To Winbook Corp:

When someone sends you a laptop computer December 27 to have its defective LS-120 disk drive replaced, and you say you will have it back by January 4, (a) do not have it back by January 13th instead and, (b) most particularly, do not just go ahead and “remaster the hard drive” — wiping out everything on it — without checking first. (Winbook’s customer service supervisor says it’s their policy is to get permission before wiping out a hard drive, and that, to show how sorry they are, and for any inconvenience, they will extend a $50 credit toward the purchase of a new $3,599 Winbook or, perhaps even better still, provide a free carrying case.)

To the Airline Industry:

When the bags from one flight don’t make it onto the connecting flight — they are still on the ground in Dallas, let’s say, when their owner is aloft on his connecting flight home — minimize the problem.

The way it works now, all the bags from flight 1640 that were meant to get onto flight 1908 show up at flight 1908 only to see that — drat — flight 1908 is already gone. The passenger doesn’t know this, arrives at his destination (three hours late, at midnight), waits 45 minutes for all the bags to come off, finally despairs, and gets in line with the other passengers from flight 1640 whose bags missed getting on flight 1908 to fill out a lost-luggage form. Less than 2 hours after landing, he’s happily on his way, with the knowledge that when the next flight from Dallas arrives with his bag, it will be ferried over to his hotel or wherever he’s staying.

The way it could work: When the baggage handler sees he’s missed the flight, he scans the luggage-tag bar codes with his wand and clicks something to indicate “oops, will put on next flight instead.” Through the miracle of computers — which are widely used in the airline industry today — a message gets relayed to the plane with a list of the affected passengers. A flight attendant goes to each with an apology and the “lost luggage form” normally filled out on the ground. The passengers fill them out in the air instead and gives them back to the flight attendant, who hands them all to the waiting gate agent when the flight arrives. You go home or to your hotel, straight from the plane, and the luggage is delivered just as it is now.

You’re inconvenienced, but at least you didn’t have to wait for the luggage and then wait in line to fill out the claim form. And it should be easier for the airline, too, requiring less customer service labor rather than more.

If there’s a worry that irate passengers will hijack the plane, the forms could be handed out just after landing. (“Welcome to Newark. Will passengers Smith, Wollensky, Abercrombie, and Fitch please grab delayed baggage forms as they exit the aircraft?”) But the best way to do it is on board, so people have plenty of time to fill out the forms and plan their next move. A free phone call would be nice, too. (“Honey? Come half an hour earlier and meet me at the departure ramp, because I won’t be stopping at baggage claim . . . but bring a coat and tie, too, will you?”)

This won’t solve the problem of the bag meant for Sydney, Ohio, that gets loaded onto the plane for Sydney, Australia. But for an awful lot of other bags, it would work just fine. And the first airline that does it will get legitimate bragging rights. “Our baggage handling is the best in the business — even when, on rare occasion, something goes wrong.”


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