Late flight? Stuck on the tarmac? Lost luggage? Cancelled flight? Yes, these are ALL an annoying part of air travel.
As a frequent flyer, and former airline employee (a brief 2 years in IT, focused on baggage handling), I am amazed at everything travelers blame on the airline. Some things are absolutely the airlines fault (like giving your seat away and rude employees), while other problems must be blamed elsewhere.
- Cancelled or delayed flight due to weather? The irresponsible airline partnered with the FAA and decided that your safety was important. Flying in bad weather can result in wild turbulence (barf bags are provided for this reason). There is a high risk of circling the airport before cleared by the airport tower to land, which can lead to diverting to another airport for refueling and no way for an on-time arrival! Or, worst case, really bad weather can result in a plane crash and possible death – airlines try to avoid this, aircraft is expensive to replace and they lose all those frequent flyers!
- Turbulence? Also, not the airline or pilot’s fault. Storms happen, some which can result in a bumpy flight. The pilot can request a higher altitude, or route change, but it is only a request. Sometimes, the only option is deal with the turbulence, or land immediately (not necessarily at the origin or destination airport).
- Cancelled or delayed flight due to mechanical issues? Blame the Airline – This is the equivalent of maintaining your car. Many things are avoided by preventative maintenance. While others just happen due to wear and tear. Considering how many miles these aircraft cover, I am content when they ground a flight due to “check engine light”, or anything that could result in a crash!
- Someone opened your luggage? It was probably TSA, and they will leave you a little love note (Notice of Inspection), or possibly Customs if travelling internationally. Neither TSA nor Customs are employed or in any way controlled by the airline. Both TSA and Customs can open your luggage for any reason, or random inspection. They can remove items deemed hazardous or restricted, and sometimes your fancy electronics or cash look hazardous – do not pack tempting items in your checked luggage!
- I was on a TSA tour in the PHL airport screening, where TSA showed me a full size (opened) bottle of liquid laundry detergent that was deemed hazardous and removed. There was massive paperwork for this one item, which allows the owners to submit a claim against it. Removing this one bottle also resulted in the luggage to miss its connecting flight. No airline personnel were allowed to touch the bag or contents while TSA had control. The airline is blamed for mishandled luggage, even while in TSA custody.
- There are many convicted ex-TSA agents that are responsible for stealing items from luggage, here is one example.
- For many airports, a large portion of the baggage handling system is automated. The human interaction (opportunity to steal) is limited, by design. With the rush for on-time departure, there is very little opportunity for airline employees to steal anything. That being said, ticket agents (checking your luggage), Baggage Service Office (BSO) agents when your luggage is delayed or missing, and reroute bag agents do have access to your bag and pose the greatest risk for theft (these are airline employees, so Blame the Airline hiring department).
- Damage to your luggage? Again, since a large portion of the baggage handling system is automated in various airports, this could be the airports fault on conveyor belts, TSA (they can cause damage while they are inspecting your bag and removing things), airline baggage handlers, or the airline conveyor belt into and out of the belly of the aircraft. Airlines are somewhat accommodating for damaged luggage, if you go to the Baggage Service Office (BSO) and file a claim immediately. Show them the damage to your luggage and anything inside.
- One of my checked bags had an unfortunate run-in on a conveyor belt that ripped a massive hole through the top, rendering the bag utterly useless and destroying a wool coat. I filed a claim as soon as I picked up my bag from baggage claim. The airline replaced the bag, with a very cheap duffle bag, and paid (a reasonable) replacement cost for the coat.
Want better service when it is the airlines fault (or not)? Join the frequent flyer program and rack up a few trips. A little flyer status can go a long way towards better service, free checked bags, first class upgrades, lounge access, and many other great perks!