Trapped baggage handler yells and screams for attention

trapped baggage handlerPassengers on a US Airways flight at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. got a bit of a fright when they heard yelling and screaming coming from under their seats.

They alerted a flight attendant, who mentioned the odd noises to the pilot. As it turns out, one of the baggage handlers had been left behind in the locked hold, and was trying to get some attention before the plane departed.

Thankfully for the trapped ramp worker, the plane would not have taken off with him locked away, as he was also responsible for driving the tug required for pushing back from the gate.

Once he was freed from the hold, he got into the tug and continued his day. Still, if you thought your airplane seat was a tight and uncomfortable, I’m sure a cold ride in the cramped lugagge hold of an Embraer E-170 regional jet isn’t much better.

[Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

What? You’re still paying the airlines to carry your bags?

Now that the airlines have raised, yet again, their fees for checked bags, it’s time to take another look at the alternative: shipping your bags, or better yet (if you’re staying in one place once you arrive) just the contents of your bag ahead of your arrival using economical ground shipping services.

Why deal with the airlines, when UPS Ground and FedEx Ground offer better tracking, insurance and security, can be much cheaper in some scenarios, and will actually refund your shipping fee if there’s a delay or loss? No waiting in line at the airport! No pilferage! No schlepping!

Airfarewatchdog.com has looked at four domestic route scenarios (short, medium, and long haul) and compared three shipping services and two airlines (one with high bag fees, and one with low fees) to see how much you can save by not entrusting your bags to the airlines.

As you can see from the chart, depending on route and method, the cost savings achieved from shipping vs. schlepping range from little or nothing to dramatic. But as we explain, even if costs are the same, dealing with a company like FedEx
can be much less stressful than with an airline.

Consider: a single 25-pound suitcase or shipment from Boston to San Francisco by FedEx Ground costs about $31 vs. $23-$25 on Delta or nothing on Southwest.

But once that suitcase weighs over 50 pounds, excess charges kick in on the airlines, even on Southwest: you’d pay $56 for a 55-lb. bag using USPS on that same Boston-San Francisco trip, but twice that on Delta, which adds an extra $90 fee each way for bags weighing over 50 pounds. Even Southwest will charge you $50 each way.

And if your bag is both heavy and oversized (larger than 61-62 linear inches), you’ll get hit with triple jeopardy on some airlines: a fee for the first bag, plus an overweight fee, plus an oversized fee. Such a bag might cost nearly $300 on Delta on a trip from Los Angeles to Seattle vs. under $40 via FedEx Ground.

Also of note: the typical 22-inch rolling suitcase weighs 9-10 lbs. and airlines will shun responsibility for what they consider “normal wear and tear” if the suitcase or its wheel mechanism is damaged in transit. If you’re staying in one place once you arrive, do you really need a suitcase at all? Put your clothes and other personal items in a sturdy box and you’ll pay ground shippers even less than the prices shown in our chart.

But even if the costs are the same airline vs. ground shipping, consider these advantages of shipping:

  • Better tracking: You can track your shipment online step by step. Try that with an airline.
  • Safer: There’s less chance of something going missing or getting damaged.
  • Convenience: you can breeze through the airport without waiting in line to check bags.
  • Responsibility: If an airline loses or delays your bag, they’ll keep your fee and play the blame game. FedEx and UPS will at least refund your shipping fees. Plus, airlines refuse to take responsibility for losing or damaging anything they consider “valuable,” such as electronics or business items. You can insure these items with the shipping services for a small additional fee.
  • Less schlepping: True, you have to either drop off your shipment at a post office, UPS office or store, or FedEx or Kinko’s location (or you can arrange for pick up for a small fee in some cases), but let’s face it: fighting for overhead space is no fun, and lugging luggage through mile-long airport concourses is no fun either.

Clearly, we’ve only given examples for domestic shipping, but USPS Priority Mail rates for international shipping are surprisingly competitive with the airlines’ fees for checking bags on international routes.

And even if you’re the carry-on type, shipping on your next trip may reveal the joys of not fighting for overhead space and saving yourself a shoulder injury from hoisting a heavy bag into same.

Give shipping vs. checking a try next time you fly. You may never pay bag fees again.

George Hobica is the founder of Airfarewatchdog™, the most inclusive source of airfare deals that have been researched and verified by experts. Airfarewatchdog compares fares from all airlines and includes the increasing number of airline-site-only and promo code fares.

Passengers left without luggage because of airlines refusal to pay overtime

Oh how the mighty have fallen. A decade ago, British Airways referred to itself as “the world’s favorite airline”. Now, they are quickly becoming the world’s worst.

After their planned strike was canceled, it became obvious that staff morale was at an all time low – something that became painfully obvious last Friday night at London Heathrow. A flight arriving from Prague got into the airport over an hour late, mainly due to the bad London weather.

Sadly, the baggage handling team at terminal 5 reached the end of their work day, and nobody at British Airways was willing to authorize overtime pay. End result — luggage stays on the plane, and the staff all go home.

Passengers had to wait for hours till the morning crew arrived at the airport. Some of these customers had been stuck at the airport for almost 6 hours. Of course, British Airways blamed everything on the bad weather, and apologized for the situation. Sadly, this is the same airline that once left 100’s of bags out in the rain, so they have a pretty nasty history in dealing with luggage.

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Ryanair: get in shape, carry your own bags

European object of disdain low-cost carrier Ryanair is always looking for ways to save a few bucks. From pay-to-piss to the fat tax, the airline has put forth a stream of ideas that really haven’t gotten off the ground. Well, CEO Michael O’Leary has a new one to add to the list: mandatory luggage self-service.

Under this new model, passengers would carry their bags through airport security and drop them at the steps at the bottom of the plane. Turnaround times remain a concern – as they are for the fat tax. Let’s be realistic: the only people in the airport more likely to screw something up than baggage handlers are the passengers themselves.

If you spend 15 minutes staring at the menu at Sbarro and can’t figure the damned thing out, you probably shouldn’t be trusted to carry your own bags.

Baggage handler punches a $2 Million hole in a Boeing 737

A baggage handler at Glasgow airport in the UK made a very expensive mistake when the truck he was driving ripped a 5 foot hole in a parked plane. The Boeing 757 operated by Flyeglobespan was being prepared for a flight to Alicante, Spain when the accident happened.

Passengers were told that they would have to transfer to a different plane due to “aircraft damage”. Amazingly, the passengers were on their way to their destination in under 2 hours.

The aircraft will be out of service for several weeks so aviation engineers can examine the damage and perform repairs on the structure. When damage like this occurs, all kinds of critical flight systems could be damaged, and depending on the speed of the impact, the repair may involve much more than just patching a hole.

The baggage handler worked for Alba Ground Handling and the source article says he has been “sacked”. Accidents like this are fairly common, and baggage handlers are instructed to always keep a safe distance from the plane they are working on, but in the chaos of getting aircraft ready for a quick turnaround, accidents do happen.

Flyglobespan is a Scottish low cost carrier with flights from several UK airports to the US, Canada and the European mainland. The have an all Boeing fleet of 15 planes, and are expanding rapidly. They are also one of the airlines with an order in place for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.