Where did my fellow passengers (and luggage) go?
July 23, 2010 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Airport Oddity: The Omega Man loses his luggage.

I flew into my home airport (DTW) yesterday and, after disembarking, found which baggage carousel my flight was listed to be unloaded on and waited.

And waited. After around 20 minutes, nothing. Secondly, and more interestingly, no one else from my (fairly-full) flight had shown up to collect any baggage. I went to double-check that I was indeed standing at the correct carousel and verified that none of the other conveyors had spat out my suitcase. Bupkis. I return to the original carousel.

A moment later, the conveyor starts up. A single black suitcase rolls out, but after 5 minutes, no other luggage emerges. Ten minutes afterward, the conveyor shuts down. I wait another 10 minutes or so before going to the baggage service desk to find out what has happened. During this time, there has been no sign of anyone from my flight.

36 hours on, here I sit. The airline has no idea where my single suitcase is (as far as their records show, it was loaded on my flight and should have arrived at DTW), nor have they seemed to understand the weirdness of the situation. I intend to call the aiport directly on Monday.

However, while I feel I've missed something, according to the monitors at DTW, the baggage from my flight was supposed to emerge at the #5 carousel.

Apologies for the nebulousness, but I was hoping someone could share a similar story or point out my stupidity.
posted by Ian.I.Am to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Love the "Langoliers" tag.

Were you by any chance asleep or wearing headphones during any portion of the flight? Is it possible that the flight crew may have communicated some crucial baggage-related tidbit ("We're not sending them up to the baggage carousel; we're going to shoot them across the tarmac in a cool-ass cannon") that you didn't hear?

I've had to retrieve luggage plane-side before on very teeny flights, so some form of alternate baggage disbursement isn't unheard of... but this does sound awfully weird. Please let us know what happens, and that you have not been eaten by a swirling worm-vortex from the sky.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:48 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for the baggage loss, but as far as other passengers go:

It was probably a flight that was mostly booked up for another destination, and DTW was the stop-over. You just happened to be that guy that was getting off. Of course, if others disembarked with you, this goes right out the window.

And if this was the case, then it's entirely likely they shoved the wrong bag out the door, your bag went on to wherever the rest of the flight was going, and some dude is missing the bag that went for a ride there with you.
posted by Rendus at 7:54 PM on July 23, 2010

Last year, we flew from SFO to PDX, and I checked a bag (doh!). It went missing for four days. On day five, it appeared on a carousel in PDX, having apparently (according to the very nice lost-bag person I talked to, who was as astonished as I was) gotten stuck in the conveyor-belt machinery in the back, and it took something (a larger, heavier bag perhaps) to dislodge it.

So ask them if they've really, truly checked all the machinery that's out of public view. Good luck!
posted by rtha at 7:57 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If there were no other passengers at your carousel, surely you missed an announcement or something.
posted by proj at 7:58 PM on July 23, 2010

What Rendus said, but with the addition that DTW is a huge hub, so it wouldn't surprise me if everyone else on your flight was actually going somewhere else and therefore didn't need to get their luggage.
posted by Etrigan at 7:59 PM on July 23, 2010

I'd guess that, despite double-checking, you were in fact at the wrong carousel. Maybe the monitor said 8 and had enough dead pixels that it looked like a 5, or some such. That would reduce the mystery to a simple "they lost my bag" which isn't exactly unprecedented.
posted by bac at 8:03 PM on July 23, 2010

Try walking up and down the entire luggage area, looking for your bag, or for places where bags obviously collect. This happened to me once at O'Hare, and it turned out that somehow my bag had ended up on a carousel (seemingly) half a mile away.
posted by ErikaB at 8:12 PM on July 23, 2010

The weirdest part to me is that there were no one else from your flight was waiting for luggage. I'm with julthumbscrew, I think that you somehow missed an announcement that the baggage carousel number changed.

I don't know if this helps one time I headed to the baggage carousel tired and fully expecting to have to wait around 10-15 minutes for the magical sound of the carousel starting up and the bags starting to appear (and additional 10-15 minutes to wait for my bag, which inevitably will be the last to appear). I get there and as expected the carousel isn't moving; no bags. But here's the weird twist: the bags had already been taken off the carousel and were lined up near the baggage claim office before most, if not all of the passengers had gotten there. I honestly don't know how the baggage got there so quickly. It was as if it had been flown in earlier on a separate and speedier flight.

So is there any chance that it had already been taken off the carousel (although then the people at the baggage claim office should have been able to point you toward where it was)? I suppose the 2 other likely scenarios is that it never made it on the plane or someone else took it. But the fact that you did not recognize anyone else from your flight still suggests to me that they were moved somewhere and you missed the announcement. Any reason that you have to wait until Monday to call the airport?

Now I'm curious. Good luck and please update when you find your luggage!
posted by kaybdc at 8:19 PM on July 23, 2010

Thanks for the responses so far. It's possible that I missed an announcement, as I remember the intercom messages being particularly unintelligible on my last flight.

I did check the other carousels for my bag, but not the surrounding walls and storage rooms. I feel like the Baggage Service people would have known if it'd just been shoved aside somewhere.

DTW's General and Lost+Found info lines apparently operate only during business hours, but I can try tomorrow to be sure.

This would be a tragic way to lose my favorite shirt. If the TSA had exploded my luggage, sure; but not like this.
posted by Ian.I.Am at 8:59 PM on July 23, 2010

Ah, yes, that's happened to me as well. My flight somehow made it on to an earlier flight than I did and it ended up just sitting in the corner of the baggage claim area. No one told me it was there, it wasn't guarded at all, and I just eventually found it because another guy from my flight spotted his bag over there.
posted by proj at 10:44 PM on July 23, 2010

You're not looking for DTW's general or lost+found line, you're looking to reach the airline's baggage office at DTW, which should be open whenever the airline has incoming flights. Getting that number isn't the easiest thing in the world, but in my experience, often rather doable. Try calling the airport's administration number or the paging assistance line for the appropriate terminal from the DTW phone list. Ask for the number for Airline X's office in the baggage claim. If they won't give it to you, ask to be transferred. Failing that, try the other number. If all else fails, try posting on the airline's forum on flyertalk.com, where someone, perhaps an employee of your airline, is bound to help you out. Good luck!
posted by zachlipton at 3:19 AM on July 24, 2010

Ask the airline if they are holding luggage for anyone with the same last name as you. Once my bag went missing when I returned from vacation, and they couldn't find it in the system when I went to check on it. Turns out someone else on my flight had the same last name as me and for some reason didn't make the flight*, though their luggage did. The baggage office pulled their bags from the carousel and pulled mine too mistakenly.

*This was pre-911 security theatre. Not sure if folks' bags can be on a flight they aren't anymore.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 6:41 AM on July 24, 2010

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