Most, if not all of us, know someone who has lost a bag during their travels. It happened to me recently. I was on a business trip to Taipei, Taiwan and the airline lost my bag on the way out. In this blog post, I will sharing my experience around losing and then being reunited with that bag.
My itinerary called for flying from one of the New York area airports to Tokyo and from there on to Taipei. The scheduled departure from New York was at about 11 am. Upon arrival at the terminal, I learned that the flight was delayed by 2 hours on account of mechanical trouble. I figured it was best for the airline to find out about the mechanical problem before the take off. Since there was no real danger of missing my connection in Tokyo, I took a deep breath and decided to enjoy what the airport had to offer.
After a few more delays, it was obvious that I was going to miss what was by now a twice rescheduled connection in Tokyo. The gate agent offered to put me on a flight that left a different New York airport and was a direct flight to Taipei. I readily accepted. The only problem was my bag had already been checked that morning. The agent assured me that it was not a problem to pull the bag and proceeded to enter all the relevant information into the computer including the shape, size and color, which was red. I then proceeded to the baggage claim to collect my bag.
When I reached baggage claim level, I talked to the agent there and they took down the information about the bags once more as they could not find it in the system. I gave them the details including the color (red). At this point, they asked me to go wait in front of a particular belt for about 30 minutes as that is how long it is supposed to take for them to pull the bag.
Fast forward two hours and my bag still had not shown up. I spent this time telling two baggage claim agents the details of my bag including the color (red) and doing laps to get my step count up (Thanks Fitbit). Finally, the last agent who had taken my information walked up to me and suggested that the bag must have left for Tokyo as it was nowhere to be found. I was surprised to hear that the flight actually left but remember thinking everything was ok now because now I was on a direct flight (three cheers!) and my bag would surely be delivered to my hotel the very next day if it was already in Tokyo.
So, I took my taxi ride across town and waited for the other flight. While I was waiting, I checked to see the progress of my old flight. Contrary to what the agent had told me, the flight was actually cancelled! So, my bag was not enroute to Tokyo after all. C’est La Vie.
Once I arrived in Taipei, I did some shopping for clothes and got on with my meetings. On Tuesday (my second day there), I called the airline to check the status of my bag. They said the bag was in Taipei and I should get it that day. But that did not happen.
I checked again on Wednesday. They said the bag was already in Taipei and that I should definitely get the bag that day. Yet, that did not happen. I decided to google the spelling of Déjà vu.
I checked again on Thursday, and they said that the bag was definitely in Taipei. At this point, the lady also suggested to look for myself on the airline’s webpage for bag tracing. So, I promptly logged on to see that my bag’s location was indeed Taipei and its color was listed as blue.
Blue! I had told at least three people that the bag was red and all of them had typed it into the computer in front of me. I called the airline back and told them that the color of the bag was in fact red. And then, with no hope of seeing that bag ever again, I went for dinner with my clients as it was almost 6pm.
I got back to my hotel at 8pm and sure enough my (red) bag was there. I can only surmise that the bag was indeed in Taipei for the last couple of days but the error in the color was keeping it from being delivered to me. I was happy to get the bag if only to hardly use any of the contents as I was returning that Saturday.
All this to say that a) it is important to not have errors in your data entry as garbage in = garbage out, and b) it is easy to make data entry errors when humans are typing it in. So, could the airline have done anything differently? Since the flight was long, and I was awake for some of it, I jotted down two ideas.
- When I checked the bags, the agent had me put up the bag on the scale to weigh it. Could a camera take a picture then and there and attach that information to my bag slip? Later, when I went to the baggage claim, could they have scanned the info stored on my slip instead of typing it in?
- Could an RFID tag be attached to the bag? That would help in identifying and pulling the bag out? The same tag would possibly help the staff in Taipei find the bags.
I was of course disappointed and inconvenienced to not have the bag when I arrived. I still cannot understand why the information about the bag needed to be taken three times and still ended up being wrong. But, I still consider it a minor miracle that it was eventually found and delivered to me right in my hotel room.
Has this ever happened to you or someone you know? Did your lost bag(s) ever arrive? What was your experience like? Do you have ideas on how this can be improved? Please share via the comments section.
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