For anybody who travels by air, there is a tremendously important article in today’s Wall Street Journal in the Personal Journal section. It explains the inexplicable, namely how it is that airlines get away with such a bizarre and bewildering set of rules, including rules that seem to change from airport to airport and airline to airline. Basically, it’s a racket. Most interesting is the part that says some airlines seem to be enforcing carry-on rules more strictly now that they are charging for “checked” luggage — i.e. if you try to avoid their luggage fee, they tell you that you can’t carry your bag on the plane with you and MUST check it — and, of course, must then pay the fee.
Also, there’s this:
Many travelers say they don’t understand why airlines don’t refund baggage fees they collect when they don’t deliver bags to travelers with their flight. Should you have to pay for the service if the airline loses your bag?
With a restaurant, plumber or electrician, you don’t pay if the service doesn’t get done, notes Ray Hawk of Phoenix. “If you have to pay for the service, you should get that particular service,” he said.
To many travelers, it’s a question of fairness. Rules often seem to work against them, not airlines. Travelers often end up paying a penalty if they miss a flight because they don’t show up on time, for example, but if the airline doesn’t get their baggage delivered on time, there’s no penalty for the airline other than the cost of delivering it to you later.
Airlines say the baggage fee is actually a “handling charge,” and unlike some package shipping companies, they don’t guarantee their service. Most bags that don’t get delivered on time eventually are delivered to owners. And some carriers say customers who have paid baggage fees may get a little more in compensation if they complain about a lost bag — a slightly larger voucher toward future travel, for example. “The fee is taken into account when we compensate our guest for the disservice,” said a United spokeswoman.
Most airlines do say that if the bag never gets delivered and the airline has to reimburse the customer for the value of the contents, the fee will be accounted for, too. But there’s no rule specifying that.
Nice work: DON’T perform the service properly, but keep the money!
Well, I am here to report that Delta Airlines is a particularly egregious offender. WHen my wife and I flew home to Mobile for Christmas, our luggage didn’t make it until the next day BOTH for the trip to Mobile AND the trip back up to DC. (!!!) BOTH times. And both times we were treated to surly agents taking down the info about our (temporarily) lost luggage, even though we were incredibly polite (almost obsequious) by design just so we would ensure the best service possible. Even worse, the phone number Delta provides to check on the status of your luggage is busy ALL THE TIME. Between the two occaions of lost luggage within 12 days of each other, I must have called that line about 70 times. NEVER was it anything but busy.
Then I tried calling the reservations line to get a human being. NO luck. Endless loop. Then endless “hold.” Then abruptly disconnected.
This was the single most incompetent airline I have ever dealt with. Nothing worked. Nobody was polite. Nobody was anything more than marginally helpful. And nobody could give me any real answers.
Finally, late the afternoon after we arrived in Mobile, our luggage arrived — in the back of an open-cab pickup truck, IN THE RAIN. Wet luggage … well, it ain’t no fun.
Delta stinks. And so does our whole air-travel system (with the possible exception of Southwest Airlines).
There. I’ve said it. It was so fun, I’ll say it again: Delta stinks.
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