What does your airline do to recover your lost luggage?

The last time I saw the white corrugated box of glued sticky stickers, it was at the US Airways check-in counter in Mexico City. My wife and I had just arrived from Acapulco with Mexicana Airways and moved to US Airways to complete our journey to Seattle via Phoenix. As soon as we landed in Phoenix, we were again told to pick up our checked baggage from the carousel. To our dismay, however, there was no sign of the tax-free white box. The friendly airport security woman mentioned that there is an occasional delay as luggage is checked before loading is allowed on the next flight. She assured us that our box should be on our plane to Seattle.

When our flight arrived in Seattle, we waited for the last piece of luggage to pass the carousel. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee informed us that this was the last piece of luggage on our flight. Unfortunately, our white cardboard box had not arrived. You directed us to the US Airways baggage claim office which was surprisingly conveniently located near the carousel. My wife and I informed the representative about our missing box and filled out a claim form.

After arriving home, we received a phone call every day for the first week from the Central Baggage Office in Phoenix, Arizona, keeping us informed of the progress of our search efforts to find our missing box. We were advised to fill out the damaged or lost property form we received in Seattle and mail it to us.

Ten days after submitting the form, I phoned the Phoenix Central Baggage Office and talked to a luggage specialist there. They had not yet received the form but called the next day to confirm that they had received it. There was still no news about our missing box, however the screening was still active.

Mike Adams, a baggage specialist at the time, had worked for US Airways for over a year and his job involved phoning customers about their lost or damaged baggage claims, coding and determining the wrong coding of claims. He had recently completed training for a secondary screening program. I wanted to get some answers on the steps they take to track down a lost piece of luggage.

"After the complaint is filed," Adams said, "we use the World Tracer System (used by more than 300 member airlines) to search the scholarship by name, address, type of scholarship and content to check for any correspondence on Se If there is a departure and the bag is in the terminal, two people open the bag and enter the bag contents into the system.All unclaimed baggage is kept for five days and then sent to Charlotte, North Carolina. Property claims form is updated if there is a match.If the luggage is not there, a secondary check is made that checks with other airlines and connections to see if the lost piece has been shipped elsewhere.

How long will they keep looking for lost luggage? Mike says at least four weeks, unless they're joking about thunderstorms, and then it takes longer.

Do baggage handlers or other employees steal luggage or boxes? "Yes," Adams admits. "There is some theft in the industry. Theft usually occurs by members of the Transportation Security Administration." Consequently, airlines will set up sting operations to find the culprit or culprits and solve the problem. Adams revealed that in our case the white cardboard box was a red flag. Thieves particularly target these items. "To solve this problem in the future," Mike advised, "and get rid of the temptation, just buy a cheap bag and put the alcohol in it." That was simple, solid advice that would save us a lot of headache.

If the box is not found, how will the claim be resolved? Mike said a letter with a check on lost alcohol would probably be sent to us. He was kind of right. We received the letter from US Airways, but instead of a check, we received two $ 50 travel vouchers, valid for one year from the date of issue.

From every experience, good or bad, there is something to learn. First, my wife and I have decided that we will only buy items that we can safely store in our bags. Secondly, we will mark our bags with a unique identification, such as colored stripes, ribbons or labels that stand out from the myriad of similar bags. Third, we will put our names and addresses somewhere inside the trunk to form luggage specialists like Mike Adams & # 39; Much easier work in gathering lost luggage with their owners.

Following these three steps may not guarantee that you pack your bags on the carousel, but they will certainly improve your chances. Happy trip!