Dear American Airlines, Explain This . . .

August 31, 2010

"Yes," she said. And then we half-laughed together.

Another luggage truck in the area--another drive-by. My inner-monologue was getting an Italian twang: *Are you freakin' kidding me? One bag on the runway equals at least one shattered soul at baggage claim (not pictured above, but we can all relate). I felt for the poor passenger, realizing he or she was about to have to navigate the utter B.S. that is the office of lost luggage. *

Wait a minute . . . I take it all back . . . help has arrived! An official-looking truck labeled with American Airline decals pulled up, nose of the truck pointed at the bag. And printed on the side of the truck, it said something, but I couldn't make it out. The guy in the truck was dressed nicely. Door opened, he stepped out, pulled up his pants and made his was to the bag. He had a swagger to his gait as though he was in complete control of the situation. My face would've gotten closer to the window, but my big nose was in the way.

The woman behind me left; as far as I could tell I was the only one still on my plane other than the gaggle of pilots and flight attendants near the door to the cockpit.

Meanwhile, back on the tarmac, the man stood the bag upright and scanned the tag. Not with a machine, just his eyes. Now where is he going? He walked away from the bag. He strutted over to a guy working under the plane next to mine. *

I was starting to internalize some stress: I have to get off this plane, I need to make my connection, but I have to wait to see if this guy goes back for that bag before he drives away.* I need to see this problem get resolved. Come on, I thought, th**is isn't a penny in a fountain, this bag actually belongs to somebody. I wanted to yell--PICK IT UP, JABRONI!

The formal fellow finished a brief conversation with the gas man, walked right by the bag, got in his truck, closed the door and drove away. I had only a quarter-laugh left in me, but I had a million dollar's worth of empathy for my fellow traveler who was down a piece of neglected luggage. And then I made my way to my connection, shoulders slumped, like I get when I make two triple bogeys in a row.

I sent an e-mail to American Airlines this morning:

To Whom It May Concern,__

My name is Matt Ginella, travel editor at Golf Digest.

____I was hoping to get an official response to a question about luggage.(I left my cell number).

The question: As I was getting off a plane in Dallas, I noticed a piece of luggage, which had fallen off a luggage truck. One after another, luggage trucks drove right by the bag. It stayed on the side of the road used by luggage trucks and service trucks for several minutes. Then an official-looking AA truck drove up, the driver got out of the truck, checked the tag, and left the bag there. I had to get off the plane to make my connection, but I assume there must be an official reason no one was picking up the bag. What is it?

Thank you for a prompt response.


UPDATE (9.2.10): In the comments below, "Billy" from American Airlines has responded with a reasonable explanation:

Hi Matty, Understandably, what you saw on the tarmac might easily have looked atypical, however we assure you that this is standard procedure for American and other carriers. What likely happened was that the bag was identified as needing to go somewhere else for some reason (gate change on connection, for example). Since DFW is such a large operation for AA, it's pretty common in these types of scenarios for the tug driver to receive a call that one of their bags needs to be somewhere else. The tug driver will report his exact location to folks called "sweepers", place the bag along the service road, and a sweeper will come pick it up to bring it to its new gate to make the connection. While it might appear unusual, it's actually the quickest, most customer-friendly way for a diverted bag to make its connection. Hope this helps clear things up! Thanks, Billy with American AirlinesPosted 9/1/2010 4:36:43pmby Billy_S

Here's my favorite little music video about luggage, which is guaranteed to induce a few full laughs:

--Matty G.