Covid-19 forced the cancellation of our Christmas trip to South America this year. The silver-lining is we won’t have to worry about our luggage ending up who knows where between Charlotte and Buenos Aires.
Lost luggage! I could write a book. Well, at least a novella. I’ll try to restrain my in-retrospect frustrations with various airlines. No promises, though, so bear with me.
Most lost or misplaced luggage eventually reunites with its owner, but one-half of one percent remain unclaimed. A very small amount, you think. However, it totals millions of pieces of baggage annually when you consider 4.3 billion pieces of luggage fly every year. Lost or misplaced luggage heaven is in Scottsboro, Alabama at the Unclaimed Baggage Center. They purchase all the unclaimed luggage, sight unseen. One third goes to a dumpster, another third goes to charity organizations, and they keep the final third in their thrift store available for purchase by the public at specified times.
The billion-dollar question is: How does an airline misplace a six-foot-tall Tinkerbell?
Jim traveled a lot when the Forest Service sent him to various wildfires over a period of 25 or so years. All flights required emergency last minute arrangements and not necessarily by the shortest route. One memorable trip was to travel from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta to Billings, Montana by way of Chicago. In Atlanta, he learned his flight had been cancelled but he could take a different route and arrive approximately on time. Okay, that worked until he reached Billings and learned his luggage had GONE FROM ATLANTA TO CHICAGO ON THE FLIGHT THAT HAD SUPPOSEDLY BEEN CANCELLED!
Then there was the afternoon I received a call from a woman at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. She hemmed and hawed around trying to describe a piece of luggage that had not made it on Jim’s flight to Midland, Texas. She couldn’t give much information because I could have claimed it whether it was mine or not. Fortunately, Jim had already called and told me one piece of his baggage had not arrived. An important piece of baggage, mind you. So, after letting the woman search for words, I finally said: You have an oblong dark blue duffle bag in heavy duty plastic containing a dismantled tent with metal rods. She breathed a sigh of relief. I insisted they bring it to me in Chapel Hill. Fortunately, the fire camp supplies included extra tents because otherwise Jim would have to sleep out in the open with whatever wild critters came nosing around.
In our travels, Jim and I took turns of being without luggage but each time ours had simply not been put on board the correct plane. Try Eastern Europe in December when your heavy coat is at Dulles in DC! We had four days sightseeing in Belgium before we boarded our cruise ship in Antwerp. Four days without Jim’s luggage. We had learned early in our travels to pack a change of clothing for each other in our separate suitcases, so he wasn’t completely without clothing, only a coat warmer than his fleece-lined jacket. On the day we were to embark in the afternoon, his luggage still had not arrived. That morning, he paid an arm and a leg for some trousers, shirts, and toiletries. We arrived on board at the absolute last minute and hurried to our stateroom. You saw this coming. His luggage had arrived.
Okay, it was my turn to be without sufficient clothing etc., but at least Egypt was warm. We checked our luggage through from Charlotte to Cairo but changed planes in Frankfurt. My luggage was not on our plane when we landed in Cairo. Viking’s local representative there must have forgotten to take his Ritalin that morning. He ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, but couldn’t find my luggage. On our second evening after a long day of sightseeing in and around Cairo, I received word my luggage was at the airport and would be delivered that evening. It wasn’t. Nor the next morning. When we returned to the hotel in mid-afternoon, my luggage was in our stateroom. I have no idea where it was during those two plus days.
A couple of guys from Louisville, also on our Nile River cruise, were not so lucky. Neither had any luggage. They’d been booked in a roundabout way with unexpected changes. By the time they reached Cairo they’d been in so many states and countries they kept the rest of us in stitches describing their trip. Because of Syrian terrorist activity in Cairo eight years earlier, the US government required an armed guard with every tourist group while in Egypt. You can bet the farm an armed guard carrying an AK47 on his arm throughout the crowded Cairo market kept any trouble at bay. That’s where these guys from Louisville finally gave up on receiving their luggage and bought clothing. Even after returning home, they emailed Jim they’d never heard anything about their luggage. Probably went directly from Louisville to the Unclaimed Baggage Center!
So, if your luggage takes a trip without you, don’t be alarmed. Be patient. It will either find you or you can take a trip to Scottsboro. By car. Or leave all luggage at home.