A warning for PDX travelers who check bags

Photo by Cheryl Landes

I rarely check bags, but didn’t have a choice this week. I wasn’t concerned, because I was flying into the Portland International Airport, and the waiting time for retrieving checked bags isn’t long. Usually I’m reunited with my bags within 10 to 20 minutes.

Yesterday, after a flight from Anchorage to Portland, I arrived late at the assigned carousel after all of the bags were unloaded because of an urgent phone call. Two bags waited on the carousel, but neither were mine.

I stopped at the Alaska Airlines baggage counter to check whether my bag was left there. It wasn’t.

The customer service agent entered my bag’s ID number in the computer. She said the bag was scanned to the carousel, meaning that the last time anyone scanned the bar code on the tag was when crews loaded my bag onto the carousel. Then the agent checked in the back of the baggage counter and talked to the ground crew, and no one saw my bag. The agent said it was stolen.

Bag thieves travel on the MAX to the end of the line at the airport, which is located near baggage claim. When bags are left on the carousel, the thieves grab the bags, return to the MAX, and go through the bags. The thieves look for valuables they can sell for drugs, the customer service agent said. After they retrieve anything they can sell, they discard the rest, along with the bag.

The customer service agent called the Port of Portland police to report the incident, and an officer arrived within minutes. He filled out a report. I provided a detailed description of the bag and contents.

The officer said that he would investigate, but he didn’t expect my bag to be returned.

The airlines will compensate for damaged and stolen bags, but there’s a five-day waiting period before passengers can file a claim. The customer service agent gave me a brochure with instructions on how to file a claim.

If you are flying into Portland and check bags, make sure you are at the assigned carousel before the bags are unloaded and retrieve your bags as soon as you see them.

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