Next Time, I'll Walk

After flying multiple times to Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Italy, Greece, England, France, Germany, and other far-off lands without ever losing a piece of luggage, I felt pretty confident checking my bag on a flight from Boston to New York City after covering the Democratic National Convention.

I was in Boston six days, and packed a lot of stuff, including my four favorite suits, six dress shirts, ten ties, my best shoes, workout clothes, jeans, shorts, casual shirts, and other assorted items, including a gas mask (just in case). I had so much stuff, my bag was overweight according to the airline, and they charged me $25.00 extra to handle it. Of course, I'm entitled to TWO bags, and only had one, but that's another story.

It had been a particularly busy week. I was the early "Edge" reporter, meaning I did live shots for any Fox affiliates across the country that wanted hits for their morning or noon shows on the latest from the DNC. Stations like WTTG in Washington, D.C., WNYW in New York, and KTTV in Los Angeles would book me for five minute windows, sometimes twice an hour, sometimes multiple times a day. My crew and I met in our hotel lobby at 3 a.m. every day and made the drive into the heavily-protected Fleet Center compound, where we'd negotiate fences, metal detectors, and ID checks, then go to work.  I'd write a package (story) that ran about 90 seconds featuring the best soundbites and moments from the night before, then "wrap" around it live and/or do Q&A with the anchors from 6 through 10:30 a.m., then rewrite the package and do more live shots for East and West Coast noon shows, finishing up by 3:30 p.m. I did almost 30 live shots every day, totaling somewhere between 130 and 140 for the week. By Friday, I was exhausted.

The last thing I expected when I arrived at LaGuardia Airport was my bag NOT being on the turnstile. But all the bags came and went, and there was no sign of my prized possessions. I checked with an attendant to make sure I was in the right claim area, then checked the pile by the office, then reluctantly went inside and gave them my information, describing my missing luggage and encouraging them in the nicest way possible to help me get it back.

The guy who filled out my paperwork was friendly and very reassuring. "We've got another flight arriving in an hour" he told me. "I'm sure your bag will be on that plane. You don't need to wait around here for it. Go on home and we'll have someone deliver it to your building." He gave me an identification number (six letters, actually) for my claim, and a phone number to call and check on the status of my bag. I left feeling less worried about my stuff, and wasn't too concerned when the suitcase still hadn't arrived a couple hours later, so I went out for the night. In fact, I almost forgot about it until I got home and asked my doorman if a bag had arrived for me, and he told me no.  I called the office at LaGuardia, but no one answered.

The next morning, I called again to find out where my bag was, and was told it still hadn't arrived. I had to go back to the airport anyway to pick up my girlfriend, and while I was there, I stopped by the baggage claim office.  Several flights from Boston had come in since my flight landed, including three that morning, but there was still no sign of my missing luggage. I was starting to lose my patience and my cool. "Where could it be?" I asked. "Why wouldn't they have put it on the next plane out? Or the one after that?" There wasn't much the people behind the counter could say or do, except to double-check the back room. Sensing my growing frustration, one of the girls gave me the number for the baggage office at Logan Airport in Boston. When I called, the guy there seemed sympathetic. He patiently answered my questions, and offered to do a quick search himself. He put me on hold, and picked up a few minutes later, claiming he'd checked everywhere, including the tarmac, and there was no sign of my big red overweight suitcase. "It's definitely not here," were his words.

So if it wasn't in Boston, and wasn't in New York, where was my bag? Either stolen, or in another airport, right? I called the airline's 800 number for baggage problems, and an operator told me she'd put a search in the computer, so if or when my suitcase turned up at any airport worldwide, they'd know to re-route it back to New York. "But what flight was it put on? Can't you track it from the number they put on the bag when I checked it at the counter?" Her answer surprised me. "We don't have that capability, sir." Even though Fed Ex and UPS and the U.S. Mail can tell you exactly where your package is, what truck or plane it was put on from the time you drop it at the counter, to where it was last touched, the airlines have NO SUCH SYSTEM IN PLACE.  The technology exists, of course, but they don't use it.

Time went by. Planes criss-crossed the country, and dozens flew back and forth between the Big Apple and Beantown, and still no sign of my precious cargo. I called regularly, hoping for good news. Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Sunday morning, afternoon, and evening. By Monday, I was convinced the bag was gone, and made a list, itemizing every single thing I could remember packing. Tuesday night, I came home to find a message on my answering machine.  "This is American Airlines calling. Your bag has been gone five days and is now considered lost.  We'll be sending you forms to file your claim, and we're terribly sorry for the inconvenience." Sorry?  What about all my stuff? How could they LOSE MY BAG?

I went over and over things in my head. Why didn't I drive? Why didn't I take the shuttle instead? Should I have packed less? What else could I have done? I knew they would never pay me back enough to replace all my things. Do I file an insurance claim? Would FOX cover the difference? What about the suitcase itself? It was an expensive bag! Would the airline replace that too?

I decided to call one last time and confirm the bag was gone. I gave the guy my six letter code, and his response floored me. "That bag was picked up at 7:30 this evening," he said.  "It'll be delivered late tonight."  I almost dropped the phone. "WHAT?" I yelled back, completely baffled.  "Why do you sound so surprised, sir?" He almost sounded annoyed. "Because I just got a message telling me my bag was officially lost!" "Well, it's not. It arrived earlier this evening."  "From where?" I asked. Very matter of factly, he told me "Boston."

My bag didn't arrive that night. It arrived the next afternoon, with everything inside. I still don't know where it was the whole time, or why it took so long for it to get home. But the confidence I had checking my luggage is severely shaken, and I'll probably be hand carrying my stuff on planes for the foreseeable future. The good news is, the Republican National Convention is at Madison Square Garden in New York City. I can WALK there.