News.com reported in a recent article that 26 million suitcases a year go missing with airline travel world wide. This article was in association with one suitcase stuffed with $900,000 which went mission at Hong Kong International Airport and one might imagine the drama.
But what interests me was not this particular story but the multiple reasons why suitcases might go missing.
26 million is not a small figure. I'm trying here to get your imagination into a logistical framework as to just how many bags 26 million looks like. We have all seen in news photos, historical books, newsreels, documentaries and films the Nazi's carting away the Jews during WWII.
Everyone seems to be carrying a suitcase or bag of some kind. 6,000,000 Jews were slaughtered under the Nazi's and there were suitcases and bags to be dispensed with upon arrival at the death camps. The name given to such a facility at Auschwitz Berkanau was called 'Canada' and it was here that each suitcase / bag was emptied and the contents sifted for whatever would have been valuable to the Third Reich.
This happened in every Nazi concentrations camp and the task at hand was quite overwhelming – the Nazi's abandoned the task as the Russians got closer and closer in the final days of WWII.
Here's the rub – that was 6,000,000 suitcases and bags over a concentrated 4 year period during WWII.
But we're talking today not about 6,000,000 suitcases going missing, rather over 4.5 times that number in one single year – 26,000,000. Can your imagination even consider such a figure and what might be involved.
Three personal stories
In 1984 after the LA Olympics and a further 8 day US study tour of US Sports Ministry. An Australian friend the late Wayne Tremain was living in America at the time and drove me to LAX and handled my suitcase.
The huge tall African American, the porter, waiting to direct suitcases in the right direction for an appropriate tip, called out to us when he saw the tag: "Austria, no Alaska, no Albania ..." - then Wayne slipped him $10 and he called, "As yes, Australia". So off my suitcase went in the right direction with the right tag and Wayne was $10 the poorer.
A second story was my son's bag missed a transfer on one occasion, it took a bit of chasing up, but eventually it turned up, not on the next flight but the one after. It meant a special trip to the Gold Coast airport as we lived close. We are aware that this sort of thing happens from time to time.
A third story related to one my suitcases going missing, I was in Melbourne, it had been sent to Sydney rather than Brisbane, and how that happened was a bit of a mystery. I was the Australian cricket team chaplain at the time and this created a bit of flurry and the outcome was that once it came back to Brisbane, the airline had a courier deliver it to where I was staying.
These three stories relate to suitcases and bags being found and then redirected to where it should have gone in the first instance. Many people have such experiences.
It is an entirely different situation with lost luggage – not mislaid luggage. Here is a short list of reasons these things happen
- Not tagged properly and the tag goes missing
- Additional name tags not on the suitcase
- CTT has blind spots which are known to the crooks
- Plain sloppy bag handling
- Professional gangs
- Bags falling off trolleys and sent to lost property
Too many to follow up – the insurance will pay
Even with all these contingencies which actually happen when engaged in international travel, it seems ludicrous that 26,000,000 such items would simply vanish.
Here are some conspiracy theories for your consideration.
Some Airlines and some insurance companies are in cahoots
Some third world countries airline baggage staff are not paid enough
Mafia types determine who gets employed as an airline bag handler
To suppose that 26,000,000 suitcases and bags would just disappear off the face of the earth on every 12 month period is even beyond reasonable belief.
Human error would bear the brunt of some of this 26,000,000 – but it left me considering how affluent we are to be even able to travel in such an opulent manner and with suitcases full of beautiful clothes many goodies besides (such a gifts to loved ones and friends).
So that bought me to the next consideration, I wondered what Jesus might have done in such a situation. We already know he said take nothing as you go – and many young and older travellers have taken this on board and only ever take carry-on luggage and purchase whatever they need while away.
Final comment - now why didn't the proverbial Aunt Mabel think of that - as she pushed and tugged the kitchen sink - into her suitcase each time she travelled - much to the despair and chagrin of Uncle Albert! Many of us know this story all to well!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html