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. 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. 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. That 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.