When Your Bags Go On A Mileage Run… Without You

A few days ago I wrote about my rough Delta Travel day. If you haven’t read it, I’d suggest going back and reading it before continuing with this post.

As a reminder, I was flying from Atlanta to New York on Delta, and then New York to Sao Paulo on American, with a two hour connection. Due to a variety of issues at the gate in Atlanta (that were beyond our control), we were the last passengers to board, and the gate agent insisted we gate check our bags (despite our best efforts to explain to her that there’s no way they’d make it to their final destination). It was especially disappointing since there was still empty overhead bin space in the end.

Anyway, our bags were checked all the way to Sao Paulo, and as we expected they never made it. Upon arrival in Sao Paulo we went to the American Airlines baggage services desk, and the agent working the desk was super friendly. As counter intuitive as it sounds, baggage services agents are actually among my favorite to interact with. 99% of people walk in there treating them like crap (“you lost my bags”), so when you treat them nicely and direct your frustration at the situation rather than the person, they’re almost always overjoyed.

The baggage services agent informed us that our bags were still in New York (as we expected), and opened up a case. She sent a message to New York telling them to just keep our bags there, since we were on the flight from Sao Paulo back to New York that evening. We had a three hour connection in New York the following morning, so were hoping that our bags would be waiting for us in the baggage services office. We thanked her for her time, and as we walked away she said “wait, don’t you want to write down my name in case you have any issues?” That’s how you know you have a good agent.

In the back of my mind (I thought) I knew what was going to happen. When a bag misses a flight it goes onto the next flight to that destination, and there’s very little that can be done to stop that. So while I was hoping that our bags would indeed just stay in New York, I was fully expecting them to be flown down to Sao Paulo on the next flight.

That night we flew from Sao Paulo to New York, and landed at JFK at 6AM. We headed to the baggage services office, and as luck would have it the baggage services supervisor was working. He confirmed my suspicion, that our bags were indeed flown down to Sao Paulo, and that the flight had landed just a few minutes prior and the bags hadn’t been scanned yet.

He shook his head at the entire situation, and was generally apologetic. He tried to call down to Sao Paulo, though no one picked up — not at the baggage services desk, in their ticketing office, or anywhere else. So he got on the phone to open up a case (which he couldn’t do himself since the bag wasn’t at JFK anymore). To make things even more complicated, my friend’s bag had accidentally been tagged in my name, and my bag in my friend’s name, and we live in different states, so that caused even more confusion.

Opening the case took maybe an hour, and I was surprised that he proactively notated our files to offer us each $300 in reimbursement for any essentials we may need to buy. He told us exactly which flights our bags would be on, though moments later saw in the computer that the Sao Paulo agents had accidentally tagged my friend’s bag to TUS instead of TUL (it was entered into the computer correctly, but the agents on the other end got it wrong, it would seem). Now that would’ve been a disaster!

We got on our flight to Los Angeles, and upon landing got a phone call from a Brazilian number. I was impressed that it was actually the same lady that helped us at the baggage services office in Sao Paulo the previous morning. She apologized profusely for the error, told us the bags were sitting right in front of her, and gave us the exact flights they’d be on to our respective home airports (and confirmed that my friend’s bag would indeed be going to TUL and not TUS).

Bottom line

Don’t get me wrong, this was a huge freaking screw up. It’s a miracle airlines operate as efficiently as they do, and while I wish the agent had been more proactive in ensuring that the bag actually stayed in New York rather than being tagged on the next flight to Sao Paulo, I also understand the limitations of the system.

However, I was really impressed by every employee I came in contact with. The proactive compensation and call from the agent in Brazil were more than I expected. Now here’s to hoping my bag actually arrives at my apartment in one piece this afternoon!

Filed Under: American, Travel
  1. Glad it worked out Ben, now go do a Rip Van Winkle and sleep for a month. Will look forward to your next post in January.

  2. Ask for extra frequent flyer miles for the trip the bag took without you! That sounds fair to me for the bag’s pain and suffering from being separated from his owner. LOL

  3. “…Sao Paulo agents had accidentally tagged my bag’s friend to TUS instead of TUL.. ”

    You’re bag’s friend?

  4. My favorite was when I landed in Shanghai last month, only to get stuck in immigration for an abnormally long time. I come out to find the exact same Rimowa bag as mine, but one size smaller, going around the conveyor. I wait, and wait. Ultimately, turns out someone had mistaken my bag for theirs and driven it home – three hours from Shanghai.

    I eventually got it back the next day, but only because the person who took it called me and we coordinated directly. AA was not help whatsoever.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *