Friday, August 18, 2006

Baggage Handling: The End of Civilization

Some quick math:

When you fly across the country, you move 3200 miles in about 6 hours, at worst. That's 5,632,000 yards, or a brisk 1,024,000 yards/hour.

Once you arrive at SeaTac airport, though, your bags take about 45-60 minutes to move 500 yards.

That's 500 yards/hour, in case you're wondering.

People in complex flying machine: 1,024,000 yards/hour
Bags attached to tractor: 500 yards/hour


I have to point out that before Alaska Airlines fired their baggage handlers and instead farmed the work out to the low bidder, this wasn't a problem. Never mind that the new baggage company also damaged at least two aircraft, and let one of those aircraft take off, which led to an inflight emergency.

Sometimes cheaper isn't better.

Anyone who wants to make this perfectly, crystal clear to Alaska Airlines, please e-mail Tell 'em I sent you.

A quick follow up: I sent my e-mail, and got this message in reply:

"Thank you for contacting our Central Baggage Service. We are currently
experiencing high email volumes. Response time on email is approximately 2

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Baggage, Continental, Why?

It's totally trivial in the face of war, missles, terrorism and other madness, but why does air travel so utterly suck, now, in the 21st century?

I am currently on hold with Continental Airlines. Yesterday I flew from Seattle to Newark, and then to Halifax. I had a 45-minute connection in Newark. We took off from Seattle 30 minutes late (no explanation), but made up the time. We landed at 8 PM. But didn't get to our gate until almost 8:30. WTF?!

I ran to my next flight, and made it. My bag didn't.

In Halifax, a Continental representative stood there while four of us forlornly waited for our bags. We were, I must point out, the only four people there. When I finally walked up and asked her, she said that all the bags had come off. I was out of luck.

I suppressed the urge to strangle her while yelling why didn't you tell me that 20 minutes ago you stupid idiot and filled out the necessary paperwork. It wasn't her fault my plane to Newark was late.

This morning, 18 hours later, no bag. No razor, no clothes, no plug for my trusty Powerbook, no shorts (it's a wee bit hot here) nothing.

The nice Continental rep had given me a number to call. I called. It rang, and rang, and rang. No answer.

So I went to, which has a handy dandy service where you can check on your bag. All I need is my File Reference Number. Only the nice Continental rep didn't give me a reference number. She just gave me this great number that rings and rings and rings.

So, now I'm on hold. Forever. Best case, a date with my wife tonight may be ruined. Worst case, in 9 days I'll find my bag waiting for me in Seattle.

What most gets me is that everyone else just takes this in stride. The airline, other customers, everyone. They're used to it. We can deliver a zero calorie soft drink. We can land a cruise missle within 3 inches of its target. We have the internet. But we can't move a 10-pound bag the size of a small cooler from Seattle to Halifax and have it arrive within 24 hours of its owner.

Follow up: I just got off the phone with Continental. They think the bag might be in Halifax. They gave me a reference code. I checked online and got 'NO INFORMATION AVAILABLE'.

I am going to go have a beer now.

Carter: Bush Worst Israeli Ally

Jimmy Carter, no dummy, thinks that George Bush's policies have fostered violence. Read more here.

The War In the Middle East

No, not Iraq. If you're wondering why Israel attacked Hezbollah, and as a result Lebanon, with such ferocity, I suggest you look at two things:

Current Events


A little history: In 1967, Syria was still shelling Israeli settlements from the Golan Heights. In 1973, Syria and Eqypt led a surprise attack on Yom Kippur.

Can you really expect a country that less than 50 years ago had enemies shelling its citizens to let Hezbollah kidnap its soldiers and fire missles into its cities?

I am a dove when it comes to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict - just ask my family about the dinner table arguments we've had. But this is different. This is facing off against a terrorist organization that is the proxy for at least two nations who still have the destruction of Israel as part of their raison d'etre.