Saturday, July 5, 2014

The saga of the missing suitcase...

This appeared in Mumbai Mirror today....it tells its own story. Do look out for other, more positive stories about my recent trip. Am still figuring out how to upload pictures from my smartphone onto the blog! If some of you smart people know how, do let me know....TiE Retreat at Tenerife was super fun. And I have great pics to go with that narrative...
                                                                ***************
                         The saga of the missing suitcase…
I am back. And so is the missing bag! This is nothing short of a mini-miracle. Here’s why: Instead of losing my cool, throwing purple fits and creating a hungama when there was no trace of my bag at the end of five days in London, I decided to channel my inner Gandhi and stage a peaceful satyagraha at the British Airways check-in counter, Terminal 5, Heathrow before taking the flight home. I calmly told William at counter D2, that I was not leaving the airport till my missing bag was located. My voice was calm and my gaze, steady. I  had tried everything but with zero success. Then, I said to myself, if Gandhiji could have chased the British out of India armed with nothing more than patience and a firm resolve, I would adopt the same tactic…and win. Well, it worked! William helpfully suggested a strategy that he said was a ‘little unusual’. Was I game for it? I was! I had nothing to lose  and everything to gain after hitting my head against a stone wall. I was willing to try any trick in the book. To cut a long story short, I was asked to go three levels down to where lost baggage is stored. It’s like a graveyard of abandoned suitcases from across the world.   In that gigantic pile of orphaned bags, I actually managed to spot mine! Bingo. Gandhiji had scored again.
There is a moral attached to this story: I discovered a lot about myself and more about life in general when I found out my bag had disappeared. I mentally kissed the contents of the suitcase goodbye -  my clothes, shoes, toiletries and a few sentimental items of jewellery. Once I did that, I was free! It really didn’t matter a damn after a point whether I was walking around London in flip flops and travel gear. It was such a liberating feeling . And to those I met who stared strangely at me, well, if they were going to judge me by my casual footwear and super casual clothes, it was their loss, not mine! I also knew there was no personal conspiracy against me. Thousands of  BA passengers were in the same boat and a massive technical glitch had led to this sorry situation. But here’s what BA could have done, should have done, but didn’t…
1.     Clearly there was a systems breakdown that had led to one of the worst failures in baggage delivery across time zones and continents. Whatever the nature of the technical glitch, BA should have been more forthright, apologized for the enormous inconvenience caused and immediately offered some relief to affected passengers. That didn’t happen. Worse, calls went unanswered, or entirely misleading assurances were jauntily given (“ the luggage courier is on the way to deliver your bag”). With zero transparency and no explanations, passengers were left frustrated and fuming, cursing BA all the way.Were the bags  in London at all, or were they floating around some distant airport at the other end of the world? A word of advice to BA : All it takes is one phone call, one sincere apology, one truthful statement to pacify distraught passengers. Systems do break down. We get it. But please have the basic courtesy to explain the problem, and then set it right.
2.     From a passenger’s point of view, here is what I learned : Keep your phone charger in your handbag for those emergency calls you may have to make and can’t because the battery  has died on you. Keep personal jewellery in a small pouch in your handbag. Better still, travel without the real thing. Faux is better than lost !
3.     Travel light. Stick to basics. Mix and match. Don’t pack too many options. Five days without my ‘things’ – stuff, I thought I couldn’t live without, made me realize how much junk I was lugging around.
4.     Keep all shopping receipts carefully. You’ll need them when you claim compensation on your return. I had to buy virtually everything from scratch…it was tedious, time consuming and expensive.
5.     Hang on to boarding cards, baggage tags and any paperwork that could help track the missing bag. Make sure to have your name and address prominently displayed on the bag, or else you may have to wade through a sea of identical looking bags before you find yours.
6.     Get to the airport well in advance leaving sufficient time to double check whether the bags have made it on the same flight. Maintain a comfortable two hour gap between connecting flights. Keep extra copies of all travel documents on your person.

7.     Happy travels. Remember : Mental baggage stays home. Asli baggage stays with you. 

49 comments:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the tips. Really a very bad experience.Tie two colorful ribbons of different colors to identify your bag. Make some marks with unerasable markers. Keep 2 simple dresses, one noghtwear, toiletries in your cabin bags. Plus valuables and cash.

Ravish Thakur said...

Thank you ma'm. These tips will help a lot in future. Happy Travelling...:)

Hari TSV said...

Having been invited to be a part of the union of the 2 Germanys, I was flown Lufthansa Business Class.

I was to board a train to Bonn from Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof.

My baggage did not arrive.

The German Internaziones officer who had picked me up, said, "Don't worry sir. We will reach your stuff to you when you are in Bonn."

In Bonn, my guide Boris informed me that he still hadn't got word about the luggage. So, he got me lunch and bought upmarket set of clothes ... pant, jacket, shirt, tie and even underwear ...

We reached the hotel and my luggage had arrived. Since I had not even opened the package, I told Boris that he could return it and get a refund.

"The German government does not work that way, sir. The airline staff and those at Frankfurt ought to have loaded this in the train along with you. But, since they did not, we flew it to Koeln. All those who made the mistake will pay for it!"

That is national pride.

And then, we have India!

Hari TSV said...

The fines would include, Boris added, the costs of not only my set of clothes, but also the charges to reach my stuff.

No wonder, Germany is the foremost in the European Union.

Haddock said...

Excellent. I mean the tips. I do follow almost all of them when travelling alone. Now to make wifey understand the need to travel light.

Abhirami Muthu said...

Mental baggage like love handles seem to never leave

Anita Jeyan Sandeep said...

It is very difficult to travel light, because one has to make peace with certain items. Fear of possible inadequacy is another thing that stops me from travelling light ! And neon colored bags and suitcases help me locate mine amidst hundred other black suitcases !
Nice tips, I loved the 'Faux is better than lost' line :D

Jogeshwar said...

Once my Uncle an army officer while travelling by air to attend a conference, realised on landing the baggage had never boarded the plane. That put him in a difficult situation! How could he attend the conference without his uniform which could neither be bought from the market. Fortunately he had arrived a day in advance for the conference and his baggage reached the next day.
Lesson: always keep a spare uniform in hand baggage.

rajkishore gorla said...

Thank you very much.......those tips certainly helps !

Indu singh said...

आपका ब्लोग कफी अच्छा है। मैने भी एक ब्लोग बनाया है यदि आप देखना चाहै तो यहां पर Click करें- हिंदी और अंग्रेजी सुविचार

Samreen Ahmed said...

I experienced the same problems with Air India. Travel makes you more intelligent in life is what I feel.

Amogha Rejeesh said...

My husband faced a similar issue with one of our domestic airliners when he landed mentally & physically baggageless in Pune last week. I don't know if it's a 'Gandhiji'that he did, but all his baggage reached him @ his doorstep the following morning, saving the day (& a lot of other things...).Perhaps a case of utter thoughtlessness garnished with a touch of 'thoughtfulness'...

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Latha said...

British Airways has scant regard for Indian luggage. They throw away our things here & there in such a manner that one of my suitcases was unrecognisable when I reached US. I was asked to take out the contents & checked & rechecked several times as if I was under suspect because it was an "unclaimed baggage" for a long time. Will BA pay for the damages ? Their Indian food is pathetic to say the least. Except upma & nimbu pickle which are divine, all other so called Indian food are returned untouched by the Indians much to the chagrin of the hostesses. They say Indian food in 'Virgin Atlantic' is plenty & divine. And so is the service. Next time try that & let us know about it, now that you are a frequent flyer.

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