14 September 2014
I’ve been a constant traveller since my first gap year visit to India. My destinations are still exciting, but my accommodation and mode of transport have become more comfortable. I’ve swapped my backpack for a more salubrious case.
So it was bound to happen to me eventually. That moment that all travellers dread. Bleary-eyed recognition that your luggage hasn’t arrived with you after a long, exhausting journey.
I was already planning my quick getaway from the airport, my e-passport assuring me of a quick transit through immigration. Whilst waiting at the baggage carousel, I conducted a mental checklist of “things to declare” to Quarantine. It seemed that I had plenty of time to review the list, as the slow trickle of bags on the carousel finally stopped. My well-travelled luggage was missing.
It was the end of a 102 hour odyssey from Vancouver to Perth. Our journey had taken my family on an unusual route of Vancouver, Los Angeles, Dubai, Jakarta, Denpasar and finally home. I was understandably weary, perhaps even a bit odorous, but still had my sense of humour.
“These things happen”, I thought as I approached Baggage Services.
Unfortunately, the Dubai-based airline responsible for the loss had no staff on duty, but the helpful attendant promised to pass my details on.
I was confident that my bag would arrive soon. The nice flight attendant on the Dubai to Jakarta leg had already apologised for my bags not joining me on that sector and beyond to Denpasar and Perth. I was almost a little bit jealous when it was explained that our bags would travel on the direct flight from Dubai to Perth, arriving home before we did.
It took my family and me a couple of days to rise from the fog of sleep deprivation.
Something in my normal holiday routine was missing. The excitement of unpacking those new, well-chosen purchases, the special presents purchased for friends, and the surprise of finding things that I forgot I bought.
It’s now nine weeks since we returned from our holiday. I’ve given up all hope of being reunited with my bag. The memories of its contents are fading, as is my anger at the airline responsible. I’m quite proud of the way I have remained polite, and mostly patient, with a myriad of airline staff. This has been helped enormously by their lack of communication. It’s hard to pass on your frustration when they don’t return phone calls or emails.
In the nine week process, I’ve repeated the story of my missing bag to so many of the airline’s representatives that I’m beginning to think they must have a staff of thousands. Three times I’ve been told my luggage was found, only to be disappointed three times. I’ve been told “the airline is doing me a favour by looking for my bag”! The loss of the bag has been blamed on an unrelated airline. It took many weeks of pleading for the original carrier to acknowledge that this was misdirected blame. I have heard a long list of possible explanations and possibilities that the airline was pursuing, none resulting in the arrival of my luggage.
I now have the long process of validating that the bag was in fact not empty, and trying to prove that I used to own a pair of Prada sunglasses, an iPod and perhaps too many clothes for a man of my age.
My Dubai-based airline has finally contacted me with an email offering me compensation that is a quarter of the value of my bag’s content, and a document to sign stating that “they are not responsible for losing my baggage”!
I presume they think it’s my fault for checking my bag in.
So my words of wisdom are:
- Don’t look on the Internet for answers, it will only lead to disillusionment and depression.
- Don’t expect help from the airline; once you’ve landed, my new-found experience is that they perceive their responsibility is over.
- Label your luggage well, and in several places.
- Purchase travel insurance.
- Before packing, put everything on your bed and photograph it. Include in that photo your passport opened to the identification page. Most travel insurance will take that as proof of ownership.
- While you have the camera in your hand, photograph your bag. It apparently makes it easier for the airline to find your bag.
- Report your missing luggage immediately to the airline and your travel insurance company.
- Travel insurance generally will not cover any electronics in your checked bag.
- If it’s too valuable to lose, then it’s too valuable to pack.
- Don’t expect replacement value from the airline, or travel insurance companies. Most travel insurance companies will fully cover new purchases whilst on holiday, everything else is subject to depreciation.
- Even if you are a conservative dresser, go wild when you make that luggage purchase. A fluorescent yellow bag, whilst being eighties retro, will be much easier to spot amongst the thousands of other similar-looking bags.
Lastly. Get over it. It’s just another of life’s First World problems. It’s only stuff, after all.