Podcast: Rick Seaney on Checked Baggage and Losing It

FareCompare co-founder and travel expert Rick Seaney offers money-saving tips and travel strategies in his weekly podcasts with FareCompare editor Anne McDermott.

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Rick Seaney: Hey Everybody, Thank you for joining us on Farecompare weekly podcast. My name is Rick Seaney, I am the Co-founder of Farecompare.com

Today we are going to chat a little bit about baggage and losing it. Certainly it doesn’t seem very normal for people to lose baggage. We have seen mishandled baggage rates gone down in last few years. When it is under 2% you think, awe my bag will never get lost. Well, that may be the case and when it does become you it certainly becomes a big issue and joining the ranks of those 2%, is our Editor on the site from FareCompare and residing in California, Anne McDermott. Hey Anne.

Anne McDermott: I have tried to think of, what, I have known you like 6-7 years and listened to you say “Always use a carry on bag, always use a carry on bag, always use a carry on bag”  Did I do that? No! And what happened. My bag was lost.

Rick Seaney: I thought I had converted you because I remember the first time I went to pick you up, it was like a one night trip, it looked like an armoire was carried off the plane. So I was like, hey, you are gonna have to switch over. I thought I had converted you.

Anne McDermott: You did!

Rick Seaney: But in Europe it is very difficult for people not to check their bags. It can be done, they do it all the time. I probably fly to Europe with my family, at least twice a year. We just recently got back from Spain and we didn’t check a  bag and made several trips to Madrid and around to Barcelona. So it can be done, you have to pack in a certain way. It helps when your 12 year old daughter doesn’t use her entire bag, that way my wife can sneak some bits in there too. Also it helps to have a relatively large computer bag to do some packing. But it can be done.  on the flip side of things if you are gonna take a bag absolutely some things you shouldn’t take and go ahead and carry the most important things on the plane because if it does get lost and many times it takes a day or two to get your bag back at all. You definitely do not want to be out for your first few days of vacation. It can absolutely ruin your vacation. I have seen many people going to Europe for example for weddings, have tuxes and special dresses lost for few days next and actually missed the wedding. It is just something you shouldn’t. Anything that is important to you that you cannot buy or replace for next few days, absolutely carry it on plane with you.

Anne McDermott:  Well I was smart enough to know not to pack anything that is irreplaceable or even remotely valuable and I  did learn some other good lessons that there are many fine establishments and drug stores, you can buy toothpaste and hair care products etc.

Rick Seaney: So I am curious, did the airlines, write  you a check for missing stuff, did they compensate you in anyway?

Anne McDermott:   Oh Rick, Please! No there was no compensation but I am going to try to get some because between my daughter and I, we shelled out about 22 euros. Well, I’m no math wiz, I know that’s, well a certain amount of money.

Rick Seaney: Haha. It’s not quite one and a half.

Anne McDermott:   Anyway, I am hopeful. I’m hopeful. But off course one of the problems is this was a code share flight and it seems one of the legs of the trip was United and one of the legs was on their partner Swiss Air. And the bag was lost at a point where one flight left off and other airline began. So I guess there will be a little shoving of responsibility one way or another.

Rick Seaney: Just remember to always charge for foreign exchange fee, too because of conversion to euros, you should charge at least what their bank charges 2.5 – 3%. So add that on to the amount you requesting and see if they enjoy that.  You know a fee is a fee, so two can play that game.

Anne McDermott: Haha. Yup.

Rick Seaney: Certainly as we talk about bags,  one of the interesting things is that we’ve seen Iberia Airlines come out with some self tagging options, I think that is gonna be quiet popular. One of the people ask me, actually, on one of the radio shows this morning whether I thought they would start to way all baggage to carry on and bags.

I just don’t believe that they can actually do that. I think logistically that will require humans at the gates. Which there  are lots of humans in Europe. They are trying to actually get rid of humans at gates here in United States. I can just see it now, that somebody takes a bag of feathers in their regular bag and sets the bag of feathers, then throws it away, and then runs their bag through just the have to be self weigh it. They do have self bag tagging GPS chips to find your bag. One would wonder in this sort of time when Fedex sort of knows, down to nanometer, where you actual package is, that they don’t have that sort of technology for baggage at the moment.

Anne McDermott: Well I will say this that the GPS bag monitoring system sound very cool but frankly I really didn’t care where my bag was, or what sort of vacation it was enjoying away from me. I only care that it was not with me. So I am not sure of  the value of that. But I’m sure there is some.

Rick Seaney: Yeah the fact you can log online and see that your bag is in Chicago and you’re traipsing around Europe, is probably not an important thing to do. Hopefully that helps them find out where it is, which is the key. I remember when London Heathrow terminal 5 first opened and this 2% baggage issue was more like 20 -25%. That was absolute lunacy, there that particular airport for 6 months to a year. You’d have to be almost crazy to check your bag there you would likely to get an issue there.

Certainly, again, I would just stress the fact that, if you do feel, the need to check a bag – just check everything that is non essential, if that is what you want to do. And also you said you checked 3 bags, well I thin a lot of families when they do check bags, especially on international when you don’t have fee on it,  you are actually better off having a 50 pound bag and consolidating all the kids 20 pound bags and one big bag because you are less likely to have one of those done. Its just a matter of numbers in that case.

Anne McDermott: Yes, I know! Haha.

Rick Seaney:  The one bad thing I will say is: one of the reasons I recall for I saying I will not check a bag again, and especially with my wife – she checked a big back. And as I recall traipsing through the metro in Paris one time, where they typically have at the train entrances, they have special gates where you can have wheel you bags in. Well this one didn’t have one, so I had to throw a 50-60 pound bag about 8 ft in air over top this wall to get through the actual system. So I said I will never, ever, ever let my wife check that bag again. So there are some reasons that makes difficult to traipse around. I like to switch towns and hotels to some degree and to having that ability to get into cabs so easily and stuff like that. Once you go with that you will never turn back. Trust me on that!

Anne McDermott: I will not make this mistake again. Thanks Rick!


Published: July 18, 2013