Keep calm... while Air Canada mea­sures your carry-on

Trav­ellers need to rely on lug­gage scales to avoid usu­ri­ous fees

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - RON PRADINUK

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 askjour­neys@jour­ 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 jour­neystrav­el­ or read Ron’s travel blog

at that­trav­el­

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