Foiled by the disappearing gate check act

Zachary Matson boarded a Southwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Chicago earlier this month with his Apple laptop in his carry-on baggage. Unfortunately, the flight crew informed him that his bag was too full and they would need to check it.

He never received a claim ticket from the airline employee who took his bag, and when he arrived and waited at baggage claim, his bag never appeared. He filed an incident report with Southwest the same day.

This is a good opportunity to clarify that while I’m well-known for advocating the use of carry-on luggage, you should always use a bag that’s small enough to meet size regulations.

And use common sense. Even though I love maximizing the space in my carry-on, it’s pretty obvious you’ve crammed too much stuff in there if the front is protruding noticeably, your bag tips over when you let go of the handle, or otherwise looks like it is about to burst at the seams.

If any of these signs are present, you’ll likely have to gate check.

I also think it should go without saying that you should always ensure you get a claim ticket.

I digress. Matson’s mother is actually the one who reached out to us for help, and she says his lost laptop is required for his classes at Columbia College in Chicago. She describes his bag as black, carry-on size, with a large “X” on the back, no name on the luggage, and US Bank paperwork inside. The paperwork is for a new joint checking account with both her and her son’s names on the forms. She also understandably notes that there is no way she can afford to replace a $1,700 computer.

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She says she has been writing to the Southwest email address provided on our company contacts page, but the notes keep bouncing back. She says she also reached out to Southwest via Facebook — both publicly and through private messages.

I’ll gloss over the fact that a senior in college is relying on his mother to chase down his lost bag, and stress over the cost of his computer, as well as the mention of the new joint checking account. At the end of the day, these details don’t matter. What matters is another airline customer is in a tenuous situation caused by disappearing luggage. And that’s why we do what we do.

So, what should Matson and his mother do?

First of all, Matson’s mother unfortunately did not provide us with additional information regarding follow-up calls to Southwest to check on the incident report her son filed the day the luggage was lost, so we can’t be sure what specific communications have come from the company regarding the status of the luggage.

If she has indeed hit endless roadblocks and received incomplete information, we recommend reaching out to the specific executive contacts listed on our company contacts page. It sounds like she only reached out to the general email address provided (and we thank her for letting us know about the bouncebacks).

It’s been three weeks since the bag was lost. Southwest policy states that if a bag has not been located within 5 days of filing an initial report with the Baggage Service Office (which Matson’s mother says he did immediately), there is a form to fill out to file a property loss claim. This should definitely be Matson’s (or, likely his mother’s) next step.

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In the event that Matson’s mother has exhausted all resources available to her, or receives no response to her submission of a property loss claim, should we step in?

Should we advocate for Zachary Matson?

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Heather Dratler

Lover of all things travel and hospitality, both from a personal and professional standpoint. A PR pro by day, I've represented a wide variety of clients in the travel industry since 2008. Sharing my passion for and knowledge of travel makes me happy. Cornell University graduate. Follow me on Twitter @HeatherLori7.

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