Bagging It

Business travelers travel light. Long ago we learned that the formula for disaster on a business trip was to depend on the airlines to deliver luggage on time and undamaged. Woe betide the road warrior who makes the mistake of checking baggage that contains something vital to a business meeting or is otherwise irreplaceable. Believe me: Checked baggage is the last place you'd want to store something that actually has value.

Experienced fliers reconciled themselves to the fact that airlines are going to delay, misdeliver, or permanently misplace their possessions. You should too. Never assume that your bags will be accompanying you on your trip--and proceed accordingly.

The one tiny problem that I have in acknowledging this fact of airborne life is that the airlines have taken to charging fliers for the privilege of losing their bags. My well-entrenched position on all of this is that if you're going to reach into people's pockets for carrying baggage, shouldn't that proposition be covered by some sort of Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees (or it is 'warranties'?) reimbursement by the airline for lost/delayed/damaged bags?

Moreover, if a bag checking fee had been implicitly included in the prices of yesteryear (or in premium fares or for elite travelers), was that ever any sort of excuse for the tons of lost bags we still see?

Some parties argue that airlines and airports should have embraced the low-cost (as well as reusable and recyclable) and practically foolproof measure of RFID tags that are already employed by many other industries, including retail outlets. In fact, some companies had researched the idea, but the airlines and airports never bit.

Why? you might ask. Well, you don't need to be an insider to guess that it probably came down to dollars. Might the concept of being an airline that never loses a passenger's baggage be enough of a differentiator from a marketing perspective? I'm sure that forward-thinking people at the airlines have evaluated technological fixes to this perennial black eye, but, unfortunately, it seems their views have yet to carry the day.

And the "work-around" of selling baggage insurance in place of fixing the problem is not the ideal way forward, if you want my two cents. I think most fliers would agree. So it's no surprise that carriers' history on baggage hasn't translated into a new revenue opportunity for insurance companies. We don't want insurance payouts. We want our stuff.

Bottom Line: This blogger will always defend the airlines' right to make a decent margin. But hopefully the airlines will own up to Job One and work harder to honor their promise to deliver to their customers.

Road Warrior • Miami • Madrid • www.amadeus.com

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