I had luckily never experienced lost or delayed luggage up until last year. The way it happened seems like a funny story now, but at the time I was so devastated!
We had spent 8 weeks driving around America (where we had been very careful to keep our suitcases safe and locked out of sight) and were finally on our way home. We had collected up so many souvenirs, trinkets and new clothes on our adventure we had brought a 3rd suitcase to share between us.
After a looong flight from LAX to Brisbane we had 2 hours to get on our connecting flight. Due to Australian customs you have to collect your baggage and then re-check it in to your next destination.
By the time we disembarked, found our luggage and got through customs we made it to the check-in desk with less than an hour before our last leg home departed. We were tired and disoriented and trying to work out where we needed to be.
The lady at the check-in desk was not in the best mood but who am I to judge, neither were we! We pushed through two of our suitcases and placed the third one on the scales. As we were checking into a connecting flight they re-use the same barcodes already on the bags which added some confusion as there were no new tags to check and no new receipts or dockets to take.
We hurriedly asked for directions of how to get to the domestic terminal – it required a bus transfer which was leaving right away. We grabbed our boarding pass and dashed to the bus stop.
This was where we made a big mistake in not checking that our third bag was properly scanned through. I am certain that we said we had three suitcases, or if we didn’t surely the attendant would have noticed we placed another case on the scales, but anyway..
We made it to the domestic airport just in time and were super excited we were so close to getting home. We arrived back in Perth around midnight, nearly 24 hours after we first left LAX, and were totally ready for a good night sleep in our own beds.
The airport was starting to empty out and people were grabbing their suitcases off the conveyor. We saw the first case, the second case, and then nothing. We watched the same few cases go around and around and then we had the sinking feeling that our third case was not coming.
We went to the lost and found counter and the lady asked for our luggage dockets, those little bits of paper you normally throw away. Luckily for some reason I had kept them and will now always do. It made it a lot easier for her to look up the bag on the system. She was very nice and told us not to worry it was probably just coming on another flight and would be delivered in the morning.
She looked up the barcode and said it was weird, she could see it had left LAX but there was no record of it being checked in anywhere. She asked for a description of the case (which again, thankfully I had some red strapping on it and also had a photo of the case which helped) and said it was so late they would have to look into it tomorrow.
We headed off to catch a taxi home, hopeful that maybe it would just be sitting in an office somewhere misplaced. On the drive home I got a phone call from a guy saying he had my case! I thought it was someone from the airport and was surprised they had sorted it out so quickly, but after chatting to him it turns out he was just passenger on another flight to Melbourne that night.
He explained the airline had called him to say he left a bag behind so he had gone to pick it up thinking it was his wife’s or daughter’s luggage but then when he realised it wasn’t any of theirs he tried to take it back and the airport lost and found was shut. At this point our suitcase with two months worth of our souvenirs, gifts, keepsakes, ticket stubs, and a few pairs of brand new Nikes were all with a random stranger on the other side of the country.
The only way he was able to contact me was because I had a name tag on the bag with my phone number. Apparently all the airline tags on the bag with my name on it had been ripped off and the tags were all his name and flight number. After some more discussion he said that the lady at the check in counter was confused about how many bags they had and kept asking how many they were checking in. She must have assumed the bag on the scales was part of that group and then replaced the tags.
Accidents happen I get that, but if this man wasn’t so nice he realistically could have just taken my suitcase and ripped it open and kept all the contents inside. Another reason why you should never pack anything that can’t be replaced!
After we finally got some sleep and unpacked the suitcases we did have (all just full of dirty laundry, why couldn’t they go missing instead?) we set about getting case numbers and ringing the various lost and found departments at Perth and Melbourne Airports.
I am very grateful for the man contacting me and wanting to return the case, but also he lived far away from the airport so it wasn’t easy for him to return it. At the end of the first day he said that he didn’t manage to take it back and he was going to give it to a friend to drop off. I started to get really anxious at this point we were relying on a friend of a stranger to do the right thing and return the bag. They did return it the next day and gave the case number and everything which was amazing. They definitely get some good karma for this.
Nearly 2 days since the bag first went missing we finally got a call from a very confused lady at the Melbourne lost and found saying she has a bag with my name tag on it but someone else’s airline tags. I explained that I was just as confused as she was and I didn’t really know what happened but yes the bag was mine and please please return it!
She said the bag was coming on the next available flight. A courier dropped my bag off to my door and we were finally reunited with our possessions.
The man from Melbourne sent a follow up message to check it got returned okay, and I was finally able to properly relax.
I must say if a bag has to go missing it is better it happens on the way home, as I can imagine it is a lot worse to be stranded with little clothing and trying to organise delivery to your connecting destination.
To hopefully avoid this ever happening to you my tips are –
- Put your contact info on the bag, even inside the bag as a last resort so no matter who finds it can get in contact.
- Make your bag stand out so when you report it you can give a clear description. I had some extra strapping on mine but it was still “a black suitcase with a red stripe”. A distinctive bag should also help people realise right away if it isn’t theirs.
- Watch your bag at check in and make sure the tags are properly attached. Be clear about how many bags you are checking in.
- Keep your barcode numbers in-case they need to be searched for
- Keep anything of real importance that can’t be replaced in your carry on.
Now I will always be extra careful whenever checking in my luggage.
Have you ever had luggage go missing?