Dude! where’s my luggage?

August 9, 2008 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

There’s a certain airline I’ve travelled with on two occasions and, both times, said airline has managed to lose my luggage. First time around, I wasn’t that fazed. After all, airlines handle loads of luggage everyday around the world – something is bound to go missing. So my luggage was a statistic and I had to wait 24 hours for it to be flown from Madrid to Lisbon. What irked me then was that the airline in question never responded to my two official complaints that I left in the complaints book at Lisbon airport (the book gets sent to Madrid so airline reps can respond. I did note then the book was pretty thick with complaints).

Well, I’m clearly not a very good KM person because I didn’t learn from my mistake. On this holiday, we travelled from Rome to Portugal on the very same airline via Madrid. Like last time I flew this airline, take-off was late (25 mins this time). As we arrived in Madrid, the flight steward was talking about connecting flights and that H2 gate was for Lisbon. What they didn’t say was that the plane was arriving at gate H2. Because we were late in taking off, we had missed our connecting flight and so we rushed out like mad things to find gate H2. We get to the top of the ramp after a brisk sprint, urgently look around for gate H2 and turn around to find we had just rushed out of…. H2! At this point, I was wondering why they didn’t know that H2 would be the same gate for the Lisbon flight, but gave them the benefit of the doubt.

We then find that we would be going on the very same plane to Lisbon – so you wouldn’t think they could lose two rather large, colourful pieces of luggage would you? Obviously, they unloaded the luggage of passengers leaving the flight in Madrid but how hard is it to read a luggage tag that says luggage is going onward to Lisbon on the very same plane with the very same crew?

The flight out to Lisbon also left late. This airline seems very consistent in being late I’ll say that. As we boarded the flight, we asked the check-in dude “can you tell us if our luggage is on this flight?” as I had memories of the last time. Said dude responded “yes”, although I was looking at the computer screen and didn’t think he had even looked at the screen. I wonder now if he just said yes to dispose of us.

So…we arrive at Lisbon airport. Waiting at the luggage carousel. Other passengers connect with their luggage and happily trot off. We wait and wait and wait. Our bright green and red luggage is nowhere to be seen. So we go to Groundforce, who track luggage at Lisbon airport via a worldwide computer system. We showed them our ticket stubs with the luggage receipt and barcode but……our luggage cannot be tracked. We’re told that the system only tracks 50% of luggage – what the? What kind of system is this? So there was no record of our luggage. We didn’t even have the comfort of knowing that our luggage was in the system and would appear on some later flight from Madrid.

The Groundforce people said there was nothing they could do except log the issue. They muttered something about the airline providing 100.00 Euros after 24 hours. Fat lot of good that would do! I had visions of my favourite lipglosses never being found and having to wear the same clothes for the next three weeks. I went to the airline’s desk to leave (yet another) official complaint, not really believing that they would ever respond, after all the previous two complaints went unheeded.

We then went to our Lisbon accommodation and fretted. We had to leave for Portimao in the South the very next morning but without luggage what would we do? My husband wondered whether he should camp out at Lisbon airport like he did the last time but decided to wait until the morning and we could ring the number we’d been given. By early morning, our luggage still had not been located (this was about 12 hours later). Then….about 2 hours later, the bags were located…still sitting in Madrid. So we had to wait until the airline would put the bags on a plane to Lisbon. Just over 24 hours later, we got our luggage back but one of the bags had been damaged so badly it was useless. So…off to the Complaints book yet again and we made a claim for compensation.

Now, really: I know that running an airline must be tough. But Qantas has taken me all over the world for at least 15 years and never once lost my bags. Even Aeroflot didn’t lose them on the way to Moscow when I was sitting in “first class” next to a crate of chickens (a long time ago!). LAM LInhas Aereas de Mocambique hasn’t lost my luggage nor has Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Delta, US Air, BA, Air France and I could go on.

Ironically, I was reading a book on brands at the time of this incident. The book highlighted that trust is the basis of a brand. You trust the brand, you trust their products. So is this airline a ‘brand”? Not in my view. I can’t trust it to get my luggage from Madrid to Lisbon (only a one hour flight). I can’t trust it to respond to my complaints (three complaints now). I can’t trust it to take-off on time. I can’t trust it to deliver me to another airport on time to make a connecting flight. Even my step-kids, who are French, told me that this airline had lost their luggage and my step-son had to wait for one week before his was retrieved. The airline? Iberia.

As we waited at the airport for news of our luggage, even the people at Lisbon airport shook their heads and said “we’re dealing with Spain”. Now, maybe you’ve had a good experience with Iberia. Maybe I’ve just had a run of bad luck. I wouldn’t mind so much if Iberia bothered to respond to me. They did eventually email an automated response saying they couldn’t find any details of our compensation for luggage claim. Seems they’ve lost that too. I asked the Iberia reps at Lisbon airport for a customer service manager or PR person to contact. They had no names to give me. So Iberia: I await a response. Give me a call: I’d be happy to come over to Madrid and do some consulting work for you, starting with Customer Service 101: How to Respond to Your Passengers 🙂

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Entry filed under: Rant.

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