We all know the usual tropes, like ‘there are only two kinds of luggage: carry on and lost’ and that someone who checks a bag for a trip every week is spending at least 2 days a year at baggage claim. Checking bags is something you want to avoid if you possibly can.
So when I first heard about a passenger having priceless family heirlooms destroyed by Delta I couldn’t understand why on earth she would check priceless family heirlooms.
Katelyn Peters’ story, though, becomes clear. She packed everything in a carry on bag but was told at the gate there was no more room, she’d have to check her rollaboard. It was returned to her at baggage claim looking as though it was put “through the shredder.”
After @delta forced me to check my bag (bc of course there’s no room in the cabin) they send my suitcase with my regalia inside through the shredder. Then offer me $112 in compensation for custom made irreplaceable fully beaded moccasins. Never flying #Delta again 🖕🏼 pic.twitter.com/xhplP5RyfM
— Tigerlily (@Tigerlily007) June 6, 2019
Inside her bag was “a pair of custom beaded moccasins made in the early 1900s…given.. in trust to represent my family and where we are from.”
Priceless handmade family heirlooms given to me in trust to represent my family and where we are from. Destroyed. I literally cried for days. Not to mention my eagle feathers that were damaged and my regalia pieces that were lost bc you know… receipts.
— Tigerlily (@Tigerlily007) June 7, 2019
She filed a claim with Delta for $2600, which she estimates as the value of the destroyed items which also “included an “heirloom belt,” “heirloom top” and makeup” but Delta responded that they couldn’t do that for 100 year old relics because she couldn’t provide a receipt.
Delta for its part now apologizes and wants to “try to make this right.”
The real question, I think, is what should she have done? Most passengers, in the moment, would feel paralyzed. If you want to ensure you aren’t forced to gate check here’s your check-list.
- Make sure the bag isn’t too large (that it meets the airline’s regulation specs, even fully packed and bulging).
- Plan ahead. Earn elite status with the airline you fly or one of their partners, or sign up for the co-brand credit card of the airline you tend to fly the most. Those will get you earlier boarding. So will a premium cabin seat. Be at the boarding gate before boarding begins.
- Consider buying priority boarding, often available for just a few dollars. Be at the boarding gate before boarding begins.
- Just board early. Not every gate agent will enforce the boarding order.
- If asked to gate check, remain polite, ask nicely and explain you have a short connection onto another airline and you could at least try to find some space? Agents concerned primarily with ‘D0’ departing exactly on time may not be sympathetic.
- Once on the plane, take any space you can find don’t wait until you get all the way to your seat if you’re in the back of the cabin. You might get glares, but there may be room in the first class bins and that carries the added benefit of your not having to schlep the bag all the way to the back and also that it’s already near the front of the plane when you’re ready to disembark.
- If you have priceless items in your carry on and you’re being asked to check it, and nothing else works, do not board the flight. Ask to be re-accommodated on a later flight, and to be given special needs boarding.
What would you have done?