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'Full Upright and Locked Position': 7 (sometimes sobering) facts about air travel

From the facts about airline food to the truth about why bags get lost, writer and former FAA chief counsel Mark Gerchick takes a hard look at traveling by plane in "Full Upright and Locked Position."

- Staff Writer

Michael Vosberg/The Forum/AP

4. Where does the bag go?

Gerchick identified the process by which a bag is checked and showed how a piece of luggage might get "mishandled" along the way. When you give your suitcase to a check-in agent, a bag tag is attached to it, bearing your flight number, a three-letter airport code, and a bar code. The bag then goes onto a conveyer belt heading to security screening. Your bag could get sent to the wrong place if the wrong destination number is used or if the tag is somehow ripped. Once in the screening area, TSA workers examine your bag and then move it to a station near your boarding gate. But if something TSA considers suspicious is spotted in your bag or a strap snags on something on the belt, your luggage may get delayed. Finally, once your bag reaches the area near the boarding gate, it gets loaded onto the plane. However, bags can either fall off the cart en route to the plane or simply arrive there too late.


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