If you attend a family function in the Piehl household, the transportation industry will typically be a topic of conversation. It might sound weird but it’s in our blood. For more than 30 years, Papa Piehl has worked at Harley-Davidson, Mama Piehl is a veteran airline employee, and I was a Harley-Davidson service advisor in college and I now work on a variety of automotive clients.
But as much as Papa Piehl and I know about combustion engines, the open road, and the best way to order shots in a packed bar, our knowledge pales in comparison to Mama Piehl’s knowledge of the airline industry and the power wielded by gate agents, ticket counter employees, and lost baggage staff. Even if you’re a road warrior that puts on thousands of miles a year, Mama Piehl will give you a run for your money as her experience and passion for the airline industry has helped her survive two furloughs, a company buyout and restructuring, and three consecutive years of the airline cutting flights, costs, and staff.
So in honor of the Mother’s Day in the UK, here is some expert travel advice from Mama Piehl – a veteran airline employee with a specialty in lost bags.
- Be incredibly nice to the airline employees – especially the ticket counter and gate agents. They have the ability to upgrade you seat, get your checked bag on a flight even if it’s within an hour of flight time and “find a seat” for you if someone doesn’t show up on time. (Bonus tip: Airline employees also have the support of airport security if someone becomes aggressive or hostile towards them. And no I’m not talking about TSA, I’m talking about the gun-slinging airport police and sheriff officers.)
- Before you leave for the airport, put inside a plastic paper sleeve in each bag containing a large piece of paper with your name, contact info, flight number, destination and date. This way if your paper luggage tag falls off or becomes unreadable, someone can open you bag, know where it is supposed to be and they know how to contact you.
- Don’t put anything in your bag that you might need within 24 hours of landing. This includes keys, medication or if you’re in a wedding, you’re tux or bridesmaid dress.
- If someone is missing a bag, it is super important that they report it before leaving the airport. Claims for missing bags for all airlines have to be reported within 4 hours. If a claim is filed within four hours, then the airline is responsible for locating the bag, interim expenses ($3,000+), delivery of the bag (and reimbursement if necessary).
- If possible, the person filing the claim should give a couple of phone numbers, and make sure that they leave with a claim receipt.
- By filing the claim before leaving the airport, the airline can double check all secure areas for the bag. Many times a lost bag is found on a cart, still in the plane, or on the belt in the tunnel (before it makes it way to the public).
Beyond the arena of lost bags, Mama Piehl was the driving force that made sure my sisters and I visited all 50 states before my little sister Erin graduated from college and she is the voice in the back of our minds that tells me to put my book down during road trips and look out the windows.
Happy British Mother’s Day! (And safe travels to everyone else.)
Lost bags photo source: Map the Gap
Keep Calm and Carry On luggage tag photo source: Amazon