New Airport Check-in Policies Leave Travelers Holding the Bag

Of all the policy changes that have taken place at airports over the past few years, one of the most curious is accepting the luggage. Or should I say, not accepting the luggage.

Most travelers probably recall the days when you would heave your luggage onto the metal scale at the check-in counter, the attendant would weigh it, tag it, then lift it off the scale, turn 180 degrees and drop your bags onto a moving conveyor belt behind him or her. Finally free from your burdensome baggage you would gleefully flit away from the counter, unencumbered, towards your vacation destination.

“Once I get rid of my bags, I feel like I’m officially on vacation,” my husband used to sigh contentedly as we floated away from check-in.

Then, one day, as we turned to leave for California, the check-in attendant called us back.

“Take your luggage over there,” she quipped.


“Over to the luggage drop-off area,” she pointed.

I stared at the 150 pounds of bulky baggage resting on the scale that I thought I’d just ditched.

But wouldn’t it be easier if you just threw it onto the conveyor belt behind you so I don’t have to shlep it through all these other people who I notice are also unhappily taking their luggage back from other check-in attendants and appear to all be headed in the same direction, directly through the cross-traffic of more people with their bags rushing towards the check-in counter at the same time? I wanted to say.

Besides, I just finally got my purse situated back on my shoulder.

Still confused, we reclaimed our four suitcases from the scale and jostled our way over to the luggage drop-off area to bid our final adieus to it. Again.

To this day whenever I travel I wonder why what seemed to be an efficient, one-stop luggage-drop was K.O.’d in favor of a cumbersome, two-step square dance leaving the travelers holding the bags. I’ve thought of asking but I’ve seen what the TSA can do to you if airport personnel decides they don’t like your attitude.

Recently I noticed a similarly inefficient baggage drop-off procedure at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in Florida during our family Christmas trip, except for one small difference – passengers stand in line to drop off their luggage after checking in, and are actually cordoned off and only allowed through a few at a time, causing a longer wait to part with your luggage than to go through security.

“After this they’ll have us take it past the bomb-sniffing dogs and the anthrax detection center,” my daughter hee-hawed aloud as our group of five waited in line to present our bags.

“Um, ix-nay on the omb-bay okes-jay,” I said to my daughter, making a slicing motion across my throat with my finger.

“And I don’t think you can say ‘Anthrax’ either,” I whispered. (I’d have said it in pig Latin but it sounds the same.)

This is the same kid who studied her nails as she and her friend paused near the cockpit while boarding a plane to Las Vegas a few months ago and remarked, “I need some nail clippers! Chris, do you have any nail clippers on you?”

The cabin suddenly fell silent and all flight attendants turned their heads toward my daughter, still obliviously assessing her nails. Chris, who is a frequent and savvy flyer, responded loudly and dramatically, “NO, CARRIE, I DON’T HAVE ANY NAIL CLIPPERS. THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED ON AIRPLANES.”

Which is really too bad. Because that’s about all it would take to get rid of that rope to drop off these 10 bags before my daughter gets us arrested.