December 13, 2004
I am back from my annual Holidailies hiatus. This year I again went west to ski–Copper Mountain, Vail, and Beaver Creek. There’ll be more on all that tomorrow, but right now oversized baggage handling at the McNamara terminal is topmost in my mind. In almost every respect, this two-year-old terminal is a great improvement over the one it replaced, but oversized baggage is an exception. The system they’ve set up works okay if volume is low–bags slide down into a wide chute, a handler pulls them off, each passenger identifies his or her bag, the handler pulls off the sticker from the baggage tag and puts it on a sheet of paper, the passenger signs next to the sticker indicating the bag was released to them and heads off to his or her destination. This doesn’t work at all well for more than a handful of bags, though, and on a flight from Denver during ski season, there are usually more than a handful of oversized bags. The particular flight we were on today had even more than that, because there was a ski club coming back from their trip to Summit County.
When I arrived at the oversized claim window, there was already a bunch of people waiting in what one might call a line if one were flexible about the definition of a line. There were no ski bags visible behind the counter, just a few golf bags, the last of which was handed over and signed for just as the first skis appeared. The people who could see their ski bags called out “that’s mine” and similar phrases. Normally, that leads to the bag being brought over and released and the crowd of people around the window gets smaller and smaller as the process is repeated. Not this time. The women working behind the counter decided that no one could get any skis until all of the bags had arrived. That might have been okay, except they decided to make one big heap of luggage out of the bags, so even after they were all there, distribution was incredibly inefficient. When passengers expressed some frustration about this, the response from the women behind the counter was “well, next time don’t bring your bag” and “the next person who yells, I’m calling the police”. If reinforcements in the form of two more baggage handlers hadn’t arrived, I might still be there right now. Those guys didn’t just shift the pile around, they put bags up against the wall as they moved them so it was easier for people to i.d. them and easier to hand them out. They also dispensed with the sticker and sign portion of the program and just asked people for the name on the tag (which is more than they do for other checked bags anyway).
I hate that we have this beautiful terminal in Detroit that sent so many people away with a bad last impression. When we don’t have skis, we’re often on the road with our luggage within a half hour of deplaning; tonight it took an hour. I guess the one saving grace is that at least the people who got pissed off tonight weren’t visitors–no one comes from Colorado to ski in Michigan.
One year ago, I was finishing up a ski trip and not writing. It’s a Holidailies tradition.
Two years, I was lighter than I am now.