View from the Wing has an article on planning just in case your checked-baggage is lost. The timing is perfect because I recently had a flight where I knew I had a high probability of my baggage being lost.
How okay are you with ditching your bags?
Is it okay if the airline temporarily loses them?
We had bad weather in DC and in Philly when I had a tight connection in Philly. There was no possibility of us getting on an earlier flight because of work constraints, so I was becoming convinced I had to prepare for that connection. I would either just barely make it, or miss it entirely.
At this point, for a weekend trip, I would find a way of only having carry-on luggage. But I had to check a bag. I was going to Napa/Sonoma, and my wine check doesn’t fit as carry-on luggage.
First, I decided whether or not I would be okay with it if my bag never made it on time to my destination. It costs about $90 to ship a case of wine to myself from California, so if I didn’t take my bag, I would definitely have to pay that $90. If I checked my bag, there was only a chance I had to pay the $90 shipping–that is, if my luggage never made it. If my bag were completely lost, I had my original receipt to file a claim. And if my bag took a couple of days to get there, I could meet it at the airport on my way back.
Now that I decided I was okay with ditching my bags, I needed to make sure US Airways would have an easy time matching my bag up with me. Luckily, a giant red bag with a picture of a flying bottle of wine on it is easy to describe. But I wanted to make sure the bag knew where it was going.
Our travel did hit some speed bumps, and at every step along the way I would say, “My luggage does not need to travel with me. I don’t need it on arrival.” so that the gate agents wouldn’t take it into consideration when figuring out if I could make a flight.
US Airways does not require your luggage travel with you.
Once I finally landed in San Francisco, I checked where my luggage was currently.
Funny aside–I was searching the US Airways website for a way to track my checked bags and I couldn’t find it. I finally had to search our blog since I knew I wrote about it when it was released. You can find all that info here.
Turns out my baggage was better at making tight connections than I was. It arrived before me and was waiting at the US Airways baggage counter. It took about three minutes from deplaning in San Francisco to locating my checked bag. That’s faster than if it arrived on my actual plane!
How okay are you with ditching your bags?
Can you leave your bag where you are?
Waiting for a gate checked bag could be the make or break in getting to your connecting flight, so if you can switch bags to something squishier, you have a better chance of making it.
For example, I was visiting my family in New York. When I do this, I tend to fly back on the 6am out of Westchester Airport (HPN). Sometimes HPN has wind related delays or cancellations, so I switch to La Guardia. It is a longer trip to the airport, but works when I need it to.
Over the weekend, my boss had scheduled a meeting with me for Monday afternoon, and I had a really good feeling about this meeting given the way the email was written and who else was invited to it. I was excited about this meeting.
When I woke up Monday morning (does 3am count as the morning yet?), I had a notification from US Airways that my flight was cancelled. This isn’t unusual for HPN. But when I pulled up all the other flights leaving New York, I realized all New York flights had been cancelled to DC that morning. There were independent weather problems in each location.
I was able to get booked on a flight that connected in Philly on a Candian Regional Jet (i.e., a high chance of a gate checked bag). I begged for a tight connection because I really, really wanted to get to that meeting. I was going to have to get from the C terminal in Philly out to the F–which is not an easy trip.
So, I ditched my suitcase. I didn’t know when I was coming back to New York yet, but my parents graciously held onto it for me. We found a duffel bag no one was using, and I stuffed as much clothing as I thought I could easily get onto the small plane. I left some clothing behind, and ran for the airport.
When I got off my plane in Philly, I passed the line of people waiting for their gate checked bags, ran for my connection, and barely made it.
And the meeting was definitely worth making it to.
I got my suitcase and my clothing back ~2 months later. I missed those outfits, but I really needed to make that meeting.