David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
To Check or Not To Check
…That is the question…
As you read this I’m going to be traveling on a brief three day leisure trip with my wife. We have these getaways as often as we can. A quick drive to a resort town, a three or four day weekend; flying to the beach or Vegas or some other place to have fun; or even just a night or two in a big city for nice dinners and a show or concert. These breaks refresh the soul and help us stay close and very much in love. If we’re driving, we may load the car with some extras (water, jackets, etc.) but for many of those road trips – and definitely if we’re flying – we’ll never take more than one rollaboard sized suitcase and one carry-on sized bag each. Honestly – unless I’m away for more than a week – I keep that same discipline for business trips too – one and one and nothing else.
I realize the opinions on baggage can be as polarized as they are in politics nowadays, but as for me I’m squarely in the never check unless it’s absolutely unavoidable camp. I feel checking bags is like driving across the train tracks. Yes, it’s unlikely that you’ll get hit by a train, but it’s far more likely you’ll get hit than if you didn’t do it in the first place.
I can still remember the business trip from Newark to New Orleans I took with a colleague who checked his bag. We were both connecting in Houston, but due to thunderstorms there we were diverted to – you guessed it – New Orleans. We both (and a few others) asked and were allowed to get-off the plane there. I, of course, had my bag for the three day trip. My colleague finally received his checked bag only on the day we were leaving to go home. It’s just asking for trouble not having your things with you when you fly, and – even if they do make it to your destination – waiting for the bags to come out can add around an hour to each end of the trip. That’s precious time when you’re landing at 9:30pm, still need to pick-up a rental car, and get to the hotel while they still have decent rooms available (or at all.)
I bring all of this up because my weekend getaway won’t end with me going back home. My wife will fly back east, but I’ll be flying further west – onto California for a four day business trip. What that means is I’m probably going to have to check a bigger bag for this trip, filled with leisure and business clothes, and then send my wife back home with that bag (and the dirty laundry) as I continue my travels with the smaller bag. It will take that extra hour or so away from us as we arrive for our brief weekend away.
I wish I could just accept the delay with the resolution that it was a choice I made – and one that I have to live with – but I just can’t. As I take the long walk – way out of my way to the baggage carousel – and wait for my property to be returned to me, I can’t help feeling enormous resentment at the whole process. I’m at the mercy of ramp workers I can’t see, who’s priorities I can’t know. The ‘VIP’ tags that the airline affixes to my bag as an elite flyer are pretty much a joke, as there is no rhyme or reason for the order in which they come out – or if they make it out at all. I stand at the edge of the carousel, exhausted from the uncomfortable state of today’s travel and just get worked-up the longer the wait is. The thoughts I have at the time run the gamut from “I can’t believe that non-elite travelers actually have to pay for this nowadays” to “the airline should be fined for every minute of waiting, and should have to refund all fees if the bags are not out 20 minutes after landing.” Of course, I wouldn’t get the refund as I didn’t pay, but logic like that escapes me in the heat of the moment.
If I had the ability to look at the situation objectively, I’d realize that I haven’t had bags lost by the airline in years. Yes, I only check a handful of times a year, but none of those situations have been disasters. Once last year my family’s two bags came back on two different planes, so we had one arrive before us and then another came on our flight. That seemed as stupid at the time as it still does now, and was problematic to find the stray bag, but the situation ended OK.
I guess my biggest complaint is how nonchalantly the airlines treat my time. If I’m not at the gate 10 minutes before my flight the airline will give away my seat, and if I’m any later they’ll take off without me, yet they provide no constraint or requirement on themselves for how long it takes to get my property back to me. They have the gall to charge (most people) for the service now, yet don’t have a refund or penalty structure in place for non-performance. It’s just another small example of how the airlines have forgotten that they are in a service industry. It is only because of all the mergers and the limited competition that they can now get away with the abysmal service we see every-day.
So again, as you read this, I’ll either be enjoying a weekend away with my wife, or just leaving one of the last hotel rooms that was available yesterday evening on the way to a department store to buy clothes and other things I’ll need for the rest of my travels. I have no way to either know or effect it now, which is the worst part of it all.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
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