Keep calm... while Air Canada measures your carry-on
Travellers need to rely on luggage scales to avoid usurious fees
WHEN the airlines played follow the leader and began charging for every checked bag there was a public belief more and bigger bags would be used as carry-ons to avoid paying new ancillary fees.
In the early stages, the airline industry denied this, celebrating the new-found revenue source created with hardly a ripple of change in the habits of the flying customers.
However, the truth may have not fully emerged from the outset. Recently, Air Canada announced what it termed “a new initiative” to tag carry-on bags at the check-in counters — instituted to prevent bags beyond the allowable dimensions from passing through security to the boarding gate without ensuring they comply.
While Air Canada states the policy will make it easier and safer to stow bags, while reducing wait times, clearly it will also help bottom-line revenues as well.
What is not known yet is whether those thousands of passengers who check in online will now be forced to go through the same process. It strikes me this group, particularly the business travellers, are often the ones trying to take on larger bags for the many quick-turn-around trips they make. To be fair, they will have to follow the same procedure and this will absolutely slow things down.
Air Canada suggests those travellers who get by the security gate with oversized bags will receive a special identification card which will allow them to go back to the counter and then pass back through security a second time more expeditiously.
While Air Canada is changing its policy to deter those who would take oversized bags on board its jets, travellers should note every airline has restrictions on the weight of carry-on bags.
While you can still take on the two bags — one of carry-on size and a second of purse or computer size — you may be surprised to find these items are heavier than you might think.
Issues relating to luggage make up a substantive portion of inquiries I receive on a monthly basis.
They can range from complaints about having to pay for checked bags to concerns about the accuracy of the weigh scales airlines use to create extra charges.
In the past, concerns about lost and damaged pieces of luggage were high. While the complaints relating to bags arriving bruised and dented has not diminished, it seems there are far fewer complaints about bags that have gone astray. (And airlines will emphatically say damage complaints have also gone down dramatically.)
There may be a good reason for this: Worldwide industry sources suggest the percentage of lost and damaged items has been reduced by more than 50 per cent over the past half-dozen years.
This sounds pretty impressive, but even at that airlines mishandled almost 22 million bags last year.
The airlines have good reason to try to better this performance. It is estimated time, administrative and delivery charges cost an airline about $100 for every passenger bag lost or damaged.
Today, bar codes help airlines track bags as they are transferred from one flight to another. Communications between airlines when luggage is erroneously transferred between brands has improved dramatically.
In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration has cooperated by instituting changes in the way it transport bags in order to get them to the right airlines faster.
In recent years, the consumer has been able to play a role in tracking their own bags with a battery operated device placed within. It sends messages to your smartphone approximating its location, if it is not on the carousel upon your arrival at destination.
The problem with these to date has been the limited lifespan of the batteries which, while promised to last 15 days, can run down quickly and not last many trips.
A partnership project between Samsonite, the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of luggage, and technology giant Samsung is working on developing what they describe as a new generation of “smart luggage.”
The proposed system will rely on a GPS monitor to not only track luggage but to operate as an addendum to the check-in process.
Imbedded microchips will communicate to airlines the weight of the bag and its destination. Theoretically this would mean bags would not have to go through airlines agents and would to be taken directly to the loading carousel.
While a number of organizations have been working on devices that might do similar things, most of the ones reported so far rely on heavy and bulky units that partially defeat the purpose for which they were created.
The launch of the Samsonite-Samsung device is likely a long way off, as are most of the others reported to be evolving into the research stage.
In the meantime, those of us who travel most still rely on the traditional luggage scale to ensure we are not paying the extra and often usurious charges for overweight bags.
Forward your travel questions to email@example.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at journeystravelgear.com or read Ron’s travel blog