03 January 2009

IATA's prognostications for 2009

So we now have the formal view on 2009 from the venerable IATA. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA),the world's airlines are expected to lose US$2.5 billion in 2009.

Forecast highlights are:
Industry revenues are expected to decline to US$501 billion. This a fall of US$35 billion from the US$536 billion in revenues forecasted for 2008. This drop in revenues is the first since the two consecutive years of decline in 2001 and 2002.

Yields will decline by 3.0 percent (5.3 percent when adjusted for exchange rates and inflation). Passenger traffic is expected to decline by 3 percent following growth of 2 percent in 2008. Cargo traffic is expected to decline by 5 percent, following a drop of 1.5 percent in 2008.

On the day when the oil industry celebrated the anniversary of the first time Oil passed $100/pp level, IATA predicts a 2009 oil price to average US$60 per barrel for a total bill of US$142 billion. This is US$32 billion lower than in 2008 when oil averaged US$100 per barrel (Brent).

Hmmm I think IATA has the price of Oil wrong. I will stick with Boeing's estimate of $80ppl as the average - however with a depressed first half I will lower it to between $70-$75. Anyone want to take my bet?


So 787 Ship ZA01 actually took another little trip

Here is a nice picture of said Prototype courtesy of flight.




02 January 2009

737 Replacement Postponed - Major Upgrades Planned

Boeing is likely to postpone its all new 737 Replacement aircraft perhaps until the well into the 2020's. In 2008 it was reported that the date had been pushed back into at the earliest 2015. In May last year Scott Carson said "We're continuing our research effort until we find the right solution," he added "It has to be a 25-year product."

Instead it is starting to seriously examine another kick on the existing platform. So based on this the Professor is going to speculate a little on the possible future final boost to the now venerable 737 line.

The overall improvement will be of the order 5-10% improvement in performance both in noise reduction, fuel improvement and greeness. We might get a slight boost in capacity with another look at expanding the fuselage also.

So what will the upgrade look like technically.

First the final stretch will be 2 small small plugs of about 10 feet each before and after the wing to keep the same basic flight performance characteristics. A bit bigger is also possible indeed there is a need to do this. There is a current gap in the Boeing product line with nothing between the 737-900 and the 787-3/8 models (assuming that the 767 300 will be allowed to sunset gracefully). We might see a 737 exceed the 155 feet length of the 757-200. The beefed up wing of the 737-900ER can be goosed just a little with a new set of wing tips a la 787 and 747i.

The engines may be a variant of the new PW1000G with a little boost to match the requirements of the heavier airframe and weight needs. The GEnx and the Current family of RR Trent based family wouldn't meet the same requirements. So Boeing is dependent on at least another competitor emerging and then it would have to deal with a decision to have one or more engines on the newer airframe. As is often the case here economics and deals may best efficiency etc. (Given the early wins by P&W with the Pure Power series engines - we can be sure that the lights are burning in Derby and Franco-American labs. The biggest impediment to all of this is the undercarriage configuration. The current 61 inch fan diameter is too restrictive for the bigger version of the PW1000G so a new more powerful version with a smaller diameter fan with performance in the 24-29K would be required. The biggest impediment to all of this is the undercarriage configuration so look for a slightly higher aircraft probably as much as 6 inches. The other candidate is the so-called LeapX from CFM.

Fuel performance would improve by as much as 8% in comparative terms and a further 2-3 percent might be gained from the new wing tips and perhaps a modified aerofoil. heck we might even see a shark tail and a new more slippery nose but I doubt anything more exotic than that. We would also expect a new glass cockpit - again borrowed from the 787. A new FMS would also contribute to more and better performance.

In the cabin there would be nothing much changed other than perhaps the addition of the PPG Aerospace dimmable windows. Greater use of composites on certain equipment parts will contribute to a weight reduction of between 1-2% overall. However these will be replacements for Aluminium panels rather than anything more radical.

One thing that will be interesting will be the introduction of these pieces. Rather than a full blown new model type - we will see perhaps several implementations of these enhancements with first an improvement in the current 700 and 800 and 900 length ships with the new engines before the -1000 model which will be longer. Much of this depends on Boeing's competitive position between the 767-300 and the small A330-200. If the latter continues to dominate and take significant numbers of orders then look for an earlier implementation.

One big issue to be resolved will be where the ships get built. The land in Renton is getting more and more valuable for shopping (The Landings is now looking pretty full). Building a brand new factory in Everett would be somewhat tough and so that presents problems. Nope - I think the new planes will continue to come out of Renton and the now 3rd line (for the US Navy) could be reconfigured once the P8s major production is ended and that could form the basis for the new initial line.

When will we see these new ships? Probably 2014-16. Rest assured a certain Hungarian born gentlemen has already been briefed and is already demanding it sooner than Boeing wants to deliver it.

Isn't it fun to speculate. If anyone wants to slip me more factual information - then please feel free.

In the near future I will also speculate on the A320 upgrade.


PS - since this original post - I should have checked with the FlightBlogger Team and Scott Hamilton who have some additional points; go here and have a look.




The Perils of Flying and Drink

Two recent cases have brought to the fore the problems of drinking and flying. However this time its the passengers who seem to have the problem.

In the first case a husband and wife - who I believe are Japanese Citizedn - are suing United Airlines for "negligently" overserving alcohol during a flight from Osaka, Japan, to San Francisco, saying the carrier's drinks fueled the domestic violence involving the two shortly after their plane landed.

Fortified with Burgundy wine allegedly supplied at 20-minute intervals by United crew members during the December 2006 trip, Yoichi Shimamoto became so inebriated "that he could not manage himself," according to a lawsuit filed Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court in Tampa.

Shimamoto was arrested, accused of disorderly conduct and battery after he struck his wife, Ayisha, six times, injuring her face and upper lip as they were heading through U.S. Customs in San Francisco, the complaint said.

The couple - who obviously made up afterward and of course have never engaged in such foreplay before - want $100,000 from united to pay for Legal fees, bail and the cost of living in Tampa (where they filed the lawsuit) during the hearings.

Clearly UAL staff forced the burgundy down the man's throat. I am surprised that he isn't suing for damage on his lips where the glass impacted them during this alleged terrible crime.

So the moral of this story is don't mix United Airlines, Burgundy, a Japanese husband and wife, Customs in SFO and a home in Tampa.

So to the next one. This should prove that the Mile High Club is a place where only certain people can be admitted based on their level of alcohol and their state of mind.

A female air passenger awoke from a dream about an orgy during a flight to Gatwick to find a businessman molesting her, a UK court heard. Former packaging firm boss Ake Lundbom, 63, allegedly attacked the woman in her 30s during an eight-hour overnight flight from Atlanta on Delta.

A UK jury heard how he "pounced" when his alleged victim fell into a deep sleep after taking a sleeping pill and drinking two glasses of wine. The US citizen victim claimed she awoke to find the man with his hands inside her trousers. Police arrested Lundbom when the plane landed at Gatwick.

The prosecutor said: "After the aircraft had been in flight for about four hours, the lighting in the cabin was dimmed to enable people to have a better chance of getting some sleep. The victim went into a deep sleep, something she refers to as 'completely blacking out'. "The next thing she can remember is having a dream, a weird dream in her recollection, in which everybody on the aircraft is having some sort of sexual encounter.

"She tried to get herself awake but could not do so for some time. She spoke to the defendant who is doing this to which he replied, 'Shuush, it's OK, don't worry about it'." The woman told the jury she had a glass of red wine with her meal then fell asleep soon after, although she could not remember whether she took a tranquilliser or not. The next thing she remembered was a "scratching" feeling on her inner thigh.

She said: "I felt pressure inside me. I woke up fully and realised I was sideways in my seat, I had a blanket over me, I was too close to him. She said she reported the incident to an air steward who said the pair had been cuddling and she had assumed they were a couple.

In interview, Lundbom told police the alleged victim's DNA was found under his fingernails after he touched her ankle and stroked her hair to help her sleep.

Lundbom, of Gothenburg, Sweden, denies assault by penetration in June last year.

Clearly the woman has issues with her memory as well.

So the moral of this story is don't mix Delta, Wine, Swedish over 60s Business men, US female citizens in their 30s and a British Court. Its a legal cocktail.

Gol Founder Facing Murder Charges

The family patriarch of the Constantino family Nene (78) for second time is facing charges.

Authorities accuse Nene Constantino, 78, of ordering the 2001 killings of two men in a land dispute near Brasilia. The gunmen have not been caught thus far.

In Brazil's somewhat complex legal system, police have to ask a judge to indict a suspect. The judge then determines if formal charges are filed. Constantino has yet to be charged in either case and therefore we are cautious to add that while he is a suspect he has not been formally charged.
A spokeswoman for the Federal District's civil police confirmed the request for indictment.

Constantino is one of Brazil's wealthiest and most influential business players. His familt fortune is estimated at more than $1 billion it could be higher if the other family members such as Junior who is CEO is included.

A former long-haul trucker who started a bus company in the 1950s that became one of the country's biggest, Constantino started Gol with his sons. The budget airline began flying in 2001 and quickly made inroads into the Brazilian market. In recent years the airline has struggled as it absorbed the former National Carrier Varig. TAM - its arch competitor has surged ahead especially in International markets.

31 December 2008

New Lexicon for 2009 - Nocation

OK listen up chaps - time to learn the new Lexicon for 2009.

Nominated for the award of the word of the Year 2008 - Staycation will be joined by some new siblings.

At the height of the dot com boom we had Extreme Vacations - very popular. Skydiving off Everest, Spending weeks in an underwater hotel... etc etc.

As Wall Street got bigger and more derivative so did their vacation habits. We had 6 Star Luxecation. Exotic locales and all top notch service. Dubai arrived on the map with the most superlative resorts.

We have even seen the Social Vacation with a give back to the community such as building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

So for 2009 I would like to introduce the new watchword in Holidays.

The Nocation

Unlike the Staycation (qv) where the consumer uses no long distance transport, the notable characteristics of the Nocation (also known as the Naycation) are for men - not shaving - the same for women. Kids are allowed to do what they can however using up too much electricity for Guitar Hero is discouraged. Other notable Nocation activities include:

Visiting Garage Sales
Polishing the SUV while it has a for sale sign on it
Visiting Home Depot and staying for the free in store seminars
Trips to The Library during Amnesty days
Days out to Value Village and Thrift Stores as a way to understand the economy
10% of your day is spent on Craig's list while another 10% is deciding what items in your lockup storage can be disposed of on Craigs list.
5% of your time is spent looking for the missing porn on Craigslist

So far no word if there is a Madoff derivative fund for Nocationers.


Whining Northwest wants SEA-PEK delayed

Northwest Airlines was very keen to win the Seattle to Beijing route when it was first mooted. Back then there was competition from even Maxjet. Fast forward to today and Hainan Airways has been flying the route for about 6 months and getting reasonable loads on a 3 to 4 flights a day (A330) rotation set.

Now NW wants to delay its flight but to keep the route.

As I have said many times before the rule should be use it or lose it. (I think that is exactly what the legislation says). But NW's new parent having filed for several new routes that it doesn't want to fly in 2009 - is trying to have its cake and eat it too.


You be the judge


30 December 2008

Psst Want A Free Steak Dinner On Southwest?

In the category of sure win bets - WN CEO Gary Kelly is offering a steak dinner to anyone who can prove that Southwest Airlines does not carry more domestic business travelers than any U.S. carrier.

Southwest Airlines' CEO thinks this is a sure fire win and that he'll never have to pay up. So since the Professor's readers are an ornery lot - I throw down the gauntlet and I will supplement it with a bottle of wine - if anyone does!

Actually its going to be pretty hard because there are few ways to prove him wrong because most airlines don't know the real purposes of many customers' trips. However I think its still possible. With WN the largest domestic airline at well over 100 million trips, Kelly maintains that internal research shows the airline is already No. 1 in US domestic business travel. He is banking on Southwest to capture even more of the business-travel market in 2009. To accomplish that, he's doing some heavy tinkering with a business model that has kept the airline profitable for an unprecedented 35 consecutive years.

However - the end of the egalitarian model that we predicted in 2008 and a move to hybridization does stand the risk of alienating some of the existing customer base. But this will have little impact on WN's growth as the other airlines keep cutting their US domestic ops.

In my opinion this is leading to a large hole in the US market for a next gen LCC to capture trunk and regional business in primary and secondary markets. Actually the opportunity is growing so fast that there is a chance for more than one. The reduction of capacity over the last 12 months is big enough to allow a new airline to build a single hub based operation the size of Alaska Airlines.

Think about it.

Oh yes... and call me when you are having that Steak Dinner - I want to be there just to watch and buy the wine for the two of you...


29 December 2008

Southwest - Pay The Fine And Get On With It

Southwest is still fighting the fine it has imposed on it for operating approx one thousand flights with aircraft that had not been properly inspected. The FAA in a type of witch hunt has already assessed a fine of $10 Million that Southwest said first it needed more time to pay - now is saying it wont pay and has resorted to hiring lawyers instead.

This is a bad precedent for the industry. So Mr Kelly and crew - pay the fine and just get over it. It would be best that you address the problems - which I am sure you are. But fighting this sets a bad tone that you will have hanging over your head. If you win what will you gain? If you lose it will be the end of a good relationship.

you can easily afford the cash - just do it.

This is my opinion

Part 3 - 2009 a Fantasy in Many Parts?

2009 Predictions, Prognostications and Other Views into the Future – Part III

So in my last part of the year in review – lets look into the future for the next 12 months. Its not pretty.

Let’s start at the top and look at the world in general. 2009 will be a Challenge. There is no easy way to look at it. The Recession will be longer and deeper than anyone ever imagined. We do not see any improvement other than a slowing of the decline until Q3. This means that we have an awful Q1 to look forward to. There will be continuing layoffs and cutbacks. We shall see other programs (such as Delta’s) offering early retirement to large swaths of the Aviation, Travel and Tourism community.

Conflict on Open Skies will emerge between the EU who will push for more liberalization and the USA who will question the advantages. With the current round of Open Skies not showing much advantage to the US carriers – there is going to be a lot more reticence with the new Administration to open the US market. So I would see that the chances for advancement will be slow in that arena.

On the airline front, there will be a new battle for supremacy in the skies – LH will be fighting to absorb what they have already ingested while AF/KL and BA will get feisty. The biggest prize on LH’s radar is SK currently one of the sickest in Europe. Their ability to retain their independence is highly questionable. While they get sicker – Norwegian will get stronger. The battle in the Southern part of Europe will see some minor skirmishes occurring (in order of importance) Iberia, Alitalia and Olympic. The standoff between IB and BA will not progress very far unless BA backs down from its partial high horse. The collapse of the pound against the Euros and even worse against the dollar makes the deal a lot more expensive. Alitalia will continue to be long in recovery. Whether it is off life support yet is open to debate. But we will see a strong Aeroflot as well as the big 3 take turns at saying they do/do not want the Italian basket case. If the Etihad + Olympic deal goes through we should see Qatar and Emirates look at some European airlines. Could there be a Virgin + a GCC airline marriage? Could be possible. In Asia I see a great degree of sickness continuing at the Chinese mainland airlines. Even CX will be under pressure as the pivot of mainland access moves to Taiwan. For Singapore airlines the current climate will provide them with some relief as the Indian Airlines struggle to consolidate their expansion and will likely retrench (as Kingfisher has) as well as form groups.

Sick watch for the year comes to the following: Alitalia (again), SAS (struggling), United (aging ungracefully), Virgin Blue (in search of new direction), Thai Airways (suffering with the collapse of the Thai market), Chinese Airlines (all of them need significant bailouts), Indian Airlines (the depressed economy and the withdrawal of outsourcing contracts from India will see a downturn), Mesa Air Group (how these guys survive is a feat of wonder) and other ACMI/contract carriers. I see that there will be at least one mega merger and/or collapse during 2009. However those carriers who are well managed will emerge stronger for 2010.

For the LCC market RyanAir and Easyjet continue to grow albeit at a more modest pace. Ryanair will look for longer haul activity…. Will Air Berlin turn the corner? The gap between the successful LCCs and the also rans will widen. In the Americas market expect to see the confederation of LCCs (Westjet, Southwest and Volaris) perhaps add another member (Gol?).

The Alliances will face major challenges to justify their existence. The grouping by certain key players will make the Alliances less relevant. Look for at least one major defection.

ATC and Airways performance will improve although governments will not be looking to spend more on these infrastructure projects except perhaps for the USA who is in dire need of good direction and investment – some Stimulus package investment will go here in order for Obama to meet his election pledges. The real improvement will come in the form of less traffic. The danger of VLJs has receded for the near and mid term so the FAA can focus on a reasonable plan.

More fall out from Boeing and Airbus delays – fortunately for them their order books are huge. 2008 will go down as the year of the downturn in the order cycle. Look for 2009 barely to add to the order book tally with many delays and cancellations. Airbus will find quite a few people looking at the A350XWB as the later customers for the smaller 787s look for upsizing and indeed the possibility of earlier delivery positions. Boeing’s short term cash flow may have some hiccoughs in the new year but nothing major. Sentiment will probably flow towards Airbus unless the Unions cause more problems. The 787 WILL FLY in 2009 however it will be later than even the current projections.

Oil – Ah the big wild card. It will rise modestly – project 2009 to end with oil in the $70s-90s per barrel level. Hedges will start to right themselves by mid year. Look for China to stockpile oil early which will drive up oil from the current low numbers. Sadly the grandiose talk of alternative energy will die away unless there is a mandated form of taxation to fund new oil replacement projects.

Being Green will not be as strong as it could have been – but it will be a formal part of everyone’s agenda. Let’s just hope that this is more than the lip service we have seen in the past. We all need to move first to energy neutrality and then to a zero footprint impact. For travel this will be hard but it is achievable. We should look for more replacement and care.

In the area of distribution and product marketing, I believe that Distribution faces significant challenges. For many years I have said that the Distribution Systems are obsolescent. The locked in nature of the GDS and the commercial and technology platforms will be eroded. We face a triple witching hour for the market in Q3/4 with the GDS/PCAs up for renewal. Initiatives such as LH’s PFP program will have significant impact and if successful in Germany will spread out rapidly. The GDS and airlines will unbundle their products which in turn will result in greater evaluation of alternative channels and platforms. The airlines focus on Unbundling will not be a happy result although they will continue to look at this as the savior in 2009. More unbundling and less happy customers will only become apparent in 2010 but the backlash will be significant.

In Technology – the OTA at 10 – it is hard to think that the Open Travel Alliance was formed 10 years ago. What next for the travel industry will be a critical question that many will ponder (The Professor included). My sense is that innovation will come from some unexpected quarters. We will see that the big project solution to Airlines PSS next gen systems will be viewed with skepticism following the less than fast implementations of Altea and CITP. Cloud Computing as a platform will take hold with more and more ATT businesses renting applications (SaaS) so they can focus on their core businesses. One thing is for certain – change will be constant and more fragmentation not less will be the order of the day. Controlling your own destiny even with rented apps will require more tech savvy people at every level. Big Consulting companies will face a pinch and cut back their staff as mega projects are postponed and cancelled in favor or interim and stopgap measures. Expertise will still be a strong currency.

In other sectors of ATT – we see that the Hotel companies will suffer disproportionally than the airlines. And there will be no one to bail them out. Look for massive layoffs worldwide in the Hotel and Restaurant sector labor force. Particularly hard hit will be some of the upscale 5 star businesses. For example the mega projects in Las Vegas, Macau and the UAE will start to look very risky as the worldwide recession takes its toll. Too much supply chasing too few customers.

On the tourism side we see that Hawaii and Mexico will be badly hit. Ditto Thailand. Macau suffers due to too rapid an expansion. Transatlantic travel will be flat at best. The Cruise industry will be affected by the double whammy of traffic declines and lack of sufficient air lift to the ships/ports particularly in the USA. China’s engine of growth for Asia Pacific tourism will stay depressed.

One guarantee – people will be booking later so the market will become highly dynamic. This will boost meta-search and real search companies. Consumers will get smarter and will definitely spend more time searching. Personally I don’t hold the view that there will be a shift to agents. Rather we will see a slowing of the online adoption but more likely the channel form will be less relevant. Woe betide anyone who doesn’t understand the transparency of the web. And yes Facebook will continue to grow.

So here’s to a great 2009 – just keep your head down and like a pig searching for truffles – you will find that there are many opportunities – just make sure you have the right tools, the right attitude and definitely the right friends to help you on the way.


28 December 2008

The Saga of my Bag - a Study in Frustration

Since this is the holiday season and we all need some frivolity here is a great story.
This is a post I once wanted to write but never got around to it.
So here it is in all its glory - the story of my globetrotting bag and some wise lessons learned.

Some of you may have noticed that the blog has been relatively quiet over the last few weeks. Just pressure of work rather than subject material. There certainly has been enough happenings of late.

But the one thing that has occupied my waking hours has been the strange case of the lost bag. My bag. This will read like a Shaggy Dog story. But profit from it because you will learn and be able to minimize the disruption to your life.

The bag’s journey

I was on a Round the World itinerary that took in Europe, CIS, Middle East, Asia and then returned home. I have actually flown many times on a RTW using all 3 of the major alliances. They represent tremendous value and are to be highly recommended. This time it was a Travel Agency issued BA RTW Business Class ticket.

Its important to know I am not making this difficult. I have a bag that does meet the needs of the passenger cabin requirements and have taken it with me on many occasions. However in Moscow on my way to Munich via Helsinki on Finnair (AY)– my life became unstuck. Despite my entreaties to the contrary some old holdover from the Stalinist era had decided that I wasn’t going to take the bag on the plane – business class or no. So tagged with an SU baggage number I waved good bye with that sinking feeling when you know Mr Murphy was going to kidnap my bag. It should have been ok. Finnair should be a fine airline, relatively small and accomplished. Their Hub in Helsinki is compact and efficient while however creaking at the seams with expansion. Finnair is profitable at the moment. A 2 hour layover should have been enough time (well within designated MCT parameters) for them to safely transfer my bag.

On arrival at Munich sadly no bag. So joining 9 of my fellow passengers – I waited for 30 minutes to file a lost bag report. Finnair has outsourced its bags like many airlines. Swissport handles AY in Munich. Just my luck to get another ultra rule following German lady. The sin of omission rather than that of commission has always been an airline artform. In this case the usual “call this number and we will let you know.” Said the passenger “but I am leaving tomorrow morning to LHR – what are the chances …” There was no volunteering of information. Only after insisting she tell me the schedule of possible flights from HEL and then realizing that I had only 1 chance to be reunited with my bag – I set off into the sunset with only my laptop bag.

It was still possible to contact HEL so I sat on the phone … and waited for 2 x 45 mins. (They shut me off the first time). Fortunately I had Skype so that made the cost bearable (1 cent vs $1 a minute. Only to be told that the baggage people would not be able to help me – they (yet another outsource) only handled HEL destined bags. Oh yes and that famous telephone number I was supposed to call? Well it was a voicemail box telling me that they were all busy helping other (presumably lost souls) passengers and they could not come to the phone but I could leave a message. Beep – we are sorry to inform you that this mailbox is full Goodbye!

The next morning (I do so love washing my underwear in the sink) I arrived at the airport to try and recover the bag. Swissport actually started to be a little nicer. The weekend crew were a lot more helpful. But still no bag and no sign thereof. However now I had some arming of good data and a plan. They even gave me a nice hoe bag with a T shirt (Finnair tastefully written on the left sleeve) and some toiletries. I could have done with it the night before.

So sadly I bid MUC goodbye and headed via BA to London. Suffice to say there was nothing better going on there. So this time I had to think about getting something better to wear. However 80 Euros will not replace your wardrobe especially if you are going for a business meeting in Dubai the next day. I managed to collect yet another lost bag kit from BA – this time the T shirt had no identifiable marks. BA is more careful. Perhaps that’s why they are more experienced. Having lost 1 million bags in 2006 they should be pretty good at this sort of thing by now.

Calculating that the best place for us to hook up – I sent the request to have my bag delivered to Singapore where I would be for 4 days. On arrival there 3 days later – I was saddened to learn that my file had been closed and STILL no sign of the bag. Plus Finnair in MUC had sent it to a non-existent station manager at Singapore. (Finnair had just closed their online station there. So technically there was no one available to receive the bag shouldit follow the rules and turn up magically. Arriving on Cathay from Dubai via Hing Kong the helpful people in SIN wanted to file a new report. So this time a CX listed “manual and therefore unofficial” report (even though CX had absolutely nothing to do with this) was duly filed. “as a courtesy”.

In order to comply with the Montreal Convention (see sidebar) you have to file your lost bag report within one week. So I duly send an email with all the prerequisite information to an address inside AY. Knowing full well the only reason to do this was to have a record of having met the conditions. (I was wrong – more on this later).

So sadly after successful meetings in Singapore over (still with my 80 Euros of replacement clothing and borrowed shoes) I left to return home. Stopping briefly at baggage handling to make the “unofficial report” into a full time formal “official” report, I now had a total of 4 tracking numbers. 2x AY, and 2 x CX. For the next leg – I flew JAL to Vancouver via Narita. At each stage I chased the bag to whomever could help me. By now the file had reached several pages.

On arrival back in Seattle I opened my email to find – surprise – actually a note from a REAL person in Helsinki who was willing to help me and was on the mission to find my bag. By now there are multiple parties looking out for the bag. Swissport in Munich, BA in London, Cathay Pacific via CATS in Singapore, AY Baggage central in Helsinki,BA in Seattle and I am sure there were others – the list of addresses who got the message was growing exponentially. I was beginning to think my bag could be come the Kevin Bacon of luggage And don’t forget 3 sets of bag tracers on the SITA worldtracer system.

Exactly one week later and 2 weeks after loosing the bag I returned to SEA from CPH to get a message from SQ Baggage in Singapore that they had dispatched the bag the day before via United and it should be in their baggage area. I raised out of customs over to United – my tracking numbers burned in my head and quetly asked the baggage person if the bag was there. “Well it says its here. But we cant reach you because there isn’t a US phone number in here. But lets see ifwe can find it. My heart literally pounding – I follow the baggage supervisor. Yes there it was. Festooned with baggage reports – it was actually all intact. The labels were all there and the tags. Nope no reason why they misconnected.

So now what did I learn and what information can I impart to you


Know your rights. Know the rules. Follow this motto below. Carry copies of everything especially receipts.and take pictures.

Remember - The bag that you hold arrives with you.

Rember the enemy’s motto. Innocent until the passenger proves the airline is guilty according to a set of rules that make no sense and are only known to the airlines and all of which carries the ultimate superior rule – The airline is always right.

1. Preparation
If you must check your bag then…. Inventory your bag! Almost no one knows that you can go to any IATA airline in the world and give a detailed inventory of the contents of your bag. If the airline accepts it then they are immediately liable for all the contents of the bag – not limited to Montreal Convention amount which is currently 1000 SDRs. (Special Drawing Rights – which is a common currency pegged to the dollar). For the
2. The day of travel
The airlines have a mechanism for identifying the type of bag. This is revised every few years but best to know EXACTLY what your bag looks like. Then the model type. For example my bag was an Ailrine rollerboard type – Type 28!.

3. Handing over your bag

4. Multiple bags

One important thing is to understand if you lost a single bag or multiple bags. So note down WHICH bag goes with WHICH bag tag. Keep copies of the documents. Take pictures of your tags and the bags if possible.

So you lost your bag – remember it was your fault!!!!This is the airlines attitude so you are automatically at fault - guilty. The airline is always teflon clean!

be prepared for the following process you will have to prove...

Step 1 – are you sure its lost? - It didnt come up on the belt so its lost DUH!

Step 2 – report it via The Lost Bag report. AND dont leave the airport until you have reported it, straight away even if you know its on another flight report it no matter what. This is the most frustrating part and time taken of the whole process. Keep the paper and keep calling the number they give you. Best advice - find out who is the local manager responsible for the bag at the airport where you arrived. This is often a contractor such as Swissport so also make sure you get an airline who carried you on the loop.

Step 3 – Know that there could be multiple parties involved. If for example you started your journey at a remote station and connected over a major hub to another remote destination then you could have up to 5 different entities if you changed airlines:

Entity 1 - The airport servicing company. For example Dnata at Dubai.
Entity 2 - the initial airline (who BTW is usually the responsible party under IATA rules but hit all of them don't rely on this).
Entity 3 - the baggage handler at the hub airport. For example this is an outsourced service for British Airways at LHR and LGW so watch out!
Entity 4 - the connecting carrier - if this is different from entity 2 - this will be important as you could arrive at a remote airport and the despatching airline might not have a presence in that airport.
Entity 5 - the Handling agent at the arriving airport - this is the person who acts on behalf of the airline you arrived in and to whom you have to go to file the bag report.

Note if you still don't have your bag before you go on to your next position - you need to keep track of all your flights as the responsible party will try and match your bag to your itinerary. If you are on a long trip - like I was - then better to be safe than sorry - either have them send the bag home or to a future point on your itinerary.

Step 4- Know what to do next – how to track. Many airlines have a tracking system which you can look at online - it is usually managed by SITA. However if its a LCC and not part of IATA then you are SOL!

The reconciliation process - make sure that when you get your bag - either collected by you or delivered by the airline's agent - then check the bag for damage. Usually the bag will have a load of tags on it that include the history. Often the initial bag tracker report is attached so people can see what is supposed to happen. However this is a flimsy piece of paper so the chances of it surviving is slim and none - but I have seen it happen. However MAKE SURE YOU FILE within 24 hours of receiving it if you have damage or loss. Do this at the airport if you collect it.

Don’t Give up. AND BE NOTICED

You have to kick and scream and stamp your foot to get noticed - otherwise the airline will never pay attention to you. Demand for example an overnight kit (Delta and BA have the best I have seen - though SQ's for business is not bad. Even Finnair has a nice one.

How to claim. Each airline is different but keep all receipts and claim for each case and event. IE if the airline doesnt deliver when it says it will then you can go back and claim more. Different rules apply for different delay times. However the airline usually doesn't pay attention after you have submitted one claim.

The Future

The airlines need to do a better job and in some cases they are (Lufthansa for one).
RFID probably holds the best for the future - if Walmart can do it for just about everything - then the airlines can do it for bags.