Friday, August 26, 2016

Travel Pro-Tips: Luggage and Houston Airport

Two items for your edification and amusement today, Constant Readers.

First- I am assuming you are one of the Smart People that actually check your luggage at the ticketing counter.
If you are, good for you. Spot on!

<Rant 1>
If you are one of those morons who insist on schlepping all your worldly goods into one bag and ignore the pleading from the gate attendant that you bag will not fit in the overhead and drag your steamer trunk down the aisle smacking everyone along the way in the knee, shoulder or head as you make your way to steerage class seating, only to find there is no room for your "carry-on bag" and have to inconvenience everyone doing your best salmon-swimming-upstream imitation to admit defeat and gate check your bag anyway, WTF, dude?

"BUT!" You'll stammer "I beat the airline! I didn't have to pay $25! I'm the winner here."

Shut up, asshole. Just sit down and play Crunchy Fruit or V'jazzled or whatever on your smartphone while first aid is administered to the other passengers that suffered injury as you passed to-and-fro with that footlocker that was festooned with razorblades and broken glass "to make it more identifiable".


If you are one of these assholes, please skip reading this, quit your job, destroy your smartphone, and move somewhere like Irkutsk or Ulan Bataar and reevaluate your life choices.

But you, you clever Constant Reader that knows your should check your bags and your privilege to make everyone's life easier... Good on ya.
Ready for that tip?

A trip to Lost Baggage is a trial and tribulation all its own.
Might as well call it "Lost Sanity" or "Lost Souls".
Lost Baggage is were airlines send troublesome employees. Folks that they would like to see change vocation or just go away.
Most people don't make it long there. You have to deal with angry people who are missing their belongings after a long flight. It's bad when you are getting home from a month in a 3rd World shithole. Much worse to lose your bag on the outbound side- arriving for work or vacation with only the clothes on your back. You'll want to tear the arms off the Poor Bastard in Lost Baggage- to impress upon him that You Need Your Fucking Bags Pronto, Cochise. Too much of that on a daily basis will make you long for a job in Roadkill Disposal in West Texas. Or late-night gas station attendant in Birmingham Alabama.
Now, there are a few sadists out the that derive pleasure from the pain and suffering of others, and they fit right it in Lost Souls & Baggage...
This is the guy that loves to hear how much you are suffering by being deprived of your bags. He finds your bags in short order, but sends them out for delivery after 1:30am. He'll call you at 2, 2:30, and 3am to let you know they are on the way...

Waking you up each time. 

He'll give instructions to the delivery guy to honk three times outside your house, then knock loudly on the door when dropping the bag off.
Evil bastards...
But I digress.

Here's your travel ProTip:
Take a picture of your bag(s) with your smartphone.
That way, when you arrive at your destination, and your bag(s) don't and you have to make that trip to Lost Baggage you will be prepared.

You: "It's a black duffle bag."
Lost Baggage Bastard: "Yes, but what *kind* of black duffle bag?"
He will helpfully pull out an 11x17 laminated sheet with 472 different kinds of black duffle bags.
You, you smart Constant Reader will pull out your phone show him a picture of the bag, shortcircuiting his next 62 questions detailing brands, straps, piping, logos, ID tags, distinguishing modifications like ribbons or colored markers. 
It will all be there in the picture.
That will take the wind out of his sails.
You will be on your way with a song in your heart and a slip of paper ensuring the your bags will be along Any Time Now, so be of good cheer. 
And listen for the honk in your driveway at 3 AM.
That can't be helped.

Second Pro Tip - Houston International Arrivals.

Are you Global Entry? If so, good on ya.
If not, do it. Do it now.
Are you TSA PreCheck?
If not, do it. It's worth it.

What does this have to do with IAH?

When you arrive in Houston from some 3rd World shithole like, say, Rio de Janeiro  Brazil, you'll stand in line to clear passport control... Global Entry will speed this process from 40+ mins to less that 5 minutes. You may or may not claim your bags, based on the aforementioned situation with Lost Baggage.

But the idea is to make the connection as smooth as possible.

After you pass the last customs check where you hand in your blue customs form or your global entry ticket, you'll be at baggage recheck.

Give them your bags (if you have them) then they will direct you upstairs to security for entry to the sterile area of the airport.

There is a big sign for TSA PreCheck there but IT'S NEVER OPEN. You will always have to go through regular scanning (Full Monty nude-o-vision scoping, shoes off, unpack your backpack, body cavity search).

I button-holed a nice lady with a Global Services sign this AM and asked her if the PreCheck was open today.

Global Service Lady: "Oh honey, that's never open. I've been here 20 years and it's never been opened up one time." 

YT: "Is there another option?"

GSL: "Lord yes! Just drop your bag at ReCheck the go out the doors that say "Welcome to Houston and take the escalator up one level. PreCheck is always open there. Easy as pie."

And it was...

When I cleared security from that side I could see the other security lanes- easily 200 people going through 2 lanes.


And to add insult to injury, it was a shit-ton of international arrivals - half returning US citizen with lots of carry-on shit needing scrutiny,  the other half are Foreign Devils (including kids and ReallyOldPeople)  that were having a tough time navigating escalators and moving sidewalks and eyed luggage carts with suspicion. US-Style security scanning is more confusing to them than non-Euclidian geometric analysis of half-life proton decay is to flatworms.

Listen to your Uncle Jay, bypass the international arrival recheck security line. Go out the back in through the main security entrance. 

You're welcome.

TBG - still travelin'


Luc said...

Do I check my luggage? All. The. Fucking. Time.
Am I Global Entry/Nexus member?Yes, for the last 8 years Best 100$ ever spent.
Am I TSA PreCheck? You bet your sweet pink ass. Oh the pain avoided.

Luc said...

Oh, I forgot, don't you love the faces of people getting in the PreCheck line when the nice TSA agents tells them that they are not TSA PreCheck? It's like they've been slapped in the face. I wish there was a Facebook page for that. I'm mean, I know.

Old NFO said...

Agree with Luc... And yes, pics of the bags DO save a lot of 20 questions time... They can also help you get a bag repaired after it gets torn up too!!! sigh

TheWrongWay said...

Hole E crap. So simple, so overlooked. I will most definitely keep my shoes, belt and laptop in place and use TSAPre upstairs next time.

Borepatch said...

This post is so filled with Win that it's in danger of collapsing into a Black Hole of Win.

ray said...

Sounds like a lot of frightened, womanly totalitarianism to me. Instead of opposing it, modern Americans find ways to conform to it. Then imagine themselves superior.

drjim said...

Thanks for the tip on taking a picture of your bag(s).

That never would have occurred to me....

Ted said...

You haven't been to lost bag hell until you've experienced the version in Mumbi India. Our flight to Delhi was rerouted to land in Mumbi (Bombay). None of our group of 20 had any of our bags on arrival.

When we finally found lost luggage the 90 year old clerk proceeded to begin to fill out his forms. In quadruplecate using carbon paper on a worn out manual typewriter ( WW 1 surplus ). His typing speed was about 5 characters a minute. One form for each bag. We were all going to starve to death before he finished.

Fortunately our local tour operator arrived with a large wad of rupees and magicly they found the lost container of 100 pieces of luggage.

B said...

I have found that there are 4 kinds of luggage:




And Carry On.

If I plan on needing something in the first 48 hours of arrival, it gets carried on. (in a suitably sized piece of luggage)

the rest can go checked baggage.

TOTWTYTR said...

I hate those people who have a carry on bag that is too heavy for them to lift. Unless it's an elderly person, I refuse to help them.

I usually check my bags and just carry a back pack with my electronics and other stuff I need.

I usually travel with at least one firearm, so checking is mandatory. It's also ridiculously easy because as long as you declare it and are available to open the bag if it alarms, the TSA doesn't care if you have a 105mm howitzer in you bag. Provided it's unloaded.

The airlines have lost my checked firearms a distressing number of times. They don't seem to give a shit about that.

One thing that I've found out about the airlines lost luggage 800 numbers is that the people who answer them are stupid and lie more than Hillary Clinton. I've had them tell me that my bag would be delivered at 3:00AM only to find out that the courier won't even pick them up until 9:00AM. Every airline seem to do it, which makes me think that they teach that to the call takers.

The tip about taking pictures of your checked bag is priceless. Thank you. If you're ever in the Boston area, email before hand, I owe you a beer or five.

I signed up for PreCheck although I don't fly more than 4-5 times a year. Still worth it.