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"But I checked them all together..." part two

New Arrival
This is a continuation of what happens when you check your bags and how they can be separated.  Part One can be found here. When the bag gets to T-point, it leaves the belt and goes onto a large circular carousel.  Bag carts are placed around the carousel, and Ramp Agents have specific flights in their zone to take bags from the carousel and place on a cart. ramp-agent-at-t-point.jpg  It doesn't happen often, but sometimes a Ramp Agent can misread the destination code on the bag.  For instance, BNA is Nashville, Tennessee, but SNA is Orange County, California.  Opposite sides of the country.  Here's an example of how a misload can happen and what was done to fix it:
Last year, BNA had a city that would send our bags to SNA and their bags to us.  It happened on the same flights several times a day.  As you can imagine, being on opposite sides of the country limits our options to return each other's bags.  After four or five days of the same problem, I sent the offending city an e-mail.  They took a look at what was happening and for a way to fix it.  It turns out, that several times during the day, they had carts for BNA and SNA side by side!  So you see, by misreading the tag, or turning left instead of right, human error caused a preventable bag delay.  After being made aware of the situation, the problem was corrected by moving BNA and SNA carts into other areas at T-point.  Problem solved!
Now that your bag is on a cart with a hundred other bags to your destination, it gets taken out to the flight about 20 - 25 minutes before departure. That's why we have to have a cut-off time as mentioned in part 1. Now for another suggestion.  7) Travel earlier in the day.  I know it's not always possible, but it will give us more time and flight options to get your bag rerouted if it is delayed.  This can be especially important if you are going on a cruise or have that big presentation at 7:00 a.m. the next day.  So, now your bag is loaded.ramp-agent-in-belly.jpg ramp-agents-loading.jpg It's been handled by another four or five people to get it on the plane. Your flight departs and you make a connection to your final destination.  Guess what?  More baggage handling. Unloading, transferring gates, and reloading will see your bag handled by at least five more people. (If you are keeping count, we are at 15.)  Finally, you and your bag have made it to your final destination.  But wait, there's more! (I've always wanted to say that.)  Your bag still has to be unloaded and transported to baggage claim. ramp-unloading.jpgThat will involve another three or four of our Ramp Agents. Now your bag is on the claim belt and almost back in your hands.  There is one last possible delay.  The dreaded bag swap!  Someone else took your bag by mistake.  Unfortunately, this is out of our control.  That's why we announce and have posted that bags look alike and tags should be checked.  But, if it happens, don't worry.  We'll sort out the mixup, and have your bag delivered to you.  Speaking of the claim belt, how about a few more suggestions?  😎  Come straight to baggage claim. Wait to go get your rental car or have lunch.  If your bag is delayed, the sooner you let us know, the faster we can start looking for it. Sometimes, we can even double-check the plane before it leaves.  9) Make your bag identifiable.  Lots of people use a black roller bag.  There's nothing wrong with that, but a few identifying marks can help prevent a bag swap and even let you pick your bag out from a distance.  Use something more than a piece of red yarn.  Try fabric paint with a creative design.  One of my favorites was the guy who took the time to paint "NOT YOURS" in three-inch letters on his bag.  Another one was the lady who painted sunflowers on all sides of her bag.   By now, I hope that I haven't scared you into believing that your bag will get lost and never be found.  Most of the time all goes according to plan.  Although bags are handled by real people with the possibility of human error, our folks do their best to make sure your bag arrives when you do.  And hopefully, my suggestions will lower your chance of a delayed bag even more. While we'd prefer to never delay a bag, realistically, as a Company, our goal is to delay no more than four bags per 1000 Customers.  During all of 2006, our average was slightly higher at 5.34. So, we have some work to do!  But, it's still better than most of the competition!!  I can promise you, everyone at Southwest Airlines is working hard to get your bag on your flight and to keep the number of delayed bags as low as possible.
22 Comments
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... and for those who work in aviation: I recuperated a tooling flag (a long strip of red pretty indestructible fabric with a metal eye) and tie-wrapped it to the base of the handle on my case. It's good enough for a Ramper to spot from a distance, and I immediately know which one if my bag as soon as it pops up on the carrousel! I've also written my name and cell phone number on it with a permanent marker, which can help get it back to me if needs be! (of course, if too many people do this, there will soon be an endless stream of bags with red markers on them coming out onto the carrousel! 🐵
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I think that using letters and nubers is not fare. I make sure I am at the airport in the recommeded time fram and on my morning flights am generally the first or second person in the A line. So infect You are penalizing the individuals who adhere to the recomended time frame. In protest I will be flying the next two weeks with another airline and will in the future continue to go to with other airlines when the prices are competative.
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Bert, Thank you for such an interesting continuation. Ramp Agents are really unsung heroes of the Southwest operation. Customers rarely, if ever, see them face-to-face and therefore have little opportunity to personally thank them or note them by name in a letter to Customer Relations. If any rampers are reading this blog, thank you!
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Yea Bert! Thanks for posting the brilliant explanation and those wonderful tips to our customers. As your Baggage Service Office counterpart in Orange County, I can attest to the former BNA/SNA bag confusion. And I'm happy that the steps taken has significantly reduced the confusion to nearly none. Of course the ramp crews are humans (like everyone else!) and will make a mistake from time to time, but I'm proud that we're always looking for new ways to minimize our errors. All the BEST to you in BNA!
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4 delays out of 1000 is not too bad. What % get destroyed? Last year SWA told me my bag fell off the cart and got run over by something [smaller than a 737] and all I got back was the handle, the contents and a free SWA black roller bag. I'd love to know what really happened out there. Bob
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Hi Bob, I don't know what the percentage of destroyed bags is but I can tell you that in my experience in the Baggage Service Office, it's got to be extremely low. I've seen very few "runover" bags over the years. I'm glad that you got a brand new bag and that nothing inside was ruined (we'd have gladly compensated you if it had been). It's not a pleasant experience to have to tell someone that they're bag has been "totalled" - even less of a pleasure to hear it said to you I'd imagine.
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A Big hats off to those of you who properly tag bags headed for either "Orange County (SNA)" or "San Diego (SAN)"! At my home airport SMF (Sacramento) to too could get messed up with Louisville (SDF). 22 departures out of 84 daily departures are either to Orange County or San Diego. And to fix this, you need to put the bags on two planes since Southwest doesn't do the very short hop from Orange County to San Diego. So to those of you in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento with strong frequency to both Orange County and San Diego. A very big hats off to getting the SNA/SAN right!!!
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Regading the 5 days (how many customers is that before somebody took action?!) of SNA and BNA swapping, are you saying the responsibility for ensuring proper destination of the bags ends at the cart? If neither the person at the bottom of the conveyor nor the person at the top is responible for looking at tags, at least occasionally, that may explain a few things. Or do I misunderstand the process?
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I'm glad my home airport is BWI. Luckily Southwest only flys to five cities that start with the letter B and none have airport codes close to that. It is nice to live close a major hub so I'm sure every handler knows what airport that is plus I know another Southwest flight isn't far behind should my luggage get lost or misdirected. It hasn't gotten lost with SWA but it did get lost both ways on my trip when I flew American last year. (Only reason I was on American is because SWA doesn't fly to Minneapolis or to many other other cities in the midwest.) I won't fly AA again! Southwest does a great job with bag handling!!!
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Hi Bob, I think the only thing you may be misunderstanding about the process is the element of time. We perform 20 minute turnarounds - which means our Ramp Agents have 20 minutes to unload all the inbound bags into tugs and load up the all outbound bags into the aircraft. Most of the time, we're talking about hundreds of bags and three Ramp Agents. And while Ramp Agents generally do make the fair assumption that all the bags in the Oakland cart are supposed to be headed to Oakland, they absolutely *do* catch mistakes while loading and unloading the aircraft. If the correct flight hasn't left, the bag is simply brought back to T-point and placed on the correct cart. But if the "caught" bag missed the flight our customer traveled on or arrived at the wrong destination, the Ramp Agents let us Customer Service Agents know in the Baggage Service Office. This way, we can give a heads up to the Baggage Service Office in the correct city so our customer can be paged in the baggage claim area when they're flight arrives. We'd much prefer to inform and take care of them immediately rather than have them standing around waiting for a bag that's coming in an hour or two. I hope this helps!
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To Ronald D's comment on 9/26, log in as close to 24 hours before scheduled departure and won't need to be concerned about the line at all. This airline wants to get rid of "camping" for your spots in line with the November boarding procedure while keeping the fine art of finding your seat when you see it.
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I don't know why I can get my bags within 5 minutes after I get to the carousel in ABQ, but it took 30 minutes on Thursday at Love, and we landed at gate 2 or 3! I know SWA wants to limit carry ons, but if will have to speed up baggage handling before passengers will cut back. Are the handlers in ABQ that good, or are the handlers at Love that bad? I will say that SWA is a lot better than AA about not losing luggage. And when AA does lose your luggage they tend to get really snotty about it, like it's your fault somehow. Not a baggage issue, but what happened to the cookies/crackers on the Love to ABQ flight? hb
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I'm going to wonder out loud here. Every piece of baggage has a barcode on it. What if there were humans at the T-point whose only purpose was to scan each bag as it is placed on a cart? I think each cart heads out to only one plane, so a nice soft beep would mean the luggage is being placed onto the correct cart, a big loud ugly beep would mean the luggage is about to get on the wrong plane. Even better - a hand held scanner at each loading ramp and each piece of luggage is scanned as it goes up the belt? One huge advantage here is that the system knows how many bags should be loaded. If the count is one short, well, sorry, that plane needs to depart. But if 50 pieces are missing, then maybe somebody wants to delay departure because somewhere there's a cart where it shouldn't be. With a scanner used on the loading belt, the system would also know whose luggage is AWOL, allowing for a more pleasant Customer experience at the landing city. As Laurie says above, it is much better for a Southwest Employee to notify you about baggage gone astray than for you to discover this on your own after watching the carousel for 20 to 30 minutes. I know this would incur a cost for additional labor, but it would only be about 20 minutes per plane, causing Southwest's labor cost to increase by $10~$20 per flight. But, what is the incremental cost for each and every bag that doesn't follow its owner to its destination? I'm guessing 4 out of every 1,000 pieces of baggage averages to .5 pieces per departure, and I'm also guessing it costs Southwest more than $30 to reunite the lost luggage with its owner. So just in $ and Â
New Arrival
Henry - Glad to hear ABQ is doing such a great job! I'm also sorry that DAL seems to take longer. Not knowing the exact circumstances of that day, I can only give you a possible answer. When flights are delayed into a city, the first priority is to get the connection bags to the aircraft that are waiting to depart. Then, the local bags are brought to baggage claim. Depending on how heavy the offload was and how many flights were waiting for 'hot bags', it can add a considerable amount of time to you receiving your bag. Our entire company is currently in a program we call 'Redefining Excellence'. The goal is to find out the best way to do every part of our jobs. As we have grown, what we used to do may no longer be the best way to do it. Hopefully, as a result, you will see quicker deivery of your bags in the future! Jim - I'm sure our leaders are reading your suggestions and thinking about how to implement some of them. I know that the technology is out there, but so far has been cost prohibitive. Bar codes are currently being used by the TSA to direct bags to the proper airline in cities where all carriers bags are mixed together. Instead, I think our technology people are looking at RFID (radio frequency ID) technology. RFID places a small chip inside a bag tag that is programed when the bag tag is printed and a receiver would tell ramp agents if the bag belongs on that flight as it is loaded. The last I heard, RFID bag tags cost over $.01 per tag above our current costs for tags. Once that cost comes down, I'm sure we'll see it implemented. (disclaimer - I'm not on the inside on Company technology discussions. I am just repeating what I've heard and read.)
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Bert - after I wrote my missive above I thought about RFID and berated myself for not thinking of it before I posted. I considered Google researching the RFID technology and submitting another post, but we have a tight deadline on getting ready for a new product roll out - I'm at about 16 hours a day right now reworking a plan that was destined for failure. The extra penny per bag tag seems awfully inexpensive to me. Granted, 100 million bags a year comes out to 100 million pennies, which equals 1 million dollars. I'm sure the RFID scanners (readers?) also have a significant cost. But what is the cost of delivering a wayward bag? How much extra labor occurs hunting down AWOL bags and sending them to the proper station? Last but not least, what is the value of decreasing customer dissatisfaction? And, of course, the bragging rights SWA could have by claiming the absolute lowest lost and delayed figures in the industry! Heck - if you install the RFID readers first, you could license the technology to other airlines and charge them a tenth of a penny for each bag going through "your" system - brand new revenue applied to the cost of a system you set up for internal use. We call that "Free Money" in my industry, charging others for something you are doing anyway.
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As somebody who does an AWFUL lot of travel with Southwest into & out of my home in Chicago Midway, and as little as possible with the other guys at O'Hare, I will say that I've had the best of luck with my checked baggage at Southwest. Out of more than 60 one-way flights this year, my bag was delayed only once. I appreciate the level of effort and coordination required to make this all happen, and overall I think you all do a great job in this age where we're required to check our bags if we happen to use certain liquid products that don't come in the travel sizes. However, I do have some questions/comments about how baggage is returned on the 3 carousels at Midway (good ol' #'s 6, 7, and 8). First off, things have improved a lot as far as the speed of baggage return the last several times I've flown - heck, last time my bag was even waiting for me at the carousel! I love it when that happens! However, most of the time it takes 15-20 minutes for my bag to reach me once I make it into baggage claim at Midway (which usually takes me 10 minutes or so to reach from the gate). A few things that I believe would make it better for the returns for us passengers are as follows, provided that such a lengthy time is required to coordinate all those bags: 1) I'd like to know in advance which ramp my bags will be coming out of (ie once I arrive at bag claim.) Many, many times I've had to wait along with about 200 other people between the three carousels for the computer boards or the TV monitors to announce which carousel the bag will be coming from. It gets VERY crowded in those areas, and usually the destinations are flashed on the carousel signs at the moment the bags start to come out, resulting in a mad passenger scramble to the appropriate carousel from the waiting areas. Other airports such as BWI have the flights posted on the carousels long before the bags start coming out, making for a much more orderly, less congested claim area. 2) I'd like to see better coordination between the carousels too. One particularly hectic night I arrived and there were three flights coming out simultaneously on carousel #7, and carousels #6 and #8 were both idle and empty. Can't the ramp folks avoid that kind of thing from happening? I'm hoping that somebody from Midway baggage will see this and respond. Thanks Jeff
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The August numbers were released yesterday, the 4 per 1,000 figure we have been batting around is off by a large amount - the industry average is almost DOUBLE that at 7.6 per 1,000. And I'm bummed - SWA wasn't in even in the best five for mishandled baggage. From the USA Today story: Airlines mishandled 7.6 bags per 1,000 fliers, which USA TODAY notes showed a "slight" improvement over the 8.1-bags-per-1,000 fliers mishandled during the same month a year ago. The paper writes "US Airways improved its bag handling, yet its performance still was the worst of the major airlines." But several regional carriers fared worse, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report (page 30). American affiliate American Eagle had the worst rate (13.96 bags per 1,000 fliers), followed by Delta affiliate Atlantic Southeast (13.68), regional giant Mesa (12.42), Delta subsidiary Comair (12.14) and Northwest affiliate Pinnacle (10.64). The top five: Hawaiian (3.1), Aloha (3.72), AirTran (5.19), United (5.42) and Northwest (5.49). Full Story - http://blogs.usatoday.com/sky/2007/10/us-airways-tops.html
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Thanks for the explanatiion of baggage being delayed when on a flight that has passengers connecting to other flights. Good for them, but bad for other passengers. I think I will have to join those other passengers who carry on their baggage. Is it just me, or has SWA become less fun in the past few years? Pilots no longer make jokes, flight attendants are less friendly. Perhaps it's the crowded flights. Or perhaps the attendants are more tired. I've noticed their average age has increased significantly. I know I'm not as perky as I used to be.
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I love Southwest Airlines; never had a problem with baggage. The service is unequaled, plus I'm very happy and relieved to know the airline cares about all it's customers regarding the girl being asked to dress properly, and the man who wore the insulting t-shirt. So, freedom of speech and dress--- that kind of behavior displays ignorance, and a total disrespect of the rest of the world! Thank you for trying at least to keep the clientel decent!
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My favorite SWA baggage retrieval story dates back about 10 years! A friend from Denver was flying to Midland, TX to visit me in Alpine...a 153 mile trek from the Midland airport, but my closest commercial airport! He had to fly another carrier from Denver to Albuquerque and then change to SWA to get to Midland...he wanted to fly SWA all the way, but there was no SWA service in Colorado at the time! Nameless carrier never got the bag on the plane for his flight to Denver! He discovered that he had no luggage upon arrival in ABQ when he went to retrieve his bag to re-check it on SWA. ABQ SWA folks jumped to the rescue...called the other carrier in Denver, got the bag located, got them to get it to ABQ on another flight, then as my friend had already departed on his on-time flight to Midland...yes, the SWA ABQ folks went and retrieved his bag, got it on the next SWA flight to Midland, then the folks in Midland got the bag to the bus station to send it down to Alpine so we did not have to hang around there...we got on the road to my house! So, even though SWA didn't lose the bag, they went the many extra miles to ensure customer satisfaction! To this day my friend and I live to tell this story...and we both continue to be loyal customers!
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in reference to boarding. i onced asked about your system with preboard then A B C. i was told it saved the airline money by doing it this way. i cannot for the life of me could stand why you cant assigne seats when you purchase your tickets like almost all airlines do. several passengers i spoke to does not see it either. we have been flying southwest many years. the paper work has got to be the same.please reply. southwest is a good airline we are very pleased with them.but the boading of passengers.should be looked into. boarding with that A B C system is terrible. makes people feel like cattle.hope you appreciate the feed back. thank you. JOHN ZADWARNY
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When I pick up my checked bag at the carousel, I double check the name on both tags to make sure it's mine! An idea I have is to make two lists of what is in your checked bag (& even your carry on). One can go in the bag, & the other with you. That way, if for some reason you need to let the CSA know what's in your bags, you'll have that list on hand. Once, when I flew AAnother AAirline-I had no choice, because I was flying across the big pond-I was afraid my checked bag was lost when I arrived back in the states. I changed planes & went through customs in Chicago & my bag seemed to take a long time to arrive. It was the next to the last (or maybe the last, I forgot) to arrive, but I remember how scared I was! 'Twas the night before Monday & all through the airport, not a SWA Ramp Agent was working, not even a Provisioning Agent. The flight information was stored in the computers with great care, with the Customer Service Agents knowing Customers soon would be there! 🙂