How I Got My Bag Back After American Airlines ‘Mishandled’ It

Between avoiding checked bag fees and maintaining control over their belongings, many travelers don’t like to pack bags for flights. But, as my wife Katie and I live on the road, we can’t quite pack all of our possessions in a carry-on bag — especially traveling with our cat. So, we check a bag almost every flight, and we’ve had a remarkable streak of luck having our bag come out the belt at the end of the flight. Usually all we could complain about is our “priority”-tagged bag coming with seemingly no priority.

My streak of having my checked bag meet me at the belt ended Thursday. While it wasn’t the airline’s fault, I’m really impressed with my first experience using American Airlines’ new baggage tracking program rolled out in July 2017.

Here’s what happened: I booked a mileage flight from Jacksonville (JAX) to Chicago (ORD) to Philadelphia (PHL) to Montreal (YUL) — because that’s how AAdvantage rolls nowadays. When I arrived in Chicago, I found on ExpertFlyer that Chicago-Philadelphia and Philadelphia-Montreal were sold out, but there was a seat for sale on the Chicago-Montreal flight. Calling the AA Executive Platinum desk, I was able to talk my way onto the nonstop.

But, my checked bag didn’t make the switch. Before we pushed back from Chicago, I saw on my AA app that my bag was loaded on the Chicago-Philadelphia flight. As it was a late flight switch, I can’t blame the airline for getting the bag where it was supposed to go.

I figured I’d need to file a claim when I got to Montreal, and I’d have to head back to the airport to pick up my bag later. As I stepped off the plane, my AA app pushed an update notifying me of my baggage delay:

I tapped (not swiped) on the notification to start the claim and delivery set-up process. Before we even reached the baggage claim belt, I’d filed a report for my “mishandled” bag.

While I handled the process through the app. At the same time I received the app push notification, I received an email about the delay. It seems I could have started the same process through the link provided here:

After filing the claim, I was still able to track the bag in the app. I watched as it skipped its original Philadelphia-Montreal flight — probably to spend some extra time in the Centurion Lounge — and catch the last flight of the night to Montreal:

At 12:22am, my bag was “recovered” and entered into a new system handled by the appropriately-named WheresMySuitcase.com. I received an email with a link to check my bag status. In the email, it noted that “residential deliveries” would be delayed to the next morning:

Please Note: Residential deliveries after 11 PM will go out the next morning unless prior arrangements have been made with the airline. The arrival time is contingent upon weather and traffic conditions.

I’m guessing either my hotel was considered a residential delivery or AA didn’t have any drivers after midnight. Either way, my bag was assigned to a driver the next morning at 10:01am. I received another update email when this occurred, although the website still erroneously listed a “06:22 AM” delivery schedule time.

And, by 11:30am Friday, my checked bag was delivered to the front desk and I’d received a call to come pick it up.

My takeaways from this experience:

  • It really helps to have your cell phone and email address in your flight record for ease of contact if something goes wrong with your flight — from delays to mishandled bags.
  • While everyone already seems to have too many cell phone apps already, downloading the AA app is useful for tracking your checked bags, and it’s necessary for watching entertainment on some AAircraft.

Although “mishandled” checked bags are quite rare — and hopefully becoming even more rare — I’m impressed by the system AA has set-up to handle the situation when it occurs. While I’m still a critic of AA when it deserves it, this is one area where AA did well.

Featured image by Getty Images.