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Travel Detective Blog: Where in the World is Peter Greenberg’s Lost Luggage?

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You may think baggage woes only happen to you, but now Peter is, well, fuming…and for good reason. Find out what happened in his latest Travel Detective blog. 

I have always said there are two types of airline bags: carry on and LOST. As a result, many of you know that I don’t check bags on domestic flights. I FedEx them. But on international itineraries, I am forced to check bags. Shipping bags internationally through FedEx is not only prohibitively expensive, but luggage can often get stuck in customs and delayed.

Flying earlier this week from Bangkok back to Los Angeles, with a stopover in Tokyo, I checked my luggage. I chose to fly American Airlines back to Los Angeles. Why? For one important logistical reason: American flies to Terminal 4 in Los Angeles, where they have their own customs facility. The flight lands shortly after 8 am each morning, and it’s the only flight going through customs. Translation: Getting through the inspection process takes no time at all.

If you had to go through customs at the Tom Bradley terminal at that time of the morning, you would be in trouble for two reasons. Staffing levels at that customs facility are way too low, which means longer lines. And then, the whammy: at 8 a.m. the Korean Air jumbo A380 lands from Seoul and it’s bedlam.

So I checked my bags at the airport in Bangkok on board a Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo. When I landed in Japan, I went to the American desk and showed them my bag claim tags and asked them to run the tag numbers into their system to confirm that my bags had been successfully loaded onto the American aircraft. The agent checked and then assured me this had happened.

The American flight to Los Angeles was uneventful and arrived right on time. That’s when the problems happened. First, when we got off the plane, we did not go through customs at the American terminal. Turns out U.S. customs didn’t feel like staffing the facility, and we were then forced to make a very long walk from the American Airlines terminal to the Tom Bradley International terminal.

Here, as you probably guessed, was a refugee center filled with hundreds of passengers in long lines. When I finally got through, about 35 minutes later, the bag carousel hadn’t even started. When it did start, one of my bags came out. The other didn’t.