It’s a travel axiom that when taking connecting flights, it’s better to carry on your luggage. But sometimes axioms can be wrong, because it can result in missing your connection, as a client found out this weekend.

Carrying your own luggage definitely increases the chances of arriving at a destination on the same flight as your bag. On the other hand, lugging a heavy bag while racing through an airport can slow you down.

But, chances are, you’ll be better off; except when you aren’t. Here’s the scenario.

A passenger was traveling from San Jose via Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole, so there weren’t many options. She could either chance an admittedly tight 41-minute connection at 10:10 a.m. (the minimum is 30 minutes between Delta flights), or leave on a 6 a.m. flight and wait almost five hours. The traveler decided to risk it.

Upon getting to the gate at San Jose Airport, she was told that her small carry-on bag, while acceptable with most flights, was too big for the regional jet. She had to gate-check it, which meant she had to pick up the bag in the Jetway upon landing.

The flight was slightly delayed in San Jose, but still landed in Salt Lake City with 20 minutes to spare. Since it’s not that large an airport, and the gates weren’t too far apart, it seemed like a tight-but-makeable connection.

Alas, for whatever reason, there was a delay in bringing the gate-checked bags to the Jetway. Even so, she figured it would be okay, especially since Delta knew about the connecting passengers. Plus, she went directly to the departure gate for Jackson Hole as fast as she could, once she got the bag.

The plane was still at the gate, but she had missed Delta’s 10-minute cut off. The agent said they had just closed the door and the best Delta would offer was a flight the next day — 21 hours later.

Now, had the traveler checked her bag, rather than carrying it on, it might or might not have made it onto the flight. But, she would have made the flight to Jackson Hole with a few minutes to spare.

After a night in a local Comfort Inn by the airport and a lost vacation day, she would have taken a day in Jackson Hole without her luggage rather than an overnight in Salt Lake City.

With a situation like this, do any readers have suggestions about what might have been done differently, or better?

Does customer service seem to be lacking when the plane is sitting at the Jetway prior to its scheduled departure and a passenger is faced with an overnight stay instead of delaying the departure by a couple of minutes?

Photo: By redlegsfan21 from Flickr Creative Commons