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The website Airfare Watchdog is mostly a reference for last-minute sales on flights. But today they posted an interview with an anonymous baggage handler (or, as he identifies himself, "bag thrower") who gives the inside scoop on why your suitcase always arrives a little banged up and what you can do to keep baggage damage to a minimum.
I’m not going to lie, your checked luggage takes a beating. They call it “throwing bags” for a reason. There isn’t an easy way around this. Airplanes are only making money while in the air and no airline wants an airplane on the ground too long. Due to the nature of some aircraft, it would be impossible to turn around a 737 or 757 in an hour or less without throwing bags because it’s just faster. On these planes, there are only two long and narrow cargo holds where your luggage goes. One agent puts the bags on the belt loader, which carries it up to an agent inside the cargo hold who throws it 50 feet to the back where another agent stacks all the bags as if it were a game of Tetris. Wheels and handles oftentimes break or crack on impact and anything fragile inside that is not packed well doesn’t stand much of a chance. Don’t put red wine or alcohol in your suitcase ever. I would never check any fragile items in a soft sided suitcase, unless it was professionally packaged. Those fragile stickers don’t get noticed very often in the rush of loading bags unless it is an obvious shape, such as a musical instrument. I am a musician so I take special care of those, but not everyone is a musician. Bags can also get damaged by loose ends getting caught in the belt, which can tear off straps, zippers, or handles. Handles also break off many times if the bag is packed extremely heavy and we try to pick it up by the handle. One good thing about the larger aircraft (747, 767, 777, 787, etc.) is that they are all loaded by machines. Your bags are just put in a can and that can is loaded on the plane by machine so there is no bag throwing. So theoretically there’s a better chance of your bag coming out unscathed if you fly in one of those jets.
Cheap bags that you buy at the discount store break very easily. If your handle is sewn on or is very flimsy, it’s probably going to break. If you travel a lot or pack heavy, make sure you buy a quality, durable bag. Hard-sided suitcases will get less damage, but also look for well-designed handles that are attached with rivets and some sort of protection around the wheels. Speaking of wheels, the best bags to get are the “spinners” with four wheels on the bottom. We like these, because we don’t have to throw them when loading. We just glide them down the belly of the plane so your bag and its contents will suffer much less damage.
Aaaaand now we're officially checking prices for holiday train and bus fares.
· Confessions of an Airline Baggage Thrower [Airfare WatchBlog]
· Emma Roberts' Beauty Products Keep Getting Confiscated By Airport Security [Racked]
· 10 Solid Perfumes That Are Perfect for Travel [Racked]