THE BLOG

10,000 Lost Bags in Paris

12/28/2009 02:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A friend told me a joke last night about lost baggage. He went to the ticket counter to check in three bags. "I'd like this one to be sent to Copenhagen. This one should be sent to Istanbul. And the third bag should be sent to London."

"I'm sorry, sir," the clerk politely replied. "What you ask is impossible. We cannot offer you that service." To which the passenger replied: "Well you sent these bags to those three locations six months ago...!"

Should lost and delayed baggage be given frequent flier miles? And on which airlines? Consider the following journey of one bag ... a backpack ... from our family's youngest member, as it traveled the world over the Christmas holidays without its owner.

The bag was originally checked in at Denver's DIA, enroute to Madrid (MAD). It made it as far as Atlanta, on Delta Airlines, where it sat for several days. It was then put on a plane to Madrid.

However, the passenger had traveled to Montpellier (MPL), France, and then by train to Marselles. So nearly five days later, the undelivered bag was routed on Iberia Airlines from Madrid to Montpellier. However, by then, the passenger had travelled on to Paris.

The bag was eventually returned to Madrid, where it boarded an Air France flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).

As of December 24th, there were more than 10,000 lost and delayed bags trying to make their way out of the Charles de Gaulle airport. I learned this bit of disheartening information after several timed out calls via Skype, and two 45-minute waits on the telephone back in the U.S.

What makes this particular bag I'm writing about stand out from the 10,000 other bags in Paris, is this is a prototype backpack. That is, a new prototype backpack that was intended to change the way young travelers wander the world. When the young inventor and his backpack are reunited, you can change that number to 9,999 bags still lost in Paris. And London? And New York? And Chicago?

Hopefully, delivery trucks in Paris -- and at weather challenged airports around the world -- can tuck in a few more suitcases among last minute Christmas gifts, to deliver to their happy recipients.

In our case, we did the math first, then asked Air France to HOLD the bag in Air France baggage claim. With 10,000 lost bags and perhaps 100 delivery trucks moving baggage out, it could take days, years, or never... to try to connect those lost bags with their traveling owners.