More travelers dealing with problem of lost, delayed bags

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Airline passengers might feel helpless to prevent the loss of their bags at the hands of airport handlers, but a bit of preparation before the flight can help ensure that their luggage arrives on time, according to airport officials.

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Customer service agents Derek Bailey (left) and Chris Hubbard load luggage into the hold of a US Airways Express plane at Augusta Regional Airport. A 2006 study has found an increase in mishandled baggage.  Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Customer service agents Derek Bailey (left) and Chris Hubbard load luggage into the hold of a US Airways Express plane at Augusta Regional Airport. A 2006 study has found an increase in mishandled baggage.

In 2006, 6.5 bags per every 1,000 U.S. passengers were mishandled, according to the most recent Airline Quality Rating report. That's an increase of 2.5 percent since 2003, the report showed.

So where do your bags go once they're tagged at the ticket counter, and why don't they always arrive with you?

Ken Hinkle, a station manager for Atlantic Southeast Airlines at Augusta Regional Airport, said there are many reasons why a passenger's bag is lost or delayed. Mr. Hinkle said sometimes luggage isn't loaded properly at the passenger's departing airport and is sent to the wrong destination. Other times, it may be placed on the wrong carousel during a transfer at another airport, such as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, and misses the connecting flight.

"The airline will continue to search for your bag, but for the most part if you haven't got your bag after three days then the airline considers it lost or stolen," Mr. Hinkle said. "We have you fill out a form, and we send it to our corporate office."

He also noted that baggage and passengers on small commuter flights, like those out of Augusta Regional Airport, might be removed if the plane is overloaded.

"Basically what they will do is put the bag on the next flight and it'll get to the destination on a later flight," he said.

The global airline industry mishandles about 30 million bags annually at a cost of $2.5 billion a year, according to a recent report by SITA, a technology provider for the airline industry. In 2005, the main reason for delays in passenger baggage was mishandling during a transfer, 61 percent of the time.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or


Airport officials say it's often by chance that a passenger's bag is lost or delayed, but there are ways to prevent either or ensure you get your bag back.

ARRIVE EARLY: Show up at least an hour before departure. Ken Hinkle, a station manager for Atlantic Southeast Airlines in Augusta, said the earlier you are, the more likely your bag will be one of the first to be loaded on the plane. This means your bag will be less likely to be removed from the flight if problems arise because of weight restrictions.

VERIFY THE DESTINATION: Make sure the ticket agent put the correct destination on the tag. Ask the agent if you can examine the ticket before it's sent away on the conveyor. Remove tags from any previous trips.

USE COLORFUL ID: Attach a brightly colored identifier on the bag to distinguish it from similar ones.

HAVE EXTRA ID: Put a copy of your name, destination and contact information somewhere inside the bag in case something happens to the airline's tag.

KEEP VITAL ITEMS ON HAND: Do not put any critical items, such as medicine or a passport, in your checked luggage. Instead, pack these and other essentials in a carry-on bag.

DON'T LEAVE: Report any problems, including a lost bag, before leaving the airport. Passengers should insist that the airline fill out a form and give them a copy. Get the name and a telephone number of the agent who assists you.

ASK FOR DELIVERY: Before you leave the airport, ask the airline whether it will deliver the bag free of charge when it's found.

Sources: Ken Hinkle, station manager for ASA, Diane Johnston, Augusta Regional Airport marketing director, U.S. Department of Transportation.

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ags59 08/12/07 - 04:45 am
It is actually considered

It is actually considered lost after 5 days and when they say next flight It means next available flight and that may not mean the very next flight. When checking on lost or delayed bags being rude to the agent or even using profanity does not help you get your bag faster. DON"T put Medicine or car keys in your checked baggage.

PFLY775 08/12/07 - 07:25 am
A worker at curbside checkin

A worker at curbside checkin in Philadelphia insisted I pay him or my back would not make it to Atlanta! I guess I didn't pay him enough because it was "lost" for almost two weeks. I contacted the airline and they wanted to know if I saw his name tag. I told them that he was too busy stealing from the public to have his name tag on. That was the trip from you know where. I started off at 6 am in Philadelphia and didn't get home to Augusta until midnight.

karmakills123 08/12/07 - 09:11 am
MY lost bag experiance was

MY lost bag experiance was not too bad flew from Atlanta to Florida and the bags were lost.....but they were found within hours and hand delivered to me by an airline employee.. who had to drive quite a distance into the country to find the ranch I was visiting..........not too shabby.And yep it was Delta..go

NEone 08/12/07 - 09:32 am
If you fly into Augusta from

If you fly into Augusta from Atlanta, you can count on your bag being delayed. One time the airline rep delivered it to my door--at 1:45 in the morning. Gee thanks!

maktheknife 08/12/07 - 12:24 pm
Airline Employee, I

Airline Employee,

I understand your difficulties when it comes to dealing with this problem. But, it would mean a great deal to the customer if they were notified before flying out of the airport that their bag was left behind because of weight limitations and give that customer the option of flying on a later flight. I hardly ever give you the chance of losing my bag, I almost always carry on, even if I have to leave it planeside, I can almost guarantee that it is waiting for me when I land. Also, great comment about medicina and car keys.

jack 08/12/07 - 02:34 pm
Pretty bad when a lawyer

Pretty bad when a lawyer arguing before a federal court of appeals shows up in his shorts and tee shirt because his luggage got lost. They were good enough to let him do his job. Now I understand why so much carry on baggage.

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