Part I, in which my ostensibly gate-checked carry on travels 12,000 miles without me:
A few days ago I chronicled my gate checked bag saga. To quickly recap what happened:
- We were flying Atlanta to New York on Delta and New York to Sao Paulo on American
- We were forced to gate check our bags in Atlanta because we were accidentally downgraded, and it took the agent ~20 minutes to reissue our tickets
- Our gate checked bags didn’t make it to Sao Paulo, meaning we were left without any of our belongings
- The agent assured us our bags would be held at New York JFK, since we were flying back there the same evening
- Upon returning to JFK the following morning we were informed our bags had actually been sent to Sao Paulo
After spending nearly 90 minutes at JFK filing a report, the agent assured us our bags would be sent to our respective homes, and would be departing on a flight from Sao Paulo to Dallas that evening. Sure enough that seemed to be the case, and the following evening I received a notification that my bag would be delivered to my apartment that night. I was thrilled when the driver called and informed me he’d be there in a few minutes.
I ran downstairs out of excitement, and when he opened the trunk I had a bit of an “oh $*&%” look on my face — it wasn’t my bag!
They had sent me my friend’s bag, and had delivered my bag to my friend in Tulsa.
We were very clear about which bag should go where, and the printout we were given of the report even confirmed that.
So I called up the American baggage services desk and got a lovely agent that refiled the report, which took about an hour. Ultimately we decided the best option was for me to bring the bag to the airport, and then they’d send it to my friend in Tulsa, and that he’d do the same on his end.
I drove out to the airport, went to the baggage office, where I got a confused look from the agent when I said I’m returning a bag. He spent a good five minutes reading through the notes in the file, and said “wow, this is the most complicated baggage report I’ve ever read.”
The following day my bag was being sent from Tulsa to Seattle via Dallas, and I was in contact with the baggage services desk throughout the day to make sure my bag was actually being loaded on each flight. The baggage services agent recommended that I call American shortly after the Dallas to Seattle flight departed to ensure it had been scanned onto the flight, so that I didn’t make another trip to the airport in vain.
So I phoned back an hour after the Dallas to Seattle flight took off, and got a rather odd agent at the baggage services desk. I explained that I wanted to see if my bag was scanned onto the Dallas to Seattle flight, because I was hoping to pick it up upon landing.
He said “yes, it was scanned onto the flight, though there’s no way to know whether it’ll make it to Seattle or not.”
I asked for clarification — “sorry, I might be missing something, but if the bag was scanned onto the plane, doesn’t that mean it’ll go to Seattle?”
“No sir, that’s not how it works.”
At that point I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere, so hung up.
I decided to drive to the airport anyway, and when I got to the baggage services office the agent once again read through the file and said “no, we don’t have your bag.”
I nearly lost it at that point, but the other agent had the sense to check the back room and found it there, so I was finally reunited with my bag. Woohoo!
I know I’m a little nuts, but I have a bit of an emotional connection with my carry-on. There aren’t many material things I care about, but as someone that’s constantly on the road and rather introverted, my carry-on is one of the things always with me.
Heck, I hate to admit it, but even though I picked up a new Tumi Alpha International recently, I have a really hard time leaving my Tumi T-Tech in the closet. We’ve traveled the world together, and I kind of hate to see it spending the rest of its life collecting dust in my closet — there are so many more places we could see together!
Part II, in which it’s good I have a blog, because the most ridiculous things happen to me in airports:
As I took a picture of my bag to post on Instagram, a lady seated at a desk maybe 100 feet away yelled “Hey handsome, come over here!”
For obvious reasons I assumed she wasn’t talking to me — there are many things I’m called on a daily basis (just look at the comments section of this blog) — but handsome ain’t one of them! So I kept walking and she yelled again at the top of her lungs “Hey you! Come here now!”
At this point I’m thinking she’s some overly security conscious person concerned about the picture I took of my carry-on, so decide (against my better judgement) to go and talk to her.
As I get to the desk she leans over and says “there are cameras facing this desk and the police station is right next door.”
At this point I’m not sure whether I’m being held at gunpoint or what, because it sure felt like one of those movies where they say “if you say anything we’ll shoot.”
She continues with “do you want to feed two broken families this Christmas?”
I always hate when questions are asked that way, because there’s no way to say “no.”I mean, of course I want to feed “broken” families! Who doesn’t?
I’m all for charity, but generally I’d rather give on my own terms where I can verify the charity personally and get a tax deduction for it. But she made a good sales pitch and asked for a donation. I asked if they took credit cards, she said no, but told me there was an ATM 54 feet away — yes, 54 feet.
So in addition to selling me on the idea of a donation in general, she talked me into going over there, picking up cash, and giving it to her. Rather odd interaction, but I guess I should be happy about the fact that my lost bag helped feed two “broken” families?
Part III, in which I am further confused:
On another note, in the four years I’ve been flying American, I don’t think I’ve written to customer relations even once, because on the whole American takes great care of me. My love affair with their Twitter team is pretty well-documented, and I’ve never needed to get Customer Care involved.
After this experience, however, I did send a brief note. To be clear, my issue wasn’t that the bag didn’t make it to the destination to begin with, but rather how things were handled afterwards:
- After the bag didn’t make it to Sao Paulo it was supposed to be held in New York, but instead was sent to Sao Paulo anyway
- Despite that screw up, and speaking directly to the agents tagging the bags, they sent me the wrong bag
In the end I spent over two hours in the baggage services office, two hours on the phone with the baggage services desk, and had to drive to the airport two extra times. So I emailed American to share my disappointment not in the bag being lost to begin with, but the subsequent service failures.
On the plus side they responded within 10 hours, on the down side the response wasn’t even relevant:
We are glad you took the time to share your impressions of our service. It’s good to know that our efforts are noticed by our customers. We want to do all we can to help to make your travels with us enjoyable. At the same time, it’s important that we know about situations which require our attention so that we can improve. In view of the details you provided, it is clear we have some work to do.
No doubt it was disappointing to arrive at your destination without your bags. The timely transportation of our customers’ belongings has our focus and we will continue to do all we can to prevent the kind of aggravating situation you endured.
As a gesture of goodwill, we have added 10,000 bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account. This adjustment will be reflected in your account very soon.
Mr. Schlappig, again, thank you for contacting us. Most importantly, thank you for flying American Airlines.
That’s a rather disappointing response as an Executive Platinum member, in my opinion — not because of the compensation, but because the response doesn’t even begin to address the concern that was the focus of my email.
Anyway, happy to finally be reunited with my bag again!