Dear QF10, where is my bag?

After 40-minute wait for her bag, Kaye asks whether her gold frequent flyer status is really worth it.

I’m at carousel five at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport, after a long flight. I’m surrounded by happy fellow travellers who have spotted their bags and are grabbing them and heading straight through customs. But not me. I am hypnotised by the rotation of said carousel with dozens of similar-sized Samsonites. But never mine. So, where is it?

I paid a full economy fare and then what seemed like a million points for a business-class upgrade. The flight was divine. But the pink priority tag on my suitcase seemed to mean absolutely nothing to the baggage handlers, as my bag came out last – after a full 40 minutes’ wait. This didn’t happen once, but twice, as I have flown QF10 from London via Dubai to Melbourne two times in recent months.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am normally a very happy Qantas frequent flyer. But I am now questioning the value of my gold status, and what it really delivers for all those airfares I’ve had to purchase. On the first QF10 flight, in October last year, I paid for an economy fare and requested an upgrade using points. I didn’t get one, and that’s fine – the plane was full so no big deal. But as a gold frequent flyer, I did enjoy my lounge access and the ability to check in at the business-class counter, where all bags are tagged as priority. The flight home in a full A380 was tiring, but most long-haul travel in economy is nowadays. But to then arrive and find my bag was missing in action, while every other ‘non’ priority bag merrily rolled along the carousel, was pretty annoying.

A slow learner, I booked QF10 again for a January London-Dubai-Melbourne trip, and this time the points were taken in return for a business-class seat. Divine! Great food, cabin service and a really relaxing journey. So I was in good spirits on arrival in Melbourne. Customs was a bunfight, but that’s not Qantas’ fault. By the time I reached the luggage carousel, a sea of bags was pouring out. Where was mine with its distinctive green-checked ribbon? Nowhere to be seen. And my fellow business class travellers seemed to be having the same experience. Until a good 35 minutes later, the last few bags sputtered out, all with pink priority tags. Was this some kind of sick joke, we wondered? Some kind of revenge on those at the pointier end, by unseen baggage handlers who put all priority bags back in the hold?

So I decided to go to the source and ask Qantas why this happened. And here is its reply, quoted in full. I am not sure if it adds anything, but you can judge for yourself:

Priority baggage: While we will always do our best to make sure bags tagged priority are delivered first on the carousel, this can change due to operational requirements. Priority bags are collected together and then placed in the same container on the aircraft, which is usually placed closest to the cargo door hold of the aircraft.

And a tip for your readers, please try and avoid buying a black suitcase, or if you do, make sure you put something on it like a coloured ribbon, etc., so it can be identified by our baggage handlers, it will speed up the process of finding your bag and getting the aircraft away on time!

What’s your experience? Are you, too, a victim of a priority tag that translates to ‘deliver last’? Is your silver or gold frequent flyer status really worth the cost? 


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    Just Joyful
    26th Mar 2016
    I just love the "due to operational requirements" excuse - it means absolutely nothing. We had an experience on the Indian Pacific where we were warned that our request for forward-facing seats may not be satisfied as things change due to "operational requirements". I can understand that - things happen. But when we didn't get those forward-facing seats, and we asked exactly what those "operational requirements" were, they couldn't tell us.

    My thoughts are that they let you think these things are possible (forward-facing seats, priority baggage), but because they don't promise anything due to possible changes for "operational requirements", they don't have to actually act on any of them.
    26th Mar 2016
    Oh dear, on one side of the world you have innocent people being murdered at an airport and in Melbourne somebody complaining about waiting a few minutes for baggage???
    26th Mar 2016
    35 minutes and 45 minutes to wait is not a just a "few" minutes", gofigure. It's a bloody long time to wait when your expectations are that you have an agreement with the service provider for your luggage to be treated on priority basis. The disgust with the deceptive service provider is even more justified when your luggage arrives last instead of first. Deception is the focus of the issue the writer has criticized !!
    26th Mar 2016
    If I have 'priority' baggage then I expect it to be a priority. As gofigure suggests airports aren't good places to be and so I only want to be static among milling crowds for the absolute minimum time.
    Tony D
    26th Mar 2016
    Dear Miss Kaye. A well written account of your priority luggage frustration and a typical airline mumbo-jumbo reply on what appears to be a paragraph taken from two standardised response letters and cut and pasted to form a single response to you. Your letter was probably given to a graduate programme inductee temporarily assigned to the customer service area. It's a terrible response. Here's why.

    First para. "Do our best: due to operational requirements: usually placed" are well chosen phrases to absolve the airline from any real responsibility in honouring their marketing promises which are very enticing and liberally sprinkled throughout all their promotional material. And they are sufficiently evasive to stand them in good stead should a highly focussed zealot hire a Philadelphia lawyer and take the airline to court for delivering priority baggage last.

    Second para. This appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with priority tagging. A bag which is not black or a bag which is black and has a coloured ribbon affixed is to assist the owner of the bag at the destination carousel. For this tip (which is now so common that all black bags have ribbons) to be of any use to a baggage handler, the handler would have to be informed of the name on the passenger bag and luggage/ribbon colour. Typically, a baggage handler only reads an airline code, a flight number, point of destination and any intermediate transfers. That's if a handler even handles a bag. There is so much automation and robotics in luggage handling at most modern airports that many of the handlers are at computer terminals or driving jitneys. What does "it will speed up the process of finding your bag and getting the aircraft away on time!" have to do with your issue regarding priority delivery? This is a lost bag issue.

    If all priority bags were in fact placed in a separate container and loaded last, near to the appropriate cargo door, so as to be offloaded first at the destination you may have more luck. In the case of QF10 which has an intermediate stop in Dubai the procedure is more complex because the Dubai bags have to be separately sorted for offload at Dubai as well.

    On a good day, with a good airline and a little bit of luck you may indeed get your prioritised bags straight away. As for me, I long ago discarded any expectations of my luggage arriving first, regardless of my class of travel, and have learned to be grateful if the luggage arrives on the same flight. Welcome to the world of commercial aviation 2016!
    26th Mar 2016
    Tony D, the problem is that, too many people capitulate to bad and deceptive provision of service. The writer, ( I presume, Kaye Fallick ) has every right to voice her disgust and if more people did this
    'en-masse', the service providers will need to have a good look at themselves and reform their practice of deceiving customers.
    26th Mar 2016
    As a Qantas Club member I made the mistake of getting a Q tag which was going to do wonderful things for me. Twice so far on flights to Brisbane my bag hasn't appeared on the carousel. The first time they told me that because it had a Q tag on it they figured it was going to Cairns .... (what about unaccompanied luggage!). The second time they had no excuse but found it out the back. I went to Perth and my luggage went to Brisbane ..... I now try to just take carry-on!
    26th Mar 2016
    Hi Kaye For God's sake STOP complaining!!! You'll get you bag eventually. What's wrong with having to wait? We poor luddites in economy have to put up with someone else's seat on one's lap practically the whole trip while you luxuriate in Business. Your trip was probably paid by someone else or is a business deduction. There are people in the world without even a blanket!!!!
    Kaye Fallick
    27th Mar 2016
    Hi Paxpax, just to set the record straight, I paid with points, earned from paid flights - no freebie, no business deduction - if it was sponsored travel, i would have said so. The point of the article is to question the 'privileges' we are offered with points - i am not clear they offer great value. I did get my bag, as documented. Just not when i was meant to :-) And yes, many go without, which is why I and my company give to organisations which help them :-) :-)
    26th Mar 2016
    First world problem or what?
    26th Mar 2016
    I might pop up to see Kim Jongo Ill while I'm there to see how He is getting along with His Rocketry !!
    26th Mar 2016
    Similar problem on a Qantas/BA flight. Carousel empty and was about to report two lost suitcases when they suddenly appeared!
    Airlines have a lot to learn from those who have their hubs in the Middle/Far East. In my opinion 'loyalty' accounts for nothing and I can get better flight deals by shopping around.
    Supporting ones 'National' airline is a waste of time, and rarely appreciated.
    8th Dec 2016
    back in 2010, my wife and I flew to Seattle, via L.A... Our cases were not booked through to Seattle,(some paranoia reason no doubt , as seen when you go through customs : all five digits of the right hand, plus retinal scan and saved) so we had to wait for our bags at L.A., and we waited , and waited, and after 42 minutes they finally arrived, and we weren't the only ones who had to wait. As a consequence, we missed our connecting flight to Seattle on Alaskan airlines. When we arrived at the Alaskan airlines check in, we explained why we were late, and they said "Oh yeah, no problem, and proceeded to put us on another flight, which left in 40 minutes. It seems that the staff were aware of the incompetence of the L.A. baggage handler situation.

    27th Mar 2016
    We travelled to the UK, had a stopover in Hong Kong over and back which meant 4 flights. I am over 6' tall and requested seats with leg room. The travel agent put a request in for particular seats towards the rear of the plane. This request was accepted on the first three flights but not the last. Qantas was the carrier on the last and a different airline had the first three flights. The travel agent said she wasn't surprised as Qantas generally ignores travel agents.
    27th Mar 2016
    I can't say I'm surprised so I would suggest the following:
    Book direct with an Airline. Tickets are no cheaper using a Travel Agent, you have less security using a Travel Agent and they will try and lead you to flying with airlines that they have arrangements with.
    If using a Middle/Far Eastern Airline you'll be able to request your seat for free from a seat plan at the time of booking your flight.
    Consider flying in Premium Economy Class (not available with all airlines or from all departure points) to get better leg room and treatment.
    28th Mar 2016
    Thanks Londoner, your reply merely reinforces my point in that other airlines will honour a request for seating whereas Qantas doesn't seem to give rat's arse. I prefer a travel agent because I get helpful tips on where to meet up with shuttle services. I tried the do-it-yourself once and once only. The savings are not worth the hassle.
    28th Mar 2016
    Just to reinforce what I wrote. My friend leaves Australia for the UK tomorrow on a Cathay flight. When I booked her ticket mid last year I requested her seats from the website seating plan and when I checked her in last night and got the boarding cards she was given the seats I'd asked for! On a previous trip down under I requested specific seats with Etihad and was given them.
    On three occasions I have tried to make bookings through Flight Centre in Australia and frankly I've wasted my time.At least by booking direct with the airline I have the peace of mind of being able to hold them to account should something go wrong with the flights.

    The original article here was asking the question whether frequent flier rewards were worth it - in my opinion, no. The amount I can save by chopping and changing airlines by far out ways any benefit I could derive from a 'rewards scheme', and I don't believe in National fervour.
    28th Mar 2016
    Totally agree with your last paragraph Londoner.
    A. N. Onymous
    28th Mar 2016
    Something else to consider when booking flights – which country is the airline’s home?

    Years ago my late husband and I booked flights with Harvey World Travel on Cathay Pacific. I was not slim. When we returned I went back to the travel agent, held my arms out from my sides, turned around in a circle, and said, “If anyone else with my body shape wants to book a flight with Cathay Pacific, DON’T LET THEM DO IT!”

    I hope that your friend is slim, Londoner, or that the seats are larger than they were when we flew with them. (Doubtful since most airlines seem to decrease seat size and Cathay Pacific as a national carrier definitely catered to its citizens, who have smaller builds. Some time after that trip, I was talking in Malaysia with a Chinese woman from Melbourne who was in Penang visiting relatives. She was a normal weight and size for Australia but told me she had problems finding clothes in Malaysia because the normal weight and size were smaller there.)
    28th Mar 2016
    Things are different these days and seat sizes and configuration can be found out by looking on the Seatguru website.
    No, my friend isn't slim, but she's flying in Premium Economy Class which should be a better experience for her over Economy (or Cattle Class as I describe it).
    Surely clothing is like 'horses for courses' and sizing is catered for by the average size of the population; Asian if you're slim, North American if you're large, European if you're average.
    A. N. Onymous
    28th Mar 2016
    And to consider re baggage – be sure that all essential items (e.g. medicines) are in your hand luggage, not your checked bag/s. On our first trip to Malaysia years ago (with Malaysia Airlines), like Kaye we waited for our bags to appear on the carousel. They never did. Three or four other people were also waiting. It was obvious that this was not the first time this had happened as the carousel attendant said, “OK, the rest of you – come over here and give me your details. Your bags will be delivered to your hotel when they arrive.” They arrived a few hours later on a later flight and were delivered to our door.

    A few months later we made a repeat trip. I suggested to my husband that, in view of our previous experience, he should pack his diabetes medication in his hand luggage. He said it wouldn’t happen again and didn’t take my advice. Well, it did happen again. Fortunately for him, I had taken his medicine out of his suitcase and packed it in my hand luggage.

    Obviously this can happen with any airline at any time. And, for the record, we did make more trips to Malaysia with Malaysia Airlines, which we always appreciated and rated very highly.
    28th Mar 2016
    Wise advice. Keep essential items, like medication, with you in your hand luggage. Everything else can be replaced 'in country', if necessary. I'd suggest that you take a copy of the prescription with you in case there's a query. I'm also a diabetic and always take a copy of the last prescription with me together with a laminated note printed in English and French stating my condition, medication, treatment and my GP's contact details.
    Kaye Fallick
    29th Mar 2016
    Great advice - a doctor's letter explaining need for medication is an important addition to the carry on prescriptions.
    29th Mar 2016
    Sorry Kaye, I disagree with your comment. The advice I've found, and been told, is that it is wise to either take a doctors letter confirming what medication one is on OR a copy of the latest prescription (Terry White Chemists gave me a photocopy when I asked for it which not only served as a confirmation to my UK GP but also acted as a confirmation (together with the receipt) for my Travel Insurance company).
    My GP's view when I raised the matter of documentation with him was that if anyone has a problem with what he prescribes they should contact him, and you will see from my post that I cover all the relevant points.
    Being a person that is considered as being 'at risk' I do, of course, wear a Medical Alert bracelet and I don't travel against medical advice.
    14th Mar 2017
    Qaintarse don't care about baggage. Lol at the Freddy awards and you'll see Virgin care a lot more and, they don't fob any passenger tier off imho. I'm gold with virgin and couldn't be happier.

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