Get a Free Briggs & Riley Carry-On Bag With Your Worst Damaged Bag Story


The full year 2012 baggage stats are out from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the airlines had a good year. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a lot of delayed, lost, and damaged bags out there. It just means there were less than in previous years. For that reason, I’m teaming up with Briggs & Riley to help those who may have had a bag put through the ringer. Read on to see how you can get a free carry-on bag.

But first, let’s talk about the numbers. In 2012, there were 3.09 reports per 1,000 passengers. This is a bad way to measure baggage problems, but it’s still an improvement over 2011’s 3.35 reports per 1,000 passengers. That may not sound like much, but then again, think about how many people flew. The DOT reported 574 million passengers. That translates into just over 1.7 million bag reports for the year.

Most of these are just bags that are delayed or come in on a different flight. Some are gone for good. But a few are bound to be roughed up pretty badly. Click to see a slideshow from Briggs & Riley of some of the ugliest bag damage out there. Here’s my favorite:

Destroyed Bag

So now it’s your turn. In the comments on this post, tell us your worst damaged bag story. It doesn’t even have to be from 2012. The worst damaged bag story (as determined solely by me) will get a free carry-on bag from Briggs & Riley. Seriously, just take your pick of any of the carry-ons on the website. Deadline is Sunday night at 11:59pm PT (more details below).

With a Briggs & Riley bag, you won’t have to worry about damage at all. That’s because Briggs & Riley has a lifetime guarantee. If your bag is damaged (excluding cosmetic wear and cleaning), the company will fix it for free forever. All you have to do is take it into a service center or pay the cost of sending your bag in.

So read the details below and then let’s hear your worst.

Details: Entries must be made via the comments section by 11:59pm Pacific Time on Sunday, February 17. You must include your contact email in the “Email” field when you leave a comment. If you win, you will be contacted only via that email address within a week of the end of the contest. You will have one week from when the email is sent to claim your bag. Email addresses entered in the “Email” field will not be publicly visible on the website. Email addresses will not be used for any other purpose than to notify about winning.

[Disclaimer: I am not receiving any compensation for this. I was approached about giving away a bag to a reader, and thought you guys might like it. Besides, it’s a bonus Wednesday post!]

[Original photo via BBC]

60 comments on “Get a Free Briggs & Riley Carry-On Bag With Your Worst Damaged Bag Story

  1. Here’s my bag story which was not at all as disastrous as those pics but still quite nervewrecking at the time.

    I was backpacking in China in December of 2012 and had bought a brand new 170Eur Fjällraven backpack for that trip.
    Everything was going great until I lifted my backpack off the conveyor in Shenzhen (flying in from Kunming). Weird smell… Kind of smells like sesame cookies… (mmm cookies), wait… what’s that dripping on my toes? As it turned out a fellow passenger had had a sesame oil bottle in their luggage which broke and completely (and I do mean completely) soaked my backpack. Fortunately almost all my things were packed in separate plastic bags and as it turned out later that nothing except the backpack was damaged.
    Dripping pack in hand I walked to the luggage desk and tried to explain my situation but, as a recurring theme in China, english was not understood at all. After basically forcing the lady behind the counter to smell my bag, a mid-sized roller bag was thrust to my face and I was waved off. Remember I was _backpacking_ :) I managed, after 5 minutes of gesturing, to get a copy of the luggage damage report (which was obviously filled in chinese). All further attempts to explain that a roller bag is really not something I can do backpacking with, were met with empty stares. So off to Hong Kong I went, dripping bag on my back. Oh those stares on the subway…
    After arriving at my hotel in Hong Kong I Skyped my insurance which, as was to be expected, told me that this is the airlines fault and they as the insurer will do absolutely nothing for me.
    After a few beers and a nice meal and a decision to buy a new backpack was already made a frugal streak reared its head.
    So to the supermarket I went and with a bottle of dishwashing liquid out I came. Of the four nights I spent in Hong Kong three evenings were spent in the shower whasing-rinsing-drying my backpack for 3 times. As a result I still have my backpack and it is again usable but a whiff of sesame oil is still lingering around it at times :)

  2. While sitting at the gate (F2, ORD) several years ago I saw a belt-loader sitting atop a hard-shell ski case. The right two wheels were off the ground, the case was shattered, but somehow propping up approx 6000lbs of machine. You could see the skis inside. Two guys were trying to get the belt-loader off by driving it forward and backward repeatedly, which only shattered the case further. After about ten minutes of this the case was destroyed in the middle and scratched to hell along the bottom, but still holding up the belt loader.

    Eventually a supervisor stopped the action and brought in a jack, and they slid the case out from underneath in many, many pieces (though the skis inside may have survived intact, it was hard to tell). Oh to have been in baggage claim when that came around!

  3. My spining 32″ suiter managed to lose a wheel somewhere between Ottawa and Toronto. The airline’s 1st offer was a $50 future travel voucher (yeah right that”s almost equal to a $450 suitcase) the 2nd offer was to have it repaired on their dime at a local repair facility that offers direct claims service for most airlines in town. I went for option 2. After 6 weeks of the bag languishing at the repair shop I was told it was ready to be picked up. When it was brought out it was in worse shape then when i brought it in. Parts had been canabalized from my bag to do other repairs. I was told they can’t get parts (the bag was only 3 years old) so I am entitled to a new bag – then came the caveats – the repair shop and the airline must have some agreement to limit everyones risk exposure. I was given a price ceiling and was told to pick a similar bag from their floor, except their shopwroom had no comparable bag under the cap. Only when I threatened to sue the repair shop (after all they harvested parts off of my property) I was allowed to depart with a bag that was a true replacement in terms of size, quality and features.

  4. This is unlikely to be a winning story, but does say a lot about B&R’s warranty.

    At bag claim in PHL a few years ago, my overnighter bag showed up last, and damaged. What could only have been a forklift “fork” went through the bag sideways, tearing out holes in the side zippers and the inside covering (*). It also snagged the jacket of my suit.

    USAir paid $200 for the suit (cost a *LOT* more, and relatively new). They also gave me $200 for the ruined suitcase. Said that was max on both. Took months to receive the money.

    Briggs took the damaged bag, completely repaired it, fixed a loose wally hook (there are two) and returned it in about 2 weeks, including transit time. My only cost was shipping to them, and that’s because I live in rural PA. Had I been near one of their dealers, I could have dropped it off. When they say “No Excuses” they mean it. I’m still using that bag, hundreds, maybe thousands of flights, connections, car trunks and even vacation tours.

    (*) (open bag, insert suits/shirts onto wally hooks, socks and stuff around the sides, close inside cover and zip shut, then fold over bag and zip it shut. The forklift went thru the outside zipper).

  5. Since just about every airline on the planet charges for checked bags, I’m surprised they haven’t started a fee system based on what the checked bag is made of. A lower fee for hard sided luggage, to a higher fee for soft sided bags that can get damaged easier.

    That actually makes sense in away, the higher soft luggage fee money can goes towards paying off claims and for the extra fuel needed for the heavier hard sided luggage. But since airlines don’t do that, there must be a reason and it can’t be because they haven’t thought of it. Oh oh, did I just give them an idea?

      1. Agreed. However I’m curious if its possible to back out the X bags lost per 1000 bags number from a 10-K analysis? Although they probably don’t put enough information in there to figure out how many bags were checked vs. passengers carried.

        1. presumably, you would need a bags/pax ratio which is likely not there. Unless the 10-K lists total number of bags and total pax, which might be possbile, I doubt it.

    1. However the airline doesn’t get as much packing flexibility with hard sided luggage. I’m quite sure a collection of just hardsided luggage is harder to nicely pack onto a plane.

  6. Sometimes I’d take damage of loss. On a regional jet the agent decided my garment bag was not going to fit overhead (though there was plenty of space, a story for another day).

    I signed and gate checked my garment bag, a nice suit, shirts, all needed for the upcoming job interview. Namely the reason I didn’t check it (even with a free checked bag with United credit card).

    So as they begin unloading the gate checked bags I patiently wait in line. I get to the baggage cart and my bag is no where to be seen. No worries I figure, it was a sold out flight, maybe there is a second batch soon to come. I start to worry when I realize no one else is missing their bag.

    Fast forward ten minutes when all bags are off the cart, and I stand next to it empty, without my bag. My nerves kick into full gear, what am I going to wear to this interview tomorrow?

    Finally an employees comes up and asks what I am waiting for. I tell him the situation and he says he will be right back. He comes back and says that was all the gate checked bags. I gladly offer him my tag and he becomes even more puzzled. He runs over to the bags that were checked and still no dice.

    I am more or less petrified at this point.

    Finally as I begin to consider what I am going to do, figuring it’s going to be a long claim process finally the employee runs up with my bag. They figured it was the flight crews and left it with them. After they left it sat there alone before finally the pieces to the puzzle were put together. Disaster avoided.

    Lesson learned here, never again do I travel with just a garment bag. I honestly believe if it was a suitcase it would have been with the rest of the gate checked bags.

    If only I had a carry-on sized suitcase :)

  7. I don’t have a bag horror story (surprising, given all my travel in Siberia), but did want to say that I love my Briggs & Riley 22″ – it’s traveled all over with me for years and never even whimpered.

  8. Interesting. Fortunately, I don’t have a bad baggage story. Now that carry-on only is the best way to go, you really do need a sturdy bag like the one mentioned above.

  9. Out of almost 15 years of frequent flying, I only had one true damaged bag. (lucky me?)

    Continental LIR-IAH-LGA. The bag was slightly over 50 lb, but because we are in first class, we are entitled to the extra weight for free. The bag arrived fine in IAH, and we rechecked it after clearing customs. At LGA, our bag was the last to come out, even with the priority tag, and it looked like someone had ran over the bag, with some portion of the luggage mangled:

    This was around 11pm. There were 2 CO agents working at the baggage office. One lady refused to take the claim, stating that the bag was overpacked, therefore they are not liable. Her colleague, without looking at the bag, says “Yup, overpacked”. Asked for a supervisor and was told that one was not available. Asked for a copy of the contract of carriage stating that overpacked bag waives the liability, and they said “all that lawyer stuff is only available at the headquarter in Houston”. Since they absolutely would not allow me to make a claim, I took down their names and filed a customer service complaint over the phone. Option one they offered was to go back to the airport and file the claim, which I declined since it would have been a 3 hour trek r/t. The alternative was for them to send a complimentary bag, but she has not seen what the bag looked like. I took option #2, with a promise of sending a picture to the customer service rep. Here’s the new bag, after waiting for 4 weeks:

    It’s now sitting in the attic collecting dust, since it is only big enough for a weekend trip and not very sturdy.

  10. The only bad bag story I have is when WN crunched my golf bag, destroying the travel bag and the golf bag inside of it (fortunately clubs survived). I was told by the agent in FLL that since the wheels were damaged as well, WN was not liable as wheel damage is “wear and tear.” I showed her the cuts and utterly ruined bag and she maintained that WN was not liable because in addition to other damage, the wheel was damaged. Such ridiculousness ended with a DOT complaint.

    Can we talk about the VX additions (possibly first smart moves in awhile) and the strong b6 response to them and AS?

  11. This may be an urban legend, but I believe it happened as told to me by an HP Station Manager while I was installing his IT equipment. He used to work for CO in LAS (many many years ago). And one flight (a DC10 as I recall) came into LAS carrying live animals in cargo. One of the live animals was a baby elephant … who apparently did not like the inflight service, and broke out of his crate, and proceeded to tromp on the luggage and cargo in the bin for the duration of the flight he was free. Upon opening of the bin door, the little guy made his way onto the ramp and airfield with CO personnel in hot pursuit (unsure of what they would do when they caught him).

    Now I don’t know if the damaged bag story is the crate which contained the future circus star, or if it is all of the passengers who were waiting for their trampled pieces of luggage and received it with the excuse: “we are really really sorry, but you see an elephant got loose in the cargo bin and crushed your bag.”

  12. Slightly off topic but a story worth sharing I hope. A few years ago I worked in an office near Victoria Station. One lunchtime whilst out walking with a colleague, he suggested we pop into the station as he wished to visit his friend, who was on the check-in desk for AA’s remote check in service for Gatwick (idea being you could check in at the railway station, then take a leisurely train to the airport etc).

    Anyway we walk in and his friend is dealing with a customer who’s obviously having a bad day – and the customer is being less than polite, whilst the AA guy is being unbelievably polite.

    This went on for 4-5 minutes until the check in process was complete, after which the customer stormed out to take his misery elsewhere. My colleague asked his friend why, and how, he put up with such insolent behaviour. I’ll always remember the reply.

    “He’s going to Tokyo. His luggage is going to Johannesburg. Computer error”.

    Once I’d recovered my composure I asked why JNB? He proceeded to explain that if luggage is not claimed there by the first revolution of the belt, you’ll never see it again.

    It was good advice – the following year I went to Durban via JNB, and was sure to be at the belt ASAP after clearing immigration. Oh, and I am never rude to check in staff either (despite Ryanair’s best efforts a few years ago).

  13. After a business trip in Auckland, NZ, my husband and I left for a week on the South Island. We were flying via Christchurch to Queenstown. We sat in the Terminal waiting area in Christchurch chatting with a colleague And her family while waiting for our 2nd flight when I heard my name being paged. I looked up to see where to go when I saw a desk agent holding a black bra high in the air and calling my name! So embarrassing. I ran over to find out what was going on. It seemed that me suitcase’s zipper had pooped open as it was going down the conveyor belt and all of my clothes were thrown all over the baggage area ( they didn’t say how they chose which piece of clothing to wave in the air! The good news was that they packaged all of the clothes into a heavy plastic bag, secured it, took the address of our B and B in Queenstown and promised to fix the suitcase. Although I was sure that I’d never see it again, 4 days later it was delivered directly to our location as good as new! Now that is excellent customer service!

  14. I bought one of those TSA-approved locks for my big rolling garment bag. (Why I don’t know since it’s generally TSA we need protection from.) Anyhow, when I get to my destination, the lock had been clipped and there’s the form letter inside saying “TSA was here. It’s bad enough that they clipped the lock but they also clipped the zipper pull and a portion of zipper.

    I could file a claim with TSA but their burden of proof would stymie even Mother Teresa. I was left with an unusable bag. Thanks, TSA.

    You of course know their motto: “solving yesterday’s problems tomorrow.”

  15. I checked in a small sized bag on my Delta flight from ATL to DFW. The flight in atlanta was cancelled due to bad weather and the next flight was only the next day. But as Delta was to tell me in a shortwhile, my baggage was already sent to DFW by some other flight. So, I boarded my flight next day to dallas and went off to baggage claim only to find my poor bag in a pretty beat up shape and torn from one side barely holding the contents from falling outside with a few threads or so. However, the airline replaced my bag with a newer one without too much hassle. They tried to give me a smaller bag than mine at first but when I declined to accept it they were able to find an appropriate size.

  16. It was not sesame seed oil but just as pungent. We checked bags on an Alaska flight from Seattle. When we picked up the bag in Long Beach, it smelled decidedly like dead fish. Some one had a salmon packed for shipment in the cargo hold. It melted and leaked all over my wife’s bag. Alaska made a good faith effort to clean the bag with no success. Without any argument, Alaska did the right thing and replaced the bag with a similar bag of the same or better quality. Alaska ranks at the top of the service scale in my book on this one.

  17. This story isn’t mine. It happened to my dear departed mother a few years ago.

    I was on a temporary work assignment in Halifax at the time. Since her brother also lived in Halifax, my mother decided to come out and visit him for the last week of my placement and then come home with me. As she was an end-stage diabetic and double-amputee, it was a kind of a big hassle for her to travel, but it turned out to be the last time she saw him so we were glad she made it.

    At that time, Air Canada was experimenting with limited domestic flights out of Hamilton, a suburban cargo airport about 50 miles from Toronto. As the promotional fares were low and YHM was about 30 minutes closer to us than YYZ, she flew to Halifax from Hamilton and I purchased tickets for us to return to Hamilton together the next week.

    Her flight out was delayed, and when she finally landed at 01:30 her bag was nowhere to be seen. The airport staff couldn’t find it in the system and advised us to call AC baggage services the next morning for an update. As instructed, we called the next day at noon. “Good news!” announced the agent. “We’ve located your bag. It’s at Toronto!” This was a bit odd, since there are no flights between YHM and YYZ. It’s somewhat analogous to checking a bag at JFK and having it end up at EWR. Nevertheless, we were glad to hear it had been located and would be on the next flight to Halifax.

    The bag didn’t arrive on any of the flights that night. The next morning we called baggage services again. “Good news!” announced the agent. “We’ve located your bag. It’s at Toronto!” We politely informed her that they’d located it at YYZ the day before and we were waiting for it for be sent to Halifax. She promised it would be on the next flight. That afternoon I took my mother to my uncle’s doctor since (being a somewhat inexperienced traveller) she had packed her medications in her checked bag and only had a couple days’ worth in her purse.

    The bag didn’t arrrive that night. We called AC again the next morning and were told “Good news! We’ve located your bag. It’s at Toronto!” Incredibly, the same thing happened day for the entire week. The bag never did make it to Halifax. On the day before we were scheduled to fly home, we called baggage services one last time.

    “Good news!” announced the agent. “We’ve located your bag. It’s at Toronto! We’ll send it out today!”

    “Don’t bother!” my uncle told her. “They’re flying back to Hamilton tomorrow.”

    “Oh. Well, tell them to swing by Toronto airport to pick up the bag then.” (I should point out that YYZ is a good 50 miles in the WRONG direction for us from YHM.)

    My uncle had a “frank and honest discussion”, shall we say, with the agent and her supervisor, and it was agreed that they would courier the bag to our home the next day. To their credit, the bag arrived the next day as promised… just missing one wheel and the handle.

    We never did figure out how it managed to cross the city to another airport, since there were no stickers or tags to indicate it ever made it onto a plane!

  18. I don?t have a picture of my favorite (for a short time) garment bag, but in 1977 I flew to LAX YUL with a brand new beautiful tan with brown leather trim garment bag. Gate agent required I check the bag and they did not have any boxes to contain the garment bag.

    Arrived in YUL and was waiting at the carousel for my bag and watching everyone else picking up their bags, as they dwindled to a dozen bags I was concerned it had been lost. At one point I picked up one bag but it was torn, dirty, dark brown, with duct tape all over it and it was just a mangled mess and put it back down thinking that?s not mine.

    Pretty soon I was the only passenger left and there was only one bag left, same one I looked at before so I took it off and looked at the few remaining items inside the torn cover and that is the only way I figured out that the lonely unrecognizable bag was mine.

    It is like your favorite picture in the article, only with numerous black tire marks, brown ripped trim and lots more duct tape, and needless to say mine was NOT a Briggs & Riley bag.

  19. Went on an intl trip, got there fine. Bags were a-okay. On the return trip @ LAX i went to luggage claim and was waiting for my bag. Around and around the bags went & I still couldn’t find my bag. When a lot of people already got their bags and left I decided to take a look @ the the bags that have been bagged in a giant plastic “trash bag” like bag. Yup one of mine was in there … apparently in transit zipper broke, stuff sorta spilled out & the airline just threw everything inside and zip-tied it :(

  20. Not really a damaged bag story, but baggage-related:

    Last week, I was on the last departure on DL from DTW-DCA, which is on a CRJ700. After an hours-long delay, we finally boarded, dutifully putting our “valet” bags on the cart.

    We sat in the plane for about 20 minutes, with the cited reason for the further delay being the need to complete a “final bag count.”

    We got to DCA (well into the morning hours), dutifully waited on the jet bridge for our valet bags, and were soon told that, oops, DL had loaded NONE of the bags–they were sitting on the cart in DTW.

    So, we got to go down to the baggage office and stand in a long line to file claims…for carry-on baggage.

    1. that’s ridiculous! How did the flight crew not know? Presumably for Weight and Balance they would need a bag count. So either, they improperly did w&b and put everyone’s safety in jeopardy, or they saw the 0 count and didn’t think there was anything wrong with that (at which point you have to question how safe it is to fly with such little common sense)

      1. I’m pretty sure that 20-25 carry-ons (probably less than 10 kg a piece) would not change a single thing in the weight & balance of a CRJ700 !!!

      2. Pretty sure that 20-25 carry-ons (at probably less than 10kg a piece) would not change a single thing in the weight and balance of a CRJ700 !!!

        1. I know gate checks are often missed in the slide next to the jetway stairs. Never heard of entire carts of gate valets being missed, but it’s not surprising. I have had personal experience with several places that ignore the valet tags and send them to the carousel instead.

  21. It was a few years ago, but my wife and I were travelling from Tallahassee, Fl to Athens, Greece so I could make a presentation at a conference. Since it was a major event, with lots of socializing, I bought a new tux, along with a new suit, so
    I would look good.

    The conference went well, my presentations we well received, and we had a great time. We flew out of Athens on Delta, connected in Frankfurt, and arrived in Atlanta to clear customs before the final leg on to TLH. At that point, everything was good.

    An hour later, we arrived in Tallahassee, and went to baggage claim. Eventually, all our bags, except the bag with the suit and tux in it, came off the belt. When nothing else arrived, we went over to the counter, and asked if there was anything else — the agent went in the back, and came out carrying a black plastic trash bag, which, when opened, contained not only the remains of my suitcase, but also most of my clothes – all charred around the edges.

    When I asked what happened, they told me that the bag was on top of the trailer, had fallen off the back, and hung up on the hitch – and it was dragged from one end of the airport to the other. When it arrived at the gate for the Tallahassee flight, it was on fire. They put out the fire, dumped everything in the plastic bag, and tossed it on the plane. Everything in the bag, including my conference materials and the suit and tux, was a total loss.

    Delta DID reimburse me for the loss, which was well above the limits of their liability!

    1. I just read all of these stories, and this was the best one, hands down. I’ve been laughing for 10 straight minutes picturing your bag catching fire while being dragged behind the trailer across the airport. Cranky, give this man a new suitcase!

    2. I have to agree with D-ROCK and Andrew. This story IS a winner. I’ve already sent you an email, Tom F., on how to claim your new carry-on from Briggs & Riley. So check your inbox and the bag is yours.

      There were some good stories here, so thank you everyone for participating. But it is really hard to beat a story where the bag actually catches on fire while parading around the airport behind a tug. Congrats, Tom!

  22. Here’s 2 baggage related screwups:

    In the early 90’s I flew SEA LGB to visit family. First leg was SEA PDX on Horizon, then PDX LGB on AS (the flight originated at SEA!). Not the best booking. I had checked a large gray soft sided suitcase that I had gotten for graduation. At LGB my bag came out with a giant hole in the side, like it had been shot with a 12 pound cannonball. Most of my clothes had fallen out and were strewn about around it on the carousel. AS replaced the bag after I got home (I borrowed one from my aunt for the return trip).

    Around 2002 my wife and I were taking a cruise out of BCN. We flew to MAD on AA and transferred to Iberian for the BCN leg. Our flight arrived at around 9am and the ship sailed at 3pm. Iberian couldn’t get the bag to BCN until the next flight at 5pm. They told me the soonest they could send the bag was to Palma de Mallorca 3 days hence. We had stops at Genoa and Marseille before then. I am 6’3″ and was about 260 pounds at the time. Clothes that would fit someone of that size do not exist in Europe. So for dinner I had to borrow shoes from a crew member (size 12), buy a couple collared shirts 2 sizes too small, and wear some cheap polyester slacks that were skin tight that I found at a flea market in Genoa. Everybody on the ship was wondering where the superfly Michelin man had come from. I actually got my bag a day early at Marseille, but then they screwed me out of the daily allowance they said I would get. They only gave me half what the BSO agent said. Moral of the story: allow 8-10 hours before sailing if you are transferring between airlines somewhere along the way.

  23. Seems since now a days so many people have cell phones with a build in camera that if you check your bag you should take some quick photos of it including the surrounding area so it can be seen you are at the airport and about to pass off your bag to an airline employee. Could help when they say something is not their fault or wear and tear.

    Bet of more people started doing thats airlines would start putting up signs saying to photography so you can not prove they damaged your nice looking bag

  24. This happened to my family in the mid 70’s in Europe. We lived in Switzerland, but would spend our summer vacations back in Italy. At that time, Europe wasn’t as “globalized as it is now, and in Switzerland it was hard to find good Italian staples, let alone fresh seafood, which my father loved. So, coming back from vacation, my parents had packed a box with fresh fish packed in ice, fresh figs, peaches, etc… We checked-in all our bags and the box at PMO for our flight to FCO then ZRH. When we got to ZRH all our luggage had made it, except the box. My father completed the appropriate forms and we went home. About a week later, the box was delivered to our apartment. From the baggage stickers on it, the box had been to Australia and back (at least that is what my parents told me at the time). Anticipating the state of the content, my mom opened the box on the balcony to see if anything was salvageable (there wasn’t). The smell of that box permeated the entire apartment complex for days…that was the last time we shipped food from Italy to Switzerland.

  25. In the early 1980s I was working for the federal courts in SF as a docket clerk and courtroom staffer. part of the job involved travel to cities on the west coast where the court was holding oral arguments. One time I was scheduled to spend a week working sessions in Los Angeles. Instead of flying directly to LA from SF I decided to spend the weekend in Reno with a woman I was pursuing. My flight to LA was late Sunday night and court started bright and early Monday morning. We boarded the Western Airlines flight and before take-off they announced that due to the temperature and altitude, they would need to take some bags off to reduce weight. They promised that the off-loaded bags would be on the first flight in the morning. Well of course, one of the bags that was off-loaded was one of mine that contained my suits and dress shirts. I didn’t realize that until we landed of course. Since I needed to be in court at 8am there was no time to shop for clothes so I ended up attending court in my casual slacks, open shirt, funky shoes and no jacket. Needless to say, the chief judge was none too amused and admonished me out of the courtroom. Luckily there was someone to take my place. On top of that, my bag never arrived at my hotel that day so I was sidelined again the next day. The bag arrived late Tuesday night. Word got back to my supervisor in SF and my absence from the courtroom was reflected in my annual evaluation and affected my raise that year.

  26. This one happened 22 years ago — Desert Storm. My unit was notified that we were deploying to Saudi Arabia for the first Persian Gulf War. Since the military was pretty unprepared for such a massive deployment, commercial airlines were used to transport us. I think they used a 747 jumbo jet. Each soldier had two duffel bags and one foot locker that was airline baggage. The duffel bags were packed onto pallets. I also had an office, which we packed onto a pallet. It included some supplies, handyman tools, a fishing pole (my squad leader wanted to fish in the Persian Gulf), and the training files.

    Because of the amount of weight we would be carrying, we were only allowed a very small carryon (smaller than most purses), plus our unloaded rifle (yes, we made the flight attendants very nervous). However, we were traveling with another unit, and evidently no one told them about the weight limitation. Their soldiers came on the plane with 2-3 huge bags slung over their shoulders. So much that the plane was too heavy. The flight crew started talking about leaving some of the pallets of duffel bags behind. We’re all horrified because that’s everything. We only had what we were wearing. Everything else was in those duffel bags. So we don’t know what got left behind as we got into the air. When we landed, thankfully, none of the duffel bag pallets had been left back.

    However, the pallet for my office had been. It showed up about a week later. One item survived: The files. Everything else was gone.

  27. Short story: PHXRNO on WN years ago for Tahoe ski trip. Checked my skis in a soft bag. When I picked up my skis in the ski pickup area in RNO the bag had vanished, only skis and poles remained taped together with some duct tape. I never got an explanation to what happened, on guy said the bag was ruined, another guy said it showed up in RNO with no bag.

  28. I would like to post a “bag story” and attach pictures. Is there a way I can attach pictures to this comment page or another posting site?

    1. Philip – There is no way to attach pictures. If you have them uploaded to a photo sharing site like Google + or Flickr, then you can just paste the link in your post.

  29. The TSA trashed a North Face duffle bag that I had checked in on United ( in first class!) from Sydney Australa to Ottawa via LA and Chicago. I had various kinds of chocolates packed into a cardboard box and place inside the duffle. Not only did they destroy the TSA approved samsonite locks but they cut the zippers in such a way that they could never take locks again. They also didn’t put all the chocolate back into the plastic bag and box as originally packed… Needless to say there was crushed candy everywhere not to mention things that fell out of the bag since it was no longer walked. A written complaint was never responded to…but they did leave a form letter in my bag saying that they “searched” it…

  30. This isn’t exactly an airline baggage story, but still travel related so thought I’d post. Several years ago, my family took a cruise from FLL to the Panama Canal and back. My brother bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker at a duty free shop in Costa Rica to give to a friend, and packed it in one of his suitcases. Those of you who have cruised know that the cruise lines ask you to put your bags outside your stateroom the night before, then you reclaim them the next morning at the port’s baggage claim. When I picked up my bag to stick on the shuttle van to the airport, I noticed the outside of the suitcase was a little wet. Since I had also packed a bottle of liquor in my bag, I nervously opened mine up, but found nothing awry. At that point, my mom saw a puddle by my brother’s suitcase. You guessed it – apparently his bag had been handled a bit roughly, and the bottle of Johnnie Walker shattered inside. And spilled its contents on all of his clothes, including his brand new Armani suit that dad bought him for graduation. Needless to say, everything inside reeked of whiskey, and unfortunately, while the rest of his clothes were eventually wearable after a couple of washes, the suit was ruined, with a whiskey-colored stain that just wouldn’t come out. I tried to convince my brother to at least wear one of his whiskey-flavored t-shirt on the plane ride home (he could tell everyone “hey, they don’t call them the fun ships for nothing!”), but he wouldn’t go for it.

  31. This is not so much a story of damaged luggage as it is of it disappearing, twice on one trip AND getting damaged!

    In 2009 I was traveling from Atlanta to Valencia, Spain to attend a conference where I was speaking. I flew ATL – Paris – Valencia and back and was in Valencia only for 3 days. The trip was booked on a combination of Delta, Air France and Air Europa (now defunct).

    The flight to Paris was quiet and uneventful but due to a delayed departure my connection time in Paris was less than an hour. When I got to the Air Europa gate, I asked if my luggage had made it onto the flight. The flight attendant tapped away at his computer and then looked me in the eye and confirmed it had.

    It had not. In Valencia, not the biggest airport in Spain, I had to search and ask and use my hands and feet to find where in the Delta/Air France/Air Europa chain of command my missing bag had to be reported.

    It was of course still in Paris and included my “on-stage suit”. So I went to the hotel and then went shopping at the wonderful Corte Ingles (a department store somewhere between Macy’s and Target).

    I was assured my suitcase would be on the next Paris flight that night, and it was. But there was no-one at the airport that late that could deliver the bag to my hotel. I was assured it would be brought to the hotel the next morning.

    It had been a long 36 hours but I went to bed knowing that I had clothes to wear and my suitcase was nearby.

    The next day: no suitcase. Several calls from the hotel concierge yielded the same result each time – there is no one available to deliver the bag. That night, on the concierge’s advice, I took a taxi to the airport to locate the suitcase myself.

    Another round of hands, feet and gesticulation brought me to a room the size of a small hangar, which was literally full of suitcases. I searched, and found.

    Off I went back to the hotel.

    When I returned there was a message from Delta. I was now connecting through Barcelona so my return itinerary had changed to Valencia – Barcelona – Paris – Atlanta. The particulars of that change escape me now, but I do remember that the obvious question of why I could not fly Barcelona – Atlanta direct was answered with “that flight is fully booked in business”.

    So there I went. Air Europa on a ATR42 to Barcelona, all smooth and no worries, then on to Paris on Air France and a quick run to my Delta/Atlanta gate.

    At the gate I decided to repeat the ritual of having them check my bag. This time, the guy tapped away and said “it is not here yet but give me your tag and I will check it for you later and let you know”.

    Mon dieu – a CDG employee with a knack for passenger service? Whatever next.

    I was boarding and the gate agent handed me my bag tag and said all was in order. So off I jetted to Atlanta to eventually find no bag.

    Delta told me it was in… Barcelona. I told the friendly Hartsfield DL people about all the checking that had been done, how this was now twice on one journey, and how was this possible? Her answer was enlightening.

    “We hear this all the time from passengers connecting in Paris. They always say it is on the flight even when they full well know it is not. They do that so they don’t have to deal with disgruntled passengers”.


    I did get my bag back eventually. But to add insult to injury it was now torn and missing one wheel and a handle bar. But when Delta delivered my damaged suitcase to my home they also brought me a brand new one of the same size with it.

    All’s well that ends well…

  32. Here’s my tale. In the late 70’s was flying SFO-JFK-POS(Trinidad) via United and the BWIA. I checked two bags, a regular suitcase and a metal toolbox for the work I was scheduled to do in Trinidad. BWIA was on a L1011 with about 60 people on it. Great flight and plenty of Caribbean hospitality. Problem is…my tool box never arrived to POS. I filed a claim with BWIA and waited for them to look for the tool box. After two days they still had no idea where it was. They started blaming United. I called United in the US (tough to do in those days) with my luggage tag and they swore they delivered the tools to BWIA at JFK. Bottom line, I tried to borrow or rent the tools I needed to no avail. Finally, I was forced to fly back to MIA, buy new tools and fly back to POS the next day. My boss was super pissed at the added expenses. I left POS about two weeks later, returned to the US and still no sign of my original tools. Two years later I went back to POS to check on the equipment I worked on two years earlier. As I worked with a local mechanic I realized some of his tools looked like mine. He told me he bought them from a guy that worked at the airport for $20. In the mean time, it took me about 3 years to get United to cough up $150 for the missing tool box.

    Moral of the story. Don’t check tools into baggage claim. Too inviting !!

  33. 2011us airways barcelona to philly go to customs and immigration turn in brand new bag(1st trip out of the country it was pristine) to go to jax,fl on arrival in florida it was trashed and 2 wheels of 4 were missing was told not responsible for missing wheels and refused to give me forms to fill out… i persisted they gave me the forms –i took pics at the conveyor belt and sent in and got $60 for a new bag to replace my new bag./. ..

  34. I already have a Briggs & Riley bag with well over a million air miles on it and it is still going strong. It is one great bag.

  35. So I was flying Delta from Boston to Baltimore. I had a connection at JFK. I arrived to BWI but my luggage didn’t.
    I must say that Delta sent my suitcase the day after with the courier. The problem is that when I received it in a nylon bag and it was literally open. My suitcase apparently opened for all of JFK and Baltimore Delta employees to see. It was horrible, I mean you could see the underwear, pants, shirts, you name it. I wish I have took a picture of my suitcase.
    So the courier drops off the suitcase, which is not two suitcases and held together by red tape and clothes coming out of it.
    I was amazed to see that everything wasn’t missing out of it, being sure that I packed more than was found in the suitcase.

    Eventually I had to make two trips to Delta at BWI to give them the suitcase and explain what happened.


  36. My worst bag damage story – travelling AA DFW to Rochester, NY – my small (24″) hardsided bag was checked. It came out the belt empty except one forlorn sweatshirt trailing the two halves of unattached plastic. They were no longer connected, just torn apart and one corner smashed in. Shortly a plastic bag came out with most of the rest of my clothes.

    That bag (a replacement LAN Chile gave me for a different destroyed bag) scuffed, deformed and no longer in one piece was optimistically declared “fixable” by customer service. Well it arrived back from repair in one piece – locks not working, scuffed and scarred! I just retired it and chalked it up to experience and a few miles on the road.

    I do often wonder what happened to it during transit in Chicago – ORD. Eric C are you sure there were ski’s in that bag – it might have been mine holding up the beltloader you know! If not, maybe it’s a Chicago “thing”.

    All this being said, I no longer take luggage issues too seriously and carry enough to get by a few days in the case of mishaps! A Briggs and Riley would be wonderful for that purpose.

  37. A few years ago I traveled with family to Moscow, Russia on Delta Airlines. We were headed for a River Cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. It was necessary for us to book a flight on a local carrier to St. Petersburg to begin the Cruise. This was after the airline industry in Russia was sub-divided into smaller regional airlines with the breakup of AeroFlot. The company suggested by Delta was Pulkovo Aviation. We landed at a secondary airport in St. Petersburg. Apparently, this was the only airline that used this airport. When my bag arrived for pickup, it was torn all around the zipper area, and was held together with tape.

    No one at the airport spoke English, although they did show concern for the damage to my suitecase. After a while an employee came with a claim form that was written in Russian, of course. She filled out some portions of the report and I signed my name – not really understanding exactly what I had attested to. I assumed that would be the last I would hear about the matter.

    About six weeks after I had returned home to Arizona, I received a letter containing a check that had been processed though a currancy exchange bureau that was in US dollars, and in an amount that covered the cost of the ruined suitcase. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

  38. In college, I flew to Hawaii to spend New Year’s Eve with my parents. I had packed a few fun things, notably an amazing pair of heels and a fancy dress to wear out on NYE. It was all in a full size roller suitcase, brand of which I no longer remember, but was not Briggs and Riley (which I now have and love). I hopped off the plane, thrilled to be in Hawaii and met my family.

    I stood around the baggage claim for a long while, chatting with my parents. Every so often, I’d see a large plastic bag go by (like the kind they put car seats in). After a while, I started to get worried my bag hadn’t made it so I started studying the baggage carousel more closely. In the plastic bag I’d seen before, I spotted a familiar fabric. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “That’s funny. That bag has wash rag with the same fabric one of my tanktops.” I still remember it – white camisole with orange flowers on it. Hard to forget.

    Eventually, it dawned on me that that bag was probably what was left of that suitcase and that fabric was what had been my tank top. Pulled it off. Yep, sure enough, what was left of my suitcase was contained in the bag.

    Apparently, what had happened was that my suitcase had gotten stuck UNDER a baggage cart and dragged across half the tarmac of LAX. By the time they’d pulled it out, it was a wreck. The front of the bag had been sheared off thanks to being dragged, so half the top of the suitcase was gone. You could tell how bad it was by the fact that I’d put a couple hardcover books as the top thing in the suitcase. Dragged face down, after the suitcase wore away, the books were next to go. One of the hard covers had been sheared away to page 20 or so. The other had been done at an angle, so I was missing the bottom right corner of the first half of the book.

    The shoes were ruined. They too had been at the top of the suitcase and one of the heels had been worn away. I burst into tears at the sight of them, which led my father, normally very mild mannered, into yelling at the baggage people.

    So, most of the contents of the suitcase were ruined – what didn’t have shreds in it from the dragging was dirty after falling out on the tarmac.

    I think they only gave me something like $125 for all the damage too.

    I still miss those shoes… but I’ll never forget the sight of that hardcover book, sheared away to page 20 something.

  39. A few years ago, the airport limousine bus on my way to NRT put a hole in my ski clothes/boot bag while enroute to a short ski trip…when I pointed out the rip, they offered me ¥3000 and repaired the hole with some very sturdy tape. Not sure if it was an even trade, but I had to catch a flight.

  40. I was traveling a few years back to HNL from LAX with a regular checked bag and a double surfboard bag with two boards inside. I took pride in the packing of the surfboards; I removed the fins and bubble rapped each board. I strapped each board securely inside using the inside straps, placed extra padding/towels etc on the sides. These things were snug. Let me just say this wasn’t my first rodeo traveling with surfboards. Two shortboards in a stuffed bag probably weighs less than 35lbs, AKA not heavy for baggage guy to lift. I was in the back of the bus on a United B767 and was lucky enough to witness my bag coming off the truck and being placed on the conveyor belt the guy purposely stood the 9 foot board bag on its short end and slammed it length wise onto the belt to be loaded. Now I know bags fall all the time, but when you pay an extra $150 for a surfboard you expect them to at least not drop it (this was before baggage fees). Now upon arrival in HNL already furious, I got my board bag at the oversized baggage area, and noticed some serious holes through the bag…almost as if someone had purposely taken switchblade to the bag and stabbed the defenseless fiberglass. Upon seeing this I opened the board up and one of them had three quarter sized holes all the way through the fiberglass and foam. Needless to say I was furious and roasted at the UA desk. They said here is a form if you want to make a claim. After months of trying to deal with United to get some compensation for the damage, I eventually gave up. I ended up selling both boards in Hawaii and flew back empty handed as I’d rather save $150 fee and future repair costs. What a waste. Serious clowns working at UA back in the day.

  41. I vote for Sheila’s story with the bra waving.

    In the prehistoric era, we flew to Spain on TWA. Our kid was in diapers, and his bag did not arrive. We had to get clothes and nappies in Spain. Somewhere in the middle of the trip we received notice from TWA that our bag had been found in Annapolis. The capitol of Maryland is not an international airport. Presumably they meant Indianapolis. Anyhow, the bag arrived the day we were leaving Spain.

    Our teen age daughter was on a scientific diving trip to Turks and Caicos. Upon return to DCA all her diving and swimming gear was in a tub. The bag had been totally destroyed. We were told they would provide a plastic bag for it.

    When we went to Peru on AA, we packed everything according to TSA rules which mean the bags could not be locked. When we arrived in Peru, we found a notice that TSA had inspected and sealed the bags. The seal was broken and the hiking shoes were gone! Try not to transfer through Miami.

    The latest was on Air China. When we arrived in Beijing, our bag was sufficiently damaged that without hesitation they provided a new one. It worked in China, but upon return it was so damaged that they had to give us a new Chinese bag at JFK. We have donated it.

    I’m still voting for Sheila, though waiting for her picture.

  42. The frame of my Tumi was snapped in half like a toothpick. I can only imagine the amount of force that AA had to apply to the frame. The CSR said…that’s a first for me in 17 years.

  43. In the spirit of winning a carry-on, I think my story of a damaged carry-on is fitting. Especially because one of the reasons a person carries on luggage instead of checking it is to protect it and keep it close. Well, on my return flight from Venice back to the USA, I was transporting several pieces of expensive (and carefully-wrapped!) Murano glass in my backpack, which I kept under the seat in front of me. Keep in mind I had faithfully transported the glass, which was purchased as gifts for family, across Italy for two weeks prior. Now, when our flight landed and it was my row’s turn to de-plane, I got up with my backpack on and the Italian seated next to me, who had been loud throughout the flight, hastily and clumsily yanked his full-size carry-on from the overhead bin. In the process, he lost hold of it and it slipped. It fell and hit my backpack hard on the way down (narrowly missing my head) and everyone in the vicinity could hear a smash. In fear I took my backpack off, and not only were two of the pieces of Murano glass smashed, but had cut through their wrapping and the bottom of my backpack. The only consolation was that the Italian guy was extremely apologetic and I could tell he felt horrible. He offered to pay me, but I refused. I did give him my address and told him that if he returned to Venice and felt inspired to send back (in secure shipping!) some Murano glass, I wouldn’t refuse. Bottom line: I had to buy a new backpack and lost some of the nicer gifts I got for my family. Moral of the story: don’t think your luggage is safe just because you didn’t check it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier