how the bags in LaGuardia yesterday were "pushed" out the back of the InVision machine. So I give my bag to this woman at the front of the machine, and she picks it up and literally tosses it on to the belt. Now this belt comes down to about 4-5 inches off the floor. All you need to do is to roll the bag over...hell, even just drag it over...and lean it against the belt. The rubber belt easily grabs the bag and pulls it up into the machine. But no...this bitch has to toss my bag through the air to the point where it lands so hard it bounces up and almost off the side of the belt.

So I grumble about how she treated my bag as I walk to the other side of the machine. I get to the other side and the bag that belonged to the person in line ahead of me launches out the back end of the machine. Literally launches, took flight, and crashed down at the far end of the ramp on the back side. I was just shocked. So I think to myself, "Ok, maybe her bag was really it just kinda 'took-off' when it came out... my bag is 35 will just 'gently' fall down onto the ramp."

Nope, my bag is launched out the back of machine as well. Our next bag to come out is 48 pounds. It's exceptionally heavy because we were hauling back more gifts from Christmas that we didn't want to risk sending through the mail.


That bag is launched more than two feet through the air, crashing down on the ramp.

So to add insult to injury, the bitch that tossed my luggage onto the belt on the front side of the ramp comes over to my bag (which passed the InVision test) and takes it to the belt that will take the bag down to the airline baggage handlers. She drops my bag on to the belt. Dropping it from at least 3 feet above the belt.

The other bag has not passed in the InVision test and we have to wait for it to be rummaged through. The only bonus of this part of the process is that we were able to see that the breakables that were packed in their original packaging (molded styrofoam) survived the drop. Oh, that's one other thing. If you have any boxes or gifts you are transporting, forget about wrapping them or even taping the boxes shut, because if there is anything inside they deem suspicious (and apparently ceramic figurines are dangerous items) they will open up the box, tear through the styrofoam to see what contraband you are in possession of.

Assuming this process stays in place long enough, I can't wait for next Thanksgiving. The lines will be completely out of hand. Eventually the passengers will complain to the airlines, who in turn will complain to the government that their regulations are hurting their profitability...even this months article in the Northwest magazine from the CEO is about taxes and government rules that take money out of their pocket. We will see how long this lasts.

In the meantime, invest in a nice set of Samsonite luggage.

- 02/04/2003

Also, if you missed it, check out my gambit on Bill Maher's new book.

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