More airline employees with sticky fingers

Did you lose a bag at Philadelphia International Airport? Well, there may be a reason. An American Airlines baggage crew chief was arrested and charged with stealing clothes from the luggage he handled. The game appears to have been: (1) steal the clothes, (2) return them to a department store and (3) don’t get caught.

That last one’s the hard part.

A passenger on Flight 892 from Dallas to Philly noticed four articles of clothing missing – with a total value of $550. It was easy to reach that amount; the tags were still on the items. Later, the clothing, which was purchased at a Nordstrom in Dallas, was taken to a local Nordstrom.

If it seems to easy … well, handcuffs are there to tell you that it is.

This is just the latest instance busted up by police. A TSA official was fired from his job in Philly for lifting passenger belongings, and a theft ring in St. Louis was discovered – after around 900 items were alleged to have been stolen.

Airlines losing less of our baggage – for the wrong reasons

Here is (what should be) a great piece of news from the aviation world – domestic US carriers are losing fewer of our bags.

A staggering 1.3 million bags were not lost when compared to statistics from the previous year.

Normally, airlines would have a good reason to be proud of this result. It could be because they are paying more attention to their baggage procedures, or simply that their staff are learning to be more respectful of our belongings, but sadly, the reason they are losing less luggage has a far more logical explanation.

People are not checking as many bags.

The airlines, in their infinite wisdom decided that checking a bag is a luxury that should be sold to us, in addition to our ticket fee.

Too many passengers refuse to pay this fee, so as more people drag all their luggage on board the plane, fewer bags have to be placed in the baggage hold. It all makes perfect sense.

American Airlines was the clear winner with a 26% improvement over 2007. But of course, American Airlines was also the first of the major carriers to introduce the pay-to-check baggage scheme.

Eventually, the whole thing will probably come back and bite the airlines in the ass. As more people carry more stuff on to the plane, departure times will get delayed, flight attendants will have to spend more time finding space for bags that don’t fit in the overhead compartment, and passengers will still get their bags checked for free when the crew have to do a gate check for any bags that can’t be stored in the cabin.

Double booking the same flight by mistake

One problem with booking flights online without talking to an actual person is that mistakes can be made without anyone catching an error. This Monday my brother ended up with two American Airline tickets for exactly the same flight.

My father booked a ticket for my brother Monday morning. I helped my brother book a ticket Monday night. (This was after talking with my dad on Saturday and playing phone tag with my brother. None of us live near each other.) The whys of how this happened are not as important as the fact that my brother had two plane tickets–one on his credit card and one on my dad’s. Since I helped create the snafu, I felt obligated to help rectify the situation and called American Airlines myself. Of course, customer service cannot be accessed through the phone tree. I called the number that led to reservations and was eventually kicked to a real person after I didn’t respond to the questions of the voice-automated system.

The real person pleasantly told me that since both payments had gone through, my brother did indeed have two tickets, although he could rebook one of them for $100. I sputtered, “But they’re for exactly the same flight!” She saw my point, but told me how to get in touch with customer service since her supervisor told her there was nothing to be done through reservations.

Undaunted, my father called the reservation number by using my system to connect to a real person. His person cancelled the ticket my brother had bought. There wasn’t a problem at all. Supposedly, my brother now has only one ticket which is all he needs. When at first you don’t succeed, try, try again–even with an airline. You might get lucky.