Editor's Note
By Greg Thomas

My family holds stock in Alaska Airlines and has so since its inception. My dad is the illustrator who created the Eskimo on the tail of that company’s planes. We’re deeply invested in the Pacific Northwest and our connection to Alaska remains as strong as ever.

I’ve flown Alaska maybe a hundred times in my life. I’ve had luggage delayed once or twice, but never for more than a few hours or so. That’s why it was such a surprise to see my bag go missing on a simple flight from Missoula, Montana to Seattle, Washington, and then Seattle to Anchorage. Plenty of time for connections. Easy hand off in Seattle. But the baggage never arrived. I asked the baggage claim guru in Anchorage to physically look for my bag, but he wouldn’t. Instead, he handed me a claim ticket and assured me it would arrive on the next flight from Seattle. It didn’t. Nor did it arrive on the next. It didn’t show up the following morning either. And, when I demanded a worldwide search for the bag, it only showed it being scanned in Missoula. Nowhere else.

A short time later I was on a flight to a remote lodge in Katmai National Park, minus just about everything I’d packed for the trip. Cameras. Laptop. Contact lenses. Glasses. Yep, had those in my carryon. Everything else? Missing. I ended up getting my bag back, but not until midnight on July 8, 11 days later when I was back home in Montana, and only after getting a cryptic call from an Alaska Airlines employee in Kodiak, Alaska.

“Brian,” she said on my voicemail, “your bag is ready for pickup here in Kodiak.” Brian? No kidding. Apparently, my bag was in Kodiak during my entire trip. Sitting with a bunch of other people’s bags, unscanned and vulnerable. It made me think, What could I have done differently? If airlines are having so much trouble with hiring quality workers, should I have taken matters into my own hands? The answer, clearly, is yes.

The first mistake I made was not attaching an air tag to my luggage or, better yet, placing it inside the bag. That way I could have told Alaska Airlines exactly where my bag was, which may have expedited the process of getting it back. Apple makes an AirTag and sells it in four-packs. When on sale you can pick up through Amazon for $89.

I did do some things right. I immediately filed a lost luggage claim and they issued me a $200 voucher to pick up incidentals. That did not go far when what I needed to replace was about $10,000 worth of essential gear. I didn’t even have a rain jacket for a nine-day trip in Alaska. I should have demanded more. When I returned to Anchorage I spent another $250 on gear and I am waiting to see if I get reimbursed for that. No news as of yet and we’re getting close to the month mark of my filing. I also had to take four Uber rides to get to the stores in Anchorage and I am hoping to be reimbursed for that as well. I did keep close track of all receipts and sent photos of those to Alaska Air.

Another thing I did right was being a thorn in their side. I must have called 20 times between the time my bag went missing and when I left for Katmai. And when I got back from Katmai I was on the phone again. They had a long list of phone calls that recorded the entire scenario, and I’m hoping that will assist in getting some compensation from them. I’m going to request money, airline tickets and free Alaska Airlines lounge accessibility as compensation for the issue. I don’t hold high hopes of getting any of that, but Alaska Air admitted it was their fault to begin with, they admitted it made my trip very difficult and less rewarding than it should have been, and they told me the standard, “We’re sorry,” every time we hit a stalemate.

One more note. I have an insurance policy through Global Rescue that will get me out of the sticks if something catastrophic occurs. I could have added additional insurance to that policy and chose not to. If I had that insurance I would expect that Global would compensate me for the debacle, even though it wasn’t their fault. I do have lost/delayed luggage insurance through Allianz Travel Insurance, which I bought as an add-on when I booked my flight. I have submitted my claim with all receipts but as of press time I am now being told they don’t have the documents they need. Figures.

The takeaway for me is that the AirTag, or a similar tracking device, is key. The state of the world has changed during Covid, and the service industries aren’t near what they used to be. I think we all have to be a little more proactive when traveling or we’re going to pay the price.