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"But I checked them all together..."

New Arrival
That's a phrase I hear every day in the Baggage Service office. Oh, how I wish it was that simple! What you may not realize is that your bag gets handled by 15 to 20 different people between the time it's checked in and the time you get it back. Anywhere along the way your bags can get separated. In a perfect world, flights would always be on time, you would always get an 'A' boarding pass, and your luggage would never be missing. Unfortunately, flight delays happen, someone has to get 'B' and 'C' boarding passes, and luggage misses flights. Here's a look at what happens when you check your bags, how things can go awry, and what we at Southwest do to try to minimize mistakes. I'll also offer a few ideas about what you can do to reduce your odds of having a delayed bag. The process starts when you first arrive at the airport to check your bag. ticket-counter.jpgIn most of our cities we need to receive your bag more than 30 minutes (7 cities: BWI, DEN, IAD, LAS, LAX, MCO, MDW, & PHX are 45 minutes) of your scheduled departure to guarantee your bag will make your flight. (Check southwest.com for current information.) That 30 (or 45) minutes does not include any wait time you might encounter prior to us tagging your bag, so plan accordingly.  We  can't promise your late-checked bag will arrive with you, and you'll have to come pick it up. So, here are my first two suggestions: 1) Arrive early! Suggested airport arrival times can be found on southwest.com.  I'd add even more time during holidays or spring break. 2) Take a look at your claim checks. Make sure they have your final destination on them. I've accidentally sent a bag to Tampa when you were going to Los Angeles. (Sorry, I'm human! I promise I didn't mean to!) In some of our cities, like Nashville (BNA) where I work, after your bag is tagged, you take it to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) drop point for screening. Other cities place your bag on the belt and the screening is performed behind the scenes. Additionally, some airports mix the bags from all airlines together prior to screening and then use automation to sort them back out. At this point, Southwest loses control of your bag. Those big x-ray machines (that you may or may not see) have a computer that tells a TSA agent when to give a bag a visual, more thorough inspection. Most often, it sees nothing, and your bag is sent on its way. Other times, it sees a possible threat (like maybe your new iPod), and your bag must be opened for inspection. Sometimes an item is just too big (like golf clubs) or too fragile (like car seats) to go in the x-ray and must be manually screened. Whatever the case, until the TSA determines a bag is safe to travel, we don't get it back! Here's my next two suggestions: 3) Go to southwest.com and/or the TSA's website for a list of items that can and cannot be checked or carried on. 4) Use TSA approved locks so they don't have to cut yours off if your bag needs inspecting. Now that Southwest has your bag back, it continues down the belt system to what we call "T-point."  t-point.jpgThat stands for "transfer point" and is where you bag is transferred from the belt to a cart, then transported to the gate and loaded onto your aircraft.  Sometimes the bag belt gets hungry and things get eaten: name tags, destination tags, etc.  Occasionally bags get turned sideways and cause a jam.  When that happens, lots of bags can get delayed and miss flights.  I'm glad none of those things happens too often, but try as we might, sometimes 'stuff happens'. Time for more suggestions:  5) Put a completely filled out name tag on and in your bag. We have free ones available at the ticket counter.  If our destination tag comes off, I need to know who the bag belongs to.  6) Place a copy of your itinerary inside you bag.  If your destination tag and name tag are missing, I'm going to have to open your bag to try and find you.  You'll help me a lot if your itinerary is inside.  It might even allow me to get your bag on the flight with you and you'll never know there was a problem!
43 Comments
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I've been very lucky, I've only had luggage go astray three times (once SWA, twice Delta) - in all three instances, it was on my return flight, so I have never had the misfortune of arriving at my destination without my luggage. But I've known a few fellow travelers who arrived at their destination sans luggage, and it isn't pretty. A few more tips from the passenger side of the counter: In addition to making sure your baggage is checked to the correct destination, watch them put your tag on your luggage. It often gets confusing at check in, just this past March I watched as the tag for another person started to get applied to my bag. The other person had already turned around and was starting to walk away. Make sure your cell phone number is on your name tag - it won't do much good if someone has your bag and is trying to call you at home while you are vacationing. I love Bert's idea of putting your itinerary inside the luggage, I had never thought of that. With my reservation number, anybody in the system can find out where I am supposed to be. I'm going to modify this by putting my hotel info on there too. I also drop 2 or 3 business cards into every suitcase, and if I am business traveling and have collected cards from other people, I make sure they are not loose in my suitcase. If you are traveling overseas and connecting, and if you have time, ask for your luggage to be checked to the interim stop, then claim it and recheck it - I'm guessing any transfer point has the greatest potential for luggage going astray. Remember, four out of a thousand passengers have luggage get lost or delayed. This doesn't sound like much, but if your outbound flight and your inbound flight each have 125 people traveling, then statistically one person on one of those two flights will have to talk to somebody in the lost luggage department. If you fly once a month, there is a one in ten chance this year of that person being you! Last but not least, when it is your turn to talk to the lost luggage department, be nice - be very, very nice. I watched a passenger just rip the head off some poor lady behind the counter in Atlanta. When it was my turn, the first words out of my mouth were, "I would like to apologize on behalf of the entire human race for the gentleman in front of me." She gave me a smile and said, "Well, I hope somebody finds his luggage, because I'm sure not going to look for it."
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TSA bag locks are a waste of money. There is no guarantee that the TSA will reapply the lock, and the lock might end up being ripped off by the belt system. I prefer plastic zip ties as I want to know only whether my bag has been opened by *anyone*.
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Lose vs Loose again! "At this point, Southwest looses control of your bag." I'd be glad to work as a producer on the blog. I need another gig. 🙂
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Okay, Jordan I guess I lose because I was a little too loose in my proofing. Maybe lose/loose is one of those proofing blindspots. Hopefully, there won't be an opening here on the blog. Brian
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Bert, that is a good idea to put a copy of your itinerary inside your bags. I've never thought about that, but I will start doing that; I can do it when I go to MCO next month! I always have a luggage tag on the outside of my bags, but haven't put one inside. I'll do that, too. I always completely fill the tags out. My cell phone is my only phone. Another thing I do is write a list of what to pack; I put down what goes in my carry on & what goes in my checked bag. I actually keep that in my purse, but maybe I can also put one in my bags, just in case. I certainly agree with you, too, Jim, on being nice to them in baggage services (of course, it's good to be nice to everyone, though there might be times when one needs to be firm-not mean)! I'm obviously never rude or violent to a CSA, FA, etc. I see people who are rude occassionally, & it hurts me to see it.
New Arrival
Jim - Thanks for your kind words. And, for the advice to be nice to the Baggage Service Agent. I can't tell you how often I've been yelled at for a lost bag, and I wasn't even there! BTW Jim, no fair stealing my thunder. I was saving the 4 in 1000 statistic for Part 3. Drew - I forgot about zip ties. Thanks for mentioning it. Jordan - Sorry, spell check doesn't catch that type mistake. Besides, I was always better in Math and Science than English.
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Thanks for giving us an insight into your job. The last time i flew home my bag didn't arrive with me. No sweat!! I went down and spoke to the customer service agent. She was very helpful and i recieved my bag the next day. I felt sorry for the customer agent . she was being yelled at for no good reason... "YOU LOST MY BAG", "YOU SCREWED UP" "YOU OWE ME A HOTEL ROOM AND A MILLION DOLLAR VOUCHER" "YOU OWE ME A FREE RENTAL CAR." "YOU OWE ME A NEW CAMERA.". RELAX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TO ERROR IS HUMAN TO FORGIVE DIVINE.........
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Hey guys, no problem at all, just friendly teasing. Didn't mean to be obnoxious. I can never get it's/its right. I'll loosen up if you don't lose my bag, 🙂
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Jordan - it's vs. its is simple. There are actually only two instances where this comes up: 1 - When you are contracting "it is" or "it has". Always use the apostrophe. 2 - Describing ownership (possession). Never use the apostrophe. 1A - "It's (it has) been three hours since Jordan's plane (Jordan 'possesses' the plane) landed and Jordan's luggage (possession) still isn't here." 1B - "Jordan's (Jordan is) on his way to the airport, it's (it is) going to be tough to find his luggage" or "Jordan's (Jordan has) already been to the airport, it's (it has) been three hours since the plane's arrival". "It's (it is) going to be three more hours before Jason's (possession) luggage arrives - Jason's (Jason has) already talked to Eric about it." Do not use the apostrophe to represent possessiveness: 2 - "Jordan's luggage (possession) didn't make its (no apostrophe, 'it' represents the luggage) flight, so he's (he is) in need of loosening up." The easiest way to determine "its" or "it's" is to try using the word in a sentence. If you can say the sentence using "it is" or "it has"; then use the apostrophe. Now if it was (no contraction possible) only as easy to figure out when to use "who" and when to use "whom". West Texas Blog Boy
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Hi, Pretty much unrealted, but I'd like to share two positive stories about Southwest Airlines, posted on my blog here: http://mr-t-in-dc.livejournal.com/152863.html
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Be careful Jim, you may wind up the a new moniker -Grammar Blog Boy - 🙂
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Oops, make that "wind up WITH a new moniker"....see, I need your help already
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Bert, Great blog post! Those are great common sense ideas that many infrequent, and even some frequent travelers overlook. Too many people assume that they are just fine having a name tag on the outside of their bag, but if they saw how many tags get snagged and accidentally ripped off, they would realize that just one tag on the outside is not enough. Here is another suggestion -- take some photographs of your bag from a few different angles with a yardstick standing alongside it. Print those and carry them with you in your carry-on when you travel. Then, IF your bags go astray, and the baggage office folks ask you what your bag looks like, you can say "like this...ta da..." and SHOW 'em! All it takes is five minutes by any bag carousel to know how relatively useless the answer "it is black with wheels on the bottom" really is. Along those same lines, since so many suitcase manufacturers have followed the Henry Ford philosophy for so many years (any color you want, as long as it's black), try a colorful piece of tape across the face or bottom of it, or one of those snazzy rainbow colored stretchy straps. Anything to make it look different from those other 18 bazillion black bags with wheels on the bottom. I have to say that out of hundreds and hundreds (maybe one day I'll have traveled so much I can impersonate Carl Sagan and say 'billions and billions') of flights on Southwest, the greatest airline in the world has only lost/loosed my bag TWICE. Once on the front end of a vacation and once on the return trip home. Very quick, courteous and professional responses both times meant that I had my bag within hours. The only time I've had to use that "But I checked them all together" line was on one vacation when I checked both kids in at the same time, and yet one was sent to the wrong place. Once again, baggage claims folks re-routed him to us within days and all was well. (OK, for those who didn't figure out that that was a joke, lemme tell you: that was a joke -- Southwest does NOT accept children as baggage. You have to carry 'em on with you.) Jordan, get in line, bud...I've got dibs on the next job that opens up in Brian's department! Leah, I've got news for you. Anyone who has met you would NOT need to be told that you would never be rude or violent to anyone, although you've got a pretty mean hug... :) Hey Jim (West Texas Blog Boy) -- howdy! I've got a question for you about your explanation. What happens in the Munster household when someone is describing something that belongs to Cousin It? "That is It's chair" would then be translated "That is it is chair." LOL And speaking of apostrophes, doesn't it irritate you when you see people misspell y'all by putting the apostrophe halfway through, as in ya'll? That is just WRONG! Kim Not sitting in It's chair 🙂
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Yes, you're right, Kim! 🙂 That's a good idea about taking pictures of your luggage & carrying them with you! It really is. Now why did I never think of that?
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ummmm, cuz you were too busy not being rude or violent? Or you were thinking about which blog boy you wanted to hug next? (maybe with the first initials of U. S. S.?) Kim Matchmaker Blog Boy 🙂
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Ohh what a good idea to put your business cards in your luggage and taking a picture of it! I use Global Bag Tags on my bags and love them.
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You had me stumped for a bit there Kim. I guess there are actually four instances where "it" and "s" and the apostrophe collide. After some pondering, I've decided when "It" is a proper name, then the apostrophe goes where it would with any proper name: "It's seat is 12A." (Seat 12A is possessed by It.) "It's sitting in seat 12A." (It is sitting in seat 12A.) Same as: Kim's seat is 12A., or Kim's sitting in 12A. Things could get worse. What if It was married and there was a Mr. It and Mrs. It? "Seats 12A and B belong to the Seales." (Plural Seale - no apostrophe.) "Those are the Seales' seats." (Possessive apostrophe after the plural "s". With the two members of the It family, this becomes: "Seats 12A and B belong the the Its." And: "Those are the Its' seats." So now we have: it's - "it is", or "it has". its - possessive, provided "it" isn't a proper name. It's - possessive if "It" is a proper name. Its' - possessive of two or more Its. And there is only one spelling for "Y'all" - always with a capital "Y" and the apostrophe directly after the "Y" and before the "a". Anybody spelling it different is definitely not from Texas.
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Ha, ha Kim! 🙂 Actually, no. I do know whose initials you're talking about though! :) FSWAEBG Future SWA Employee Blog Girl
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Ha, ha Kim! No, I wasn't. I do know who you're talking about though! 🙂
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Re: Mr. T: I, too, have put a shout-out to Southwest on my blog: http://elizabeth.caltech.edu/2007/05/31/top-ten-reasons-i-love-southwest If someone at SWA could find a way to track down the flight attendants that worked flight 341 on 4/26/07 (BUR-SJC) and give them a compliment for their concern over my health, I'd be really appreciative. :) ... do you folks have blog gals as well as blog boys? I'd be honored to be given some kind of title 😛
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I'm sorry for the DPs. Brian, would you like me to send you some candy corn in appreciation of both being posted? :) Elizabeth, we need to think of a title for you! I need one, too. Maybe mine can be this: FSWEBG-Future Southwest Employee Blog Girl, or SWA LUVer Girl. I'm not sure. *Scratchs head in thought.*
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Kim, USS who again?? Oh i know you are trying to be cupid..... Just for the record i am a picky kind of person. I haven't dated anyone in three years. Gosh its been a long time. Its hard to have a relationship when your in the Navy because we are always gone. I am waiting for the "ONE". She better come fast because i am sick of waiting.. 🙂 SLEEPLESS ON THE USS NIMITZ USS BLOG BOY
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USS Blog Boy, I'm the same! I'm picky & I know exactly what I'm looking for in a man. I've actually decided I'm giving up on finding anyone, unless I meet someone when I go to work for SWA-whenever that happens to be! Bert, when my parents & I came home from Israel, they were (& still are) very careful at check in. Before we could walk up to the counter, an employee searched our bags very carefully & asked us questions; of course, we were there to see this the whole time. Then, we walked up to the counter to check in. Also, when we were going through the metal detector, they looked carefully at our bags as they went through. SWA LUVer Girl 🙂
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I recently had a bag that was supposed to come with my flight from Albany to BWI. The company that delivered my bag to me at my home told me that it was being delivered to me three times before they finally delivered it at sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. I was completely stressed out over the whole thing trying to figure out when they would deliver it so that I would receive it. I finally just put a note on my door for them to leave it so it was left on my porch for several hours until I woke up. I was frustrated with the people I spoke to so I called Southwest Baggage Claim office to get the name and address of that company. I actually called twice and was never called back. When I was at the airport this weekend I stopped in the office to get the address. When I asked why my called would not have been returned, the agent said, "We get so many calls on our answering machine that sometimes we just can't return them." I understand bags are going to get lost now and then, but when you can't even return a phone call, that is pretty bad. This situation caused me to lose a lot of faith in Southwest. I'm going to carry my bags from now on. No more checked luggage.
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When I go to MCO next month, I'm checking in two hours early, both going & coming! I like to check in 1 1/2 to 2 hours early, even when traveling in the states, & 2 hours early when I'm going overseas. I noticed you mentioned MCO in your post, Bert. :) SWA LUVer Girl 🙂
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Hmmm, let's see... USS Blog Boy: "Just for the record i am a picky kind of person." SWA LUVer Girl: "... IÃ
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Jim, It is (it's) a good thing I am (I'm) sitting down with my seat belt fastened tightly low around my hips. Your (not you're) grammar examples have left my head spinning and vaguely nauseous as memories of high school English class coming flooding back to haunt me. I'm also quite glad that my last name is not Jones (or somehow related to our own wonderful Carole Adams) and that we were having to debate the use of the possessive "s" after a name that ends in an "s" already. Is that Ms. Adams's seat, or is it Ms. Adams' seat? Now I have a headache, too... Kim P. S. Leah, I'm thinking that we need to work on this nickname thing a bit more. Somehow, 'SWA LUVer Girl' doesn't just roll of the tongue, and since it is still a bit premature to call ya 'Mrs. U.S.S. Blog Boy", we oughta get some more input from the cybersphere. Maybe a naming contest with the winner receiving a bag of candy corn AND a hug from Leah? 🙂
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To easily identify one's OWN luggage among the many almost-identical ones coming off the belt, try drawing a small design in fabric paint which is very durable. 2 purple stars on the bottom surface of my bags are intact after ~5 years and many trips. Note the use of one 'one' with apostrophe and one 'one' without, following the rules set out by Mr Seale, the External Blog Boy.
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Wow, I was having the weirdest sense of deja vu when I started reading the comment about painting purple stars on the bottom of a suitcase. Before I got to the end of that sentence, I thought to myself..."what a coincidence, that is exactly the same idea that my sister had several years ago!". Then, I got to the end of that post and thought to myself..."duh, this comment IS from my sister!!!" :) Waving across the big pond to the east and saying "Howdy, Sis!" Kim Who has carried that purple-starred suitcase a few times 🙂
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Ha, ha Kim! 🙂 Yes, that's a good idea. I've never been able to think of a better name. I better stock up on candy corn for the winner! If the LUV (though I know they spell it Love) Connection were still on, you could be our host, Kim!
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KIM, We all know i am too old to date anyone... once you reach 25 like i did all hope is lose.. :) USS SLEEPLESS BLOG BOY
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Why is the baggage transferring not up to par at Midway? I say this as an ardent Southwest flyer (one RT per week), but I have learned my lesson never to check a bag and connected through Midway. On five separate occasions, different times of the year, different departure cities, different arrival cities, my girlfriend or I have connected through Midway checking bags. On all five occasions the checked baggage did not arrive at the destination on-time!
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Francisco, YIKES! If all hope is lost at age 25, then what happens to us old codgers when we pass 50? Is all hope lost TWICE? From The Home for Elderly Blog Boys 🙂
New Arrival
Andrew, I'm sorry you've been having bag problems as you travel through Chicago Midway (MDW). Chicago has had some staffing issues. Local Managers are aware there have been problems and have been working to correct them. They are now back up to staff and hopefully you'll see a reduction in baggage issues!
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what is the maximum weight allowed for me ?
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Abdulaziz, 3 checked bags up to 50 pounds each. 62 inches in length plus width plus height. Jedi Blog Master
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Great post, Bert. I've been doing 1-5 all along. I never lock my bag anymore since advent of TSA screening, and I always stay at the counter until I see that the tag with my name and destination has in fact been attached to my bag. I'll be adding No. 6 on future trips. I've never had my bag go astray on Southwest. I *have* had it beat me to carousel a couple of times.
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Try putting brightly colored duct tape (mine is electric purple) along the sides of each suitcase that you own...you can spot them coming off the belt and in the overhead bin if you carry on. Believe me, there is no mistaking your bag for someone else's.
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Correction My son took the first flight of the day out of MIdway to AUSTIN! Then had to wait all day for his luggage in AUSTIN!
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I guess the best advice is GO "United" -O'Hare It will save you money and aggravation in the long run! People really do tire of being taken advantage of!
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first time flying. is there a limit on weight or amount of luggage?
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No, there is no limit on the weight or the limit. Southwest Airlines does not care enough about their employees handling the items to limit them.