Unattended Baggage, Unintended Consequences

October 6, 2009

in Airport Stories

Reading about the dismal attitudes of the flight attendants reminded me of a trip home to Pittsburgh (PA) Greater International Airport. Actually getting there was not the problem, it was getting back and having to deal with incredibly obnoxious gate attendants that was the problem. There were a surprising number of gate attendants.

This was in 2002, not long after September 11th, but long enough so that the extra security was in place. Our flight that was supposed to have left at 3.30 still had not even boarded at a little before 7 PM. After our 4th delay announcement letting us know that we would be leaving at 8 PM, the woman sitting across from me asked if I wouldn’t mind watching her things while she ventured to the restroom. Naturally I said yes, since it was a pain going to the restroom from where we were. The restroom was directly  across from our gate area, but there were two moving walkways blocking our path, and we were right in the middle of them. I had done this twice, dragging my stuff with me for each trip.

The mistake I (we) made was not moving her bags closer to me. They were across the aisle from me, not so far that they could not have been mine, but not close enough, I guess. I sat there, feeling like a good Samaritan since I saved this poor woman from the hassle. Everything was fine for about 10 minutes, when one of the soon to be obnoxious gate attendants walked by and grabbed the bag.

I called out to her that I was watching the bag. When asked if it was mine, I explained that I was watching it for someone who had to use the restroom. She said, “Well that’s not good enough,” and proceeded to drag the bag to the counter. I followed after her saying that this woman would be right back and able to claim her bag, but the gate attendant simply ignored me. I cited the fact that we had been through security and that they had already X-rayed the bag. The woman refused to even look at me, and I finally said in frustration, “This is really not my idea of good customer service.”

I turned towards the seat where my own bags were when the woman in question returned. I motioned for her to come up and pointed to the counter and explained what had happened. I returned to my seat, and the woman did eventually with her bag. What neither of us expected happened next, when two TSA agents materialized.

I looked over to see the gate attendant looking at us with a smug look on her face. I looked back at the older, more authoritative looking TSA agent, who said that we had to be searched. At which point I said: “With all due respect, this attendant needs to learn a thing or two about treating people decently. I was only a mile from WTC when it all happened, and I saw it with my own eyes. I assure you I understand the implications. I understand the implications of this extra security, but there’s a difference here. This is abusing power.”

He gave me an odd kind of smile. We both were searched, but they somehow were polite about it, then went on their way. All of the gate attendants I noticed later had turned their IDs around, so we couldn’t see their names.

When I called to complain to Continental about the incident, all they said was that I could file any complain without the names of the agents. In the end, I found the Pittsburgh airport management much more cooperative when I got through to the administrative offices. They confirmed that we had been through security already and took down the flight number and gate, saying they’d look into it. I don’t really know if they did, but it felt good having someone listen and respond as one person to another. Although I’ve flown Continential again, I do try to find another airline when I can. Hopefully someone from the airline with half a brain reads this.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

madachode October 7, 2009 at 5:56 am

What were you thinking? Was it even worth spending the time typing a story like that expecting sympathy esp after our country was attacked? What do the announcements at every airport say over and over again on the PA? Do not leave your bags unattended. those bags were left unattended, stay home next time and kill yourself.


youmakemesick October 7, 2009 at 6:57 am

madachode, you are such an e-thug. Saying whatever you like on the internet and hiding behind anonymity. I applaud you. you are so cool, I hope other people reading these stories turn out to be just like you.


david October 7, 2009 at 7:36 am

well i guess you never heard any of the announcements that go "this is a security announcement, please do not leave your bags unattended, they will be taken……."

if they are not your bags than you have no idea what is in them, so i would have said that the flight attendant and TSA did the correct thing, and took action, they may have done it in a more polite way, but they did the right thing

and just because you saw what happened doesn't mean you know the implications and think you can get away with things, i saw it happen too, and some people in my town were in those buildings, and my neighbor accross the street escaped, and he doesnt believe he knows the implications, all we know is that security was and will be tight


ps October 7, 2009 at 7:43 am

Security did the right thing. You still had the best of intentions. If that was in NY or Philly it would have been worse.

And obviously madachode is from Darwin's waiting room. See his previous posts. He can't even spell the name of the airbase in his home state correctly. And Missouri does have a "u" in it.


Demotage October 7, 2009 at 9:46 am

Madachode is just a troll. Ignore him and he'll eventually go away.


Atari October 7, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Really? There is a significant difference between me watching the bags from a couple of feet, and the owner of the bags NOT watching them while they are right next to her?

They did 'the right thing' by taking her bags and having the two people searched, merely because she took a restroom break?

What sense does that make? Really. Answer that.

HOW is that sensible in ANY fashion?

Will the bags randomly explode because she is not near them? Is that it?

Will she or he SUDDENLY TURN OUT TO BE TERRORISTS because she had to use the restroom?

I agree 100% with the writer of this story.

He wrote in a mature manner that did not feel pretentious or disingenuous.


david October 7, 2009 at 4:06 pm

it actually makes more sense then you think, especially since they said it wasn't too long after 9/11

you must accompany your luggage at all times, you hear that all the time, and they didn't obide by it, so the flight attendant took the bag and called TSA for inspection (remember that people were/are scared of flying soon after)

and yeah they would inspect both, because who knows if the person looking after the bags could have put something in them

leaving your bags for any reason looks suspicious, you don't know what may happen so yeah its best to get it checked out

its best to search them and make sure, rather than let it go and god forbid something does happen


saw October 8, 2009 at 5:28 pm

The fact that ID tags were turned around means that the gate agents KNEW they were behaving like assholes.

Next time, tell the gate agent to turn the badge around, and failing to do so, call a cop (or soldier) and tell them you're being harassed by the gate agent, and you want to see their ID.

Honestly… you're a wimp for not demanding to see their employee information – you have that right, and even the TSA would back you up on that one.

As for watching someone else's bag – although you meant well, I'd recommend you refuse to do that in the future. Simply saying "I'm sorry, but I really don't want to be responsible for your things – if anything happened it would be my fault, and it's not fair of you to ask me for that when we don't even know each other."


ps October 8, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Gee "Madachode", the linguistic master who has brought us terms such as "Missori", Tiolet" and "Kessler" AFB in Mississippi is quiet… must be on a Krispy Kreme and Piggly Wiggly run…


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