Friday, March 18, 2011

Losing Luggage

At the turn of the last century only the wealthy could afford leisure travel and they traveled in style. Fashionable passengers were known to travel with whole “mountains” of luggage, including enough steamer trunks, cases, hat boxes and cosmetic kits to do up a full-scale Broadway production…each. Whether emigrating to the new world or spending a few months abroad on holiday there were logical and influential reasons for carrying around so much stuff. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that lots of luggage signaled the arrival of the well-to-do with only slightly smaller wardrobe requirements.Who buys a full matching set of luggage today, seriously?

Other than, perhaps, the largest families who might have a need to visit Grandma the latest, minimalist trends in society heap scorn on the followers of conspicuous consumption. No "set of matching executive luggage with the genuine leather embellishments and initials" from Hyachinth "It's "Bouquet" Bucket today without facing loads of derision for her ostentation and sense of lording it over the common folks who often share one bag between every two of them. There are also the realities of traveling in the 21st century compared to the logistics of 100 years ago.

With arguably the single exception of a transatlantic crossing that still takes about as long today as it did when the Mauretania plied the route, intercontinental travel today takes hours instead of weeks. In this fast paced carry-on only world around us now it is not uncommon to bop off to the hinterlands for little more than a weekend. Most of us only need a couple changes of underwear, one casual and one dress pair of shoes and something for the evening just in case, all of which has to pass muster with airport security. Compare that to travel back in the day where the journey could span up to several months in duration. Hey, if it took forever and cost an arm and a leg to get there one wasn’t inclined to turn around and head right back home. The first week alone was just unpacking everything and very much getting one’s health back! After that trips that spanned seasons meant bringing seasonal clothes. Society functions in major cities added to the complexity of the accoutrements where the calendar could easily include the horses, the theater and any number of dinners, teas and premiers.

A couple of decades ago the re-envisioned Frontier Airlines charged $3 per bag for checked luggage while the major carriers sneered openly that theirs was the type of service that wouldn’t dream of such an outrage. USAirways, just one of many, sets its baggage allowance weight at 50 pounds per bag, charges $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second. Anything between 51 and 70 pounds is assessed $90 while 71 to 100 pounds hauls in $175 per bag; that last one had been recently increased the overweight charge from $100. Soooo…we’re up to $200 just for the first bag on one airline where the second bag starts at $35 before any overweight charges. Three or more bags start at $125 each but it gets more interesting from there. International bags are free for up to the first two depending on the destination but the second bag can cost $55 if traveling to Europe while the third bag can fetch $200 for Europe or Israel. At least domestic bags after the first two are not on a scale – bags three through nine are $125 each and all of this, domestic and international alike, is still before any overweight charges. Oh, oversized bags run $175 apiece.

Those high society travelers on the steamships of yesteryear? What about those $198 round trip tickets to Florida with the kids? Compare the excess baggage fees with the hotel budget is for the same trip and you get the idea.

Gotta go.

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