Maura Benson

For someone who doesn’t like to fly, I am ironically starting to feel like a seasoned traveler. The latest adventure was a fun family trip to Florida, just the baby and me. My 13 month old son is generally pretty easy going (more-so than his momma!), but I was worried about having to wrangle the new walker for 3 hours in the confined space of an airplane. As is typical, I didn’t buy him his own ticket and instead pinned my hopes on a vacant seat, allowing me to then use his, not yet, lost car seat I got few months ago thanks to the helpful review I found online.

Because of my aviation fears and travel anxiety in general, I tend to pack in advance (like WEEKS in advance) and read any and every possible tip for traveling with little ones. My initial plan was to go light- small carry-on, light diaper bag and no car seat or stroller. I ended up with a moderately sized carry-on, a very heavy diaper bag and just the car seat, which I considered a successful plan. I checked my rolling suitcase, placed the car seat in its handled bag, strapped baby to me in his Ergo carrier and made my way through the airport. I am always grateful for the number of offers I receive for help, but felt pretty good about my set-up (and secretly like a rock star, “I got this” mom), so declined most of them.

Gary all set-up for his flight

How it Happened To Become The ‘Lost Car Seat’

I knew from the beginning that my plane was completely full and there was no possibility of getting the car seat on. But due to the numerous posts I have read about the benefits of gate-checking baby gear, and the controversy involved compared to using general baggage check, I still took it with me. We boarded and were just about to the airplane door when a nice gentleman- dressed in pilot attire, so assuming he was one, offered to carry my over-sized black bag the rest of the way. Fast-forward to deplaning and my surprise when my car seat was not outside the plane door as usual. Initially I was told that that they would send my lost car seat to the regular baggage claim terminal.

I must preface this with “mistakes happen” and I am still 100% behind the airline I chose to fly and will continue to use them. But I wasn’t really offered an explanation why this would be the case when the other gate checked baby items were sitting and waiting for their respective owners. The reasoning that my item would be in regular checked baggage seemed illogical- had I not been heading there to retrieve my suitcase anyway I would have felt  inconvenienced and that perhaps the response was simply an excuse not to help me further.

In other words, I think it was probably also obvious to the airport employee assisting me that the car seat likely never made it on the plane back in Chicago. But without more questioning I made my way to baggage claim. Not surprisingly, the car seat never showed up. I trekked with my luggage, baby and diaper bag to the baggage handling office of the airline and waited in line, for about 40 minutes, to inquire about my lost car seat. A report was made and they immediately provided me with a loaner car seat- perhaps the best part of the customer service experience.

I headed to my family’s home, with the expectation that my car seat would be arriving on another flight that day and be shipped overnight to me. By the following morning they still had not “located” it- I learned that this term actually means it hadn’t shown up at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, I don’t actually believe they have any system in place to find it.

My car seat did eventually arrive and was shipped to my departure airport, I was able to easily and quickly return the loaner and was also given a $50 travel voucher. All-in-all, things could be worse and the experience certainly wasn’t much more than an inconvenience. However there are a few things that worried me about the entire process. For one, with respect to security, how can they lose something that has a tag with a bar code printed on it?

Perhaps I am naive to believe that every item on a plane is traceable, but I find it mildly disheartening that an item traveled on various and unknown planes, according to the airline, before finally arriving where it was needed. I was also told that I was wrong to be worried about possible damage to my car seat after its mystery journey- apparently a gate checked item gets put down a chute and is no better protected than regular luggage.

As I was writing this post, I did discover some damage, that although visibly minor makes it unusable as a travel system; the plastic where the car seat clamps into the stroller is completely bent. And it’s a hard plastic, I can’t even picture what could have occurred to cause such damage. Needless to say we are reaching out to the airlines for a replacement. I have gate checked it several times without issue, so I am doubting the representative’s claim that it’s all handled the same way.

Stay tuned for an update on how the airline handles things!

Have you ever had a lost car seat or damaged object beyond repair by the airlines?

Category: Family Free Time

Tags: airplane