Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Airlines Lose Bags

It's a fact of flying that airlines lose bags.  It's not pleasant and it shouldn't happen but it does and we always want to know how and why did the airline lose my bag.  There are three errors that can happen during baggage handling: human error, mechanical error, user error; and those errors can come around for multiple reasons. 

Human Error

Human error happens when an employee handling the bag makes a mistake:

Rushing 1.1: Sometimes a check-in agent will be rushing and will check in or tag the bag under the wrong passenger.  This can happen when the names of passengers are the same or similar enough that they look the same at a quick glance.  This is why it is always a good idea to check your boarding pass and baggage tag to make sure that it is registered under your name. 
Rushing 1.2: Ramp agents who handle the bags in the baggage hall and on the ramp can also be rushing, especially if there are staffing shortages or irregular operations.  In that case they may make errors when two destinations have similar codes.  This is especially bad in Canada where we have many similar airport codes like YYZ for Toronto Pearson Airport and YYG for Charlottetown Airport.
Bag not Checked Through to Final Destination: This can happen when you are flying two airlines that do not have an interline baggage agreement.  In that case you will need to collect your bag on the carousel and check it in again.  Another way this can happen is if an airline asks for volunteers to check their carry-on bags for free at the gate and the agent doesn't write your connecting flight on the tag.  Always make sure that your bag is tagged to your final destination.
Laziness: This happens when ramp agents don't care to do their job properly.  It's not very common and mostly results in bags being left at the originating station because they come down right at flight closing time or are left off the baggage cart or on the cart when being loaded on the plane.

Mechanical Error

Mechanical error happens when there is a problem independent of human involvement.

Tag Falls Off: Baggage tags can fall off occasionally and when that happens it can take from hours to days to figure out who the bag belongs to.  This is a reason why you should always have your name on your bag and no one else's and why it is a good idea to keep your destination address on it as well.  It speeds up the process of recognition.  It can also be a good idea to put what airline you are flying on the bag as that will narrow down how many flights need to be checked by the airport agents.
Baggage Belt Breaks: If the baggage belt that brings the bags from check-in to the baggage room breaks or stops for any reason the bags on the belt may end up in a non-accessible area (for ramp crew) or just be so far away that they don't make it in time for your flight.  This is one reason why it is good to check your bags early.
Bag Falls off Belt: Sometimes a bag will fall off or get stuck on the belt.  In this case it may not be noticed for some time.  
Flight Delays: When a flight is delayed and a passenger has a connection to make it may happen that there just isn't enough time to transfer the bag from one aircraft to another. 
Weight Imbalance: Sometimes an aircraft can become too heavy.  This happens during holidays when people bring more bags that expected with them.  In this case, for safety reasons, bags will be taken off the flight and put onto the next available flight going to their final destination.  

User Error

User error happens when the passenger (you) makes a mistake when checking in their bag.

Old Tag on Bag: Sometimes you forget to take an old tag off of your bag.  In this case, if it isn't noticed by a check-in agent (for example the handle that it is on is facing away from the agent or is on the bottom of the bag) then the two tags can get mixed up.  Ramp agents don't check for two tags and will follow instructions from the first tag that they see.  This is why it is always a good idea to tear the tag off the moment you arrive at your final destination.
Bag isn't Checked In: sometimes passengers drop their bags off at the connecting belt without checking them in. This can happen when transferring between airlines without an interline bag transfer agreement or because the passenger has made a mistake. In that case the airline doesn't know that you have a bag at all and won't put it on the plane. 
You Forgot to Collect your Bag: This happens in two instances: when you need to collect your bag and re-check it in during a connection and when you use a gate check or sky check service. The first is related to bags not being tagged through to the final destination but can also occur in countries where you must clear immigration with your bag at point of entry. In that case just ask the airline agents at the arrival airport, they will have the most up to date information on customs regulations concerning you. In the second case this happens from ignorance. Certain airlines will take larger carry-on bags at the door of the aircraft and put them in the hold of the plane because the overhead bins are smaller than normal or because there are more carry on bags than are able to fit into the overhead bins. This usually happens on smaller aircraft. In this case the bag is returned to you at the door of the aircraft upon arrival. If you don't pick up your bag at the door it may get confused with the outbound bags and, because these bags don't have tags, it will end up lost. If ever in doubt about where to pick up a bad just ask the arrivals agent upon exiting.

Sometime there is nothing you can do about a delayed or lost bag, life happens, but you can try and mitigate certain problems. You should always plan to be at the check-in desk half an hour before it closes or more just in case there are any problems. Always check to make sure that the baggage tag on your bag is current and made out to the correct name and correct destination. Lastly, always make sure that your bag is indeed checked in and if you have any doubts ask an agent who works for your airline. Other agents simply don't have guaranteed information on that and aren't liable in case a mistake is made.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

San Francisco Witout a Budget

I've been to San Francisco quite a few times so I've been lucky to see places that aren't crazy tourist traps that I'd like to share with you.  As a pre-amble I must mention that I don't ever have a budget when travelling, or, more accurately, my budget is usually quite high so a few of the places I'm going to be talking about are on the pricier side of life.  I also don't actually stay in the city as my friend lives in Santa Clara so part of my trip always involves transit into the actual city.   I'll be grouping places to visit based on location and I'll include addresses so that you can google maps the directions if you wish to visit them.

A Bit About the Airport

SFO, the San Francisco international airport is an average little airport that seems to run along the same lines as most airports: function over style and a general lack of windows.  I've never has any problems there and have always found my gate with no trouble.  My favourite part is on the concourse level where the exit corridor has a revolving exhibit.  I've caught chinese vases, tiffany products, lac, and Asian building exhibits on my travels.  It's worth a quick look as you will invariably pass by the exhibit on your way out to the pick-up are or to the BART.  For anyone who doesn't know, SFO has a direct connection to the city via the Bay Area Rapid Transit system which is a very affordable and fast alternative to a taxi.  If you are going down into the South Bay area you can also connect to the Caltrain line via the BART train.

A Small Note on the Caltrain

Though the Caltrain line to San Fancisco is straight and passes the same stops be aware that some of the trains are express trains and will only stop at a select few stations along the line. A one-way ticket is valid for four hours so you can always get off of an express train and transfer onto a full service train if you make a mistake or if you want to save some time.

A Delicious Stop in the Dogpatch

The first area I want to talk about is the Dogpatch because I'm very excited about a place I found there.  

The Smokestack

On the corner of 22nd and 3rd street is a fantastic and delicious place called Smokestack.  It's a combination of the Magnolia Brewing Company and a smokehouse for preparing meat (in house as I've been told).  The meat is sold by weight and you can also choose from a great selection of hot or cold sides (I recommend the chipotle pork and beans).  They also sell all their food to go so you can take your food home with you.  The food is delicious but the greatest lure, for me at least, is the wide selection of on-tap beer that is all brewed by the Magnolia Brewery.  There are twenty beers on tap at the bar and you can also purchase three of them at the same time as your food on the other side of the restaurant.  The prices are average and two people can eat very well for $20.  

Located right beside The Smokestack is a small ice-cream parlour.  It merits a mention not only for it's homemade fudge but also for the interesting flavours of its ice-cream.  I had Earl Gray Tea ice-cream which was oh so good while my boyfriend went with a mix of Sweet Cream and Chicory Coffee.  The prices were a bit on the more expensive side but the ice-cream and fudge were worth it.  The parlour also sells different nut brittle that you can take home but I didn't get any so I can't comment on the taste there.

Triple Aught Designs

Triple Aught Designs is somewhat of a Mecca for those who like high-end outdoor gear.  They have everything from knives to backpacks to rugged dress shirts.  Their products are attractive, well made, long wearing and made in a goodly valiety of sizes.  They are pricey but remember that you are paying for quality here.  The Dogpatch location is large, airy and well stocked. I believe that they also hold classes there.  The staff are polite and knowledgeable without being overbearing.  They also have a second location in Hayes Valley that is smaller and holds less stock, though they can order things in for you or call to hold items between stores.
TAD caters mostly to men, though they have a small women's line consisting of some t-shirts and sweaters.  I own the Artemis hoodie and it is one of my favouriet pieces of clothing.

Japantown Shopping

I love the San Francisco japan town. I go there every time I'm in the city and I have a set routine for the stores I visit. There are many stores that I haven't gone into yet, though I hope to get around to them.  I highly recommend stopping off at the Japantown Mall to look around to to grab a quick bite from the food vendors inside.


Daiso is a famous Japanese 100 yen store.  After the exchange rate the prices in San Francisco were $1.50.  Daiso sells what most dollar stores sell, from tablecloths to baby wipes to cleaning products, but my favorite section is the stationary section which has tons of cute notebooks, pens, binders, etc.  The Japanese live of cute things is present here in all its forms.  The quality is also pretty decent and many products are made specifically for Daiso.  Do take care, though, as you may end up spending more than you anticipated, especially once you see the wall of Japanese candy.  I have never left without spending a good $50 or more in there.

Kinokuniya Bookstore

This is a big Japanese bookstore that is located in the Kinokuniya mall.  It's a good place to go to get books and magazines in Japanese and they also have lots of Anime and Manga related items.  The best things bout this store is that they stock Japanese fashion magazines including alternative fashion at very reasonable prices.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (BtSSB)

And so it is with this fabulous temple to girlhood that I end the section on Japantown.  BtSSB is a company that designs clothes for the alternative fashion called Lolita and is one of the best known and respected brands in that circle.  It's a delightful store with great service.  No photos are allowed inside (as far as I can tell its for copyright issues) but you can find official images on their site.  This store will only be interesting to followers of alternative fashion but if you are intrigued and you like ruffles then go take a look.  You might find something you like.  

A caveat: brand name Lolita runs to small sizes and is also VERY expensive as its it couture with many hand-sewn pieces and sometimes over 100 different design elements on a garment.

Some Downtime at Patricia's Green

This small park is just down the street from the Hayes Valley Triple Aught Designs store.  It's a nice place to sit and relax with restaurants, cafes, and bars around it.  Beside the park are some outdoor food and drink stands.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Ritual Coffee Roasters is a fun little hipster place which serves very goof pour-over coffee.  If you like trying new coffee then I recommend stopping by.  The servers were very nice and answered all our, granted a bit silly, questions.  They also have tea for those who have had enough caffeine.

Juice Shop

Across from Ritual Roasters is a very expensive (in my opinion) juice stand.  It's also very hipstery but the juices were delicious. I had the Deep Green and my bf stole a good quarter of it.  They serve their juice in reusable glass bottles and you can return the bottle, rinsed out, for a $2 deposit refund.

These are just a few of the many interesting places in San Francisco.  It's a walkable city and both the Dogpatch and Hayes Valley neighborhoods have great shops and places to eat or drink.  If you are in the city definitely check them out.