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104

I flew to Alaska to see one set of grandchildren (and their parents, of course).  It seemed simple enough: the shuttle to Seattle, a bigger airplane to Anchorage, and shuttle to Kenai where my son-in-law would meet me. I was only going to be gone four days, so I packed a carry-on and carried my purse/camera case. No checked luggage = no lost luggage.

My extra blanket, my reading material, my meds, my extra camera lens – everything fit in the carry-on bag with the fancy Snap-on™ logo. It’s a duffle-bag with a hard back, two wheels, and a long handle. I’ve used it before and it’s pretty darn handy, and just the right size for those smaller storage compartments.

It didn’t fit in the compartment on the shuttle plane to Seattle, so I let the stewardess put it on the a la cart as a non-checked bag. They unload these bags on the tarmac and you just grab your bag upon landing before moving to the next flight.

The shuttle flight was quick – and irritating. The couple in the row behind me conversed entirely about accounting. I kind of wanted to turn around and shout, “I’M ON VACATION HERE – CAN WE PUT WORK TO REST??” But I didn’t. My seat-mate was an engaging teenager on her way home, and she made up for the clueless working couple behind me. (I wasn’t really that irritated, it was just humorously annoying. Really? Do we have to talk about my line of work o0n my first day of vacation? I just want to not think about work at all.)

Seattle. Tarmac. Cart full of carry-ons. No Snap-On™ bag. I circled the cart several times. The baggage clerk asked a few questions and re-checked the belly of the plane. Nope. He walked me to Customer Service and said I could fill out a claim there as someone had obviously grabbed my bag instead of theirs. This was way at the end of the concourse we landed at.

This is only one complaint about Alaska Air. I have one more, but the rest of the time, I found Alaska Air personnel (and their associates) went way over the call of duty to help me out. Just not the Customer Service people in Seattle. There were two clerks, one customer. Time was ticking and I had another flight to catch. They ignored me. One minute, two. I’m not much more patient than that, but I think I waited about three minutes before I said, “I have a plane to catch!”.

OH. There’s an irritated customer there. (Can I just slap them now?) A few punches of the keyboard later and the result was: I’d have to fly on to Anchorage and make my claim there. Happens all the time: some airhead grabs the wrong bag and you hope they are honest enough to realize their mistake before they catch their next flight. The bag will catch up with you. Oh, and my flight that was board in two minutes? Catch the train (it comes by every two minutes and the station is at the end of the concourse, that way). Ride it to the N concourse and your gate is at the very end of that. All said matter-of-fact.

My jaw dropped. Are you kidding me?

Of course, I made it – after my seat had already boarded but while confused late boarders were still milling around. I cut in line ahead of the confusion with another veteran flyer, only to find that my assigned seat had been commandeered by a rude young couple flying with their toddler. What the heck. I didn’t want to sit next to a squirmy kid anyway (and she was adorable), so I took the aisle seat and hoped to sleep. I didn’t.

We landed in the dark at Anchorage and as we disembarked, an announcement was made for me to contact the Ticket Agent, except they used either my husband’s first name or my middle name, neither of which are on the tag on the carry-on. The Ticket Agent, however, had no idea what I was talking about and sent me to the Baggage Agent down at Baggage Claim. I had to go that direction to get to my next gate, anyway, and I had a lot of time to spare.

The Alaska Air Baggage Clerk found all my information and told me where my bag was coming from: Canada. CANADA? It would be in Seattle on the next flight, then to Anchorage where I could get it. NO – I’m flying to Kenai with a final destination of Homer, 90 miles south of there. Couldn’t they just route it to Homer? She keyed all that in and said, “Hopefully, we’ll catch it here and send it to Homer. Otherwise, here’s the number to Kenai and you can call them and ask them to ship it on down. If they give you any trouble, here’s our number and we’ll call them and tell them to…”

I had a few hours to sit at the gate on the tarmac in Anchorage, but no extra blanket and no book to read. <sigh> I tried to sleep. The sky lightened.

001

WHOA! This is the smallest plane I have ever flown on. I’ve always wanted to fly in a small plane, but there’s a certain amount of fear associated with flying, especially at take-off and landing. I’ve only flown in planes with stewardesses, no matter how small the actual plane. This can’t possibly have a steward or stewardess, so that woman & man in uniform have to be the pilot and co-pilot. <GULP>

It’s a Beechcraft1900 Airliner Turboprop. There’s one row of seats on either side, so everyone gets a window seat. I chose one just behind the propeller on the right. I hoped we wouldn’t fly in the clouds, but would stay low enough to watch the ground pass by.

002

One of the cool features of this plane is this: the cockpit is not sealed off and you can watch the pilot. Because of the weather, the flight was bumpy, and this was the best I could do for a photo.

It was the must fun flight of my short life. I loved the small plane! Once the prop was engaged (LOUD), I could see “through” it. We stayed below the clouds the entire 20 minute flight, and the scenery was great: tracts of waterways, small ponds, lakes, islands of trees, and always, the inlet to the west. Take off and landing were quick and event-less, and a lot less scary than on some of the larger flights I have been on. When I thanked the pilot, I meant it.

Homer. My son-in-law picked me up in the cold and rain. “Where’s your bag?”

“In Canada. Or Seattle, now, hopefully.”

We caw caribou, moose, and bald eagles. I have never seen a wild reindeer before. No photos, sorry.

My bag did not arrive in Kenai by the specified time. The Ravn Alaska (formerly ERA Aviation) clerks bent over backwards to make notes in the computer about the missing bag with the very visible logo. I was advised that *if* the bag was not intercepted in Anchorage and routed directly to Homer… well…

Meanwhile, we went to the local pharmacy/hardware store to purchase a toothbrush for Grandma. My daughter’s cell phone rang as we entered the store.

It arrived in Kenai. Kenai has no direct flights to Homer. It had to return north to Anchorage to be routed directly to Homer. It would arrive in Homer after 10:00PM.

104

I woke up late on Saturday morning. This was in front of my door. Everything was intact, except the shampoo bottle in the ziploc™ baggie. Oh, and both wheels were broken off.

From Portland to Seattle to points unknown in Canada, back to Seattle, on to Anchorage, to Kenai, and back to Anchorage. Final destination (and I mean FINAL): Homer.

I borrowed a carry-on with wheels to return home with. The duffel-bag that went to Canada will end its days in Homer, Alaska.

What I really want to know is: how could you grab this bag from the cart and *not* know it was the wrong bag? That logo should have been a dead giveaway. I wonder how embarrassed the other traveler was (and if they got their real bag as quickly, or quicker than, I got my bag back). Male or female? Where in Canada did it fly to?

The moral of this story is: even carry-on bags are not safe on air planes.

And Alaska Air will do everything to get you your bag. Thank you, Alaska Air & your associates, Ravn Alaska.

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