This is the place to share your favorite travel stories of the mayhem and destruction that the airlines (or hotels, trains, buses or the like) have brought down on your luggage. My goal is to collect the best baggage annihilation stories from around the world in one place. Eventually, I’d like to compile enough great tales to make a book, preferably a hardback with a cover that is already bent and dented, not unlike a pair of pre-stressed jeans.

So I ask you to share your best stories. Submit them as comments to any post. I’ll review them and post them on the blog. And here’s the QUID PRO QUO (I used to be a lawyer so there had to be some Latin somewhere). The Quid – if you send me your story, you agree to let me use it on the blog and in any future books/publications that might surface some day in the future. The Pro – if I am lucky enough one day to get a great collection of tales, find a publisher who likes the idea, actually deliver a publishable manuscript, yada yada, yada, a book will spring forth. The Quo – if you send me your email with your post (promise I’ll only use it to contact you and share Gorilla stories), I’ll let you know if a book ever publishes and send you a free, signed first edition.

Please start posting your baggage blogs now, and together, maybe we can beat down the thundering herd of baggage breakers.


“Why me?”, as Alfred E. Neuman once blurted out. First, like most of you, I’m a victim. I’ve traveled for a living for years and have logged over a million miles on Delta alone. Just two weeks ago, they got me again! Arriving at Dulles International in Washington, D.C. for a Labor Day weekend wedding, my wife, son and I snaked through the Dulles labyrinth to the baggage claim area to collect our three Roll Aboards and one garment bag. This time the garment bag was the casualty. It came up the belt and slid down onto the carousel with its contents of suits and dresses spewing out in every direction. It was soon followed by my toothbrush and an aerosol can of shaving cream. I guess I’m lucky they didn’t try to charge me for two extra pieces of baggage. My other toiletries weren’t so lucky. Somewhere in the bowels of Dulles Airport, another baggage handler/Gorilla smells nice.

Second, and before we go further, an admission – I’ve been on both sides. I was once legal counsel to The Gorilla. No, not the International Baggage Handlers Union. The actual American Tourister Gorilla. First as a partner in a D.C. law firm, and later as Trademark Counsel for Hillenbrand Industries, the company that owned Tourister. The Gorilla was created to suggest that the luggage was strong enough to stand up against the real band of Gorillas, the one that lurks under every airport, merrily playing hurling games with our luggage. So I know Gorillas.

Me, The Gorilla (actually Hollywood actor Don McLeod) and my mentor and law partner Bill Mathis, in an earlier time

“Every ape needs a top attorney!”

You can also find me at
Leitten Consulting

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Capturing That Travel Feeling

I mention this article not because it is about possible fun in an airport, but because of the wonderful writing that captures the feeling I have every time I travel.  Congrats to Allison Arieff, who writes on architecture and design for the NYT but clearly travels a lot!

"Few who fly...coach ...would disagree that the entire experience of air travel from check-in to landing carries with it an overwhelming sense that everyone involved has simply given up.  ... Now that we’re entering the thick of the holiday travel season...we’ve been groped, scanned, forced to eat a Cinnabon and otherwise made to suffer the slings and arrows of air travel...."

Read more at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/17/can-airports-be-fun/?scp=1&sq=fun%20airport&st=cse.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Emotional Baggage

The title of this entry is compliments of my younger son, Steve.  I'm just back from a week of pre-holiday travel.  Every flight but one was fully booked.  And every airline seems to be adding new restrictions weekly.  It reminds me of the cult movie, Office Space, where someone needed to justify their job.  "But I'm a people person, dammit."

On USAir, you must remove your headphone plug from the electronic device before the plane can take off or land.  On Delta, computers can no longer be stored in the seat back pocket for takeoff or landing, and coats and jackets can not go into the overhead bins until all luggage has been put stored..  In RIC {Richmond, VA] Airport, TSA is apparently still searching for the Belt Bomber, so you still have an airport full of old men whose trousers keep falling down as they go through security.  Aren't suspenders inherently more dangerous?.  Remember David and Goliath!!!

So we have the perfect elements for little dictators to take over the friendly skies.  An emotional time of year with too many travelers; new regulations that can be arbitrarily enforced; more delays in checking in and boarding.  Today a flight attendant went through the plane systematically pulling down all the coats and jackets, making everyone wait until the luggage was stowed.   Then all the passengers had to get up from their window, middle and aisle seats and put their coats and jackets back in the exact spots the attendant had removed them from.  Departure delayed.  You all need to take your seats before the plane can depart the gate.

She then proceeded to tell me I had to turn off my iPod for takeoff.  When I told her it was off, she blurted' "I can still hear the music", even as I showed her that the headphones were unplugged!

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE -- please check it curbside with the SkyCap.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NAKED and not liking it

Last month I had my first "naked" scan.  I was herded into the device, told to raise my hands like I was being robbed, scanned and dismissed.  Didn't like it one bit, felt violated, but didn't have the time, energy or courage [I guess] to say "no".  I suspect that I am like the majority of travelers who don't like the idea but are willing to give up a piece of their personal liberty just to move on quickly.  Hope I won't regret that decision.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Guest Appearance on MondayNightRadio.com

Just appeared as a guest on MondayNightRadio.com, where I was invited to come on and talk about The Gorilla Ate My Luggage, share some luggage stories and talk about human behavior.

Hear how they all relate at http://www.mondaynightradio.com/what-baggage-do-you-bring-in-your-luggage/.  Look for the free iTunes link. Host Anne Mitchell gave the blog a great plug.

Thanks to Peter Shankman and HARO (www.helpareporter.com) for the lead to MondayNightRadio.

It Won't Fit in the Overhead!!

On a flight last week to Richmond, a woman came aboard and attempted to put her bag in the overhead compartment.  A gentleman offered to help but she demurred.  She proceeded to make three attempts to jam the suitcase in, but failed all three times.  A fight attendant approached and offered to help.  She watched as the passenger made her third attempt and then stated the obvious, "It isn't going to fit."  The attendant then suggested that the passenger remove some of her effects and flatten the bag enough to allow it to fit.

What happened next even took me, the seasoned traveler by surprise.  The passenger opened her bag and took out .... another carry on bag!!  She removed some of the contents of the bag, stuffed it into the second bag, and parked it right next to the first bag, which now fit in the overhead compartment.

Bottom line, she turned out to be an airline employee commuting from her home base in Atlanta to her job in another city.  So that's how you get around the one bag rule!!!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

To Be Fair: A Good Luggage Story

In the spirit of fairness, here's a story about the good side of damaged luggage. WARNING: it's boring, but it's good.

Hagarajam Sethuramah of Bangalore, India, writes in his blog of a recent trip from Detroit to Bangalore on Air France.  When he landed, his American Tourister suitcase arrived on the luggage carousel with sharp wires protruding from the area where the handle should have been, nearly drawing blood.

He immediately took it to the Air France representative in the baggage area, who immediately offered to fix the damage at their cost.  They sent a representative to his house the next day, picked up the damaged bag and returned it repaired with a new, matching handle a week later.  Kudos to Air France!  Boring!  http://www.geekytalk.snaga.net/2010/12/damaged-baggage-in-airtravel.html

Monday, October 18, 2010

A quick Non-Luggage Post - "Goodwill Hunting - Or Just Missing?"

Friday night while heading out of RIC, I heard the following conversation between 2 USAIR gate attendants, one of whom (Attendant #1) had just told a young woman that she would have to pay a full ticket change fee to get a flight to join her family to see her grandfather, who had turned seriously ill.  They talked openly in front of me as I was checking in:

Attendant #1 (to Attendant #2) - "Well, you could use some of your goodwill and give her a family medical waiver to avoid the fee."
Attendant #2 - "If I do, someone up the line will want to know more.  They'll inquire and I'll just end up getting blamed for doing the wrong thing.  IT's not worth it."
Attendant #1 - "I know, I've used up all my goodwill for many years to come."

Meanwhile, the poor young woman trying to get to her grandfather before he dies was left to wander the airport hunting for someone in USAIR who still had some goodwill left to give.

The Gorilla detests USelessAir!!!!!  

Quick, check the Philly Zoo to see if a Gorilla is missing!

Oct. 7, 2010 - PHILADELPHIA - US Airways workers loading a Bermuda-bound plane grew suspicious of another baggage handler and confronted him today.  When confronted, the man fled on a baggage-handling vehicle.  The 100+ passengers and crew were taken off US Airways Flight 1070 for more than four hours. The plane was surrounded by emergency vehicles and security dogs checked luggage spread on the ground near the jet. The flight finally left after 4 p.m.  A passenger reported that "TSA personnel, police and all kinds of guys in suits swarmed the plane.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Somewhere in Kuala Lumpur a Luggage Gorilla is Giggling

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian man pleaded guilty to wildlife smuggling after his bag bursting with 95 live boa constrictors broke open on a luggage conveyer belt at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Brief (case) Tale of Woe

Let me share a brief (case) tale of woe with you. This one went down in Cincinnati. The airport there is actually in Kentucky, not unlike the D.C. airports being in Virginia. Returning home from one of the many trips that flew me over the million mile mark, I headed for the baggage claim area. Tired of lugging baggage after a particularly grueling trip, I had checked both my suitcase and my briefcase. I had rarely checked a briefcase before, and never afterward!

Luggage in Cincinnati presents itself high atop the carousels, and then drops down a steep shoot onto the oval conveyor. I quickly retrieved my suitcase and stood waiting for the briefcase to arrive. Soon, I realized that all of my fellow travelers were gone. I stood alone, with the nagging feeling that a Gorilla was watching me from some hidden peep hole, smirking and giggling, knowing what was coming next. 

Moments later, my briefcase, or the pile previously known as my briefcase, arrived at the pinnacle of the carousel. Stuffed into a plastic bin, pieces of the briefcase frame jutted out amongst the strewn contents of the case like some bizarre airport sculpture. It hovered for a moment and then came crashing down onto the belt, papers, pens, pocket change and briefcase parts scattering in every direction.

While they eventually agreed to buy me a new briefcase, they insisted on getting their plastic bin back, leaving me to my own resources to get my pile home.