Sunday, November 4, 2012

Travails of a frequent traveler

What's your favourite nightmare as you disembark from the plane after a holiday or a business trip ? After your wait at the interminable immigration line of course !
You guessed it ! Your luggage not having arrived with you. From my own experience and frequent sightings of sundry co passengers unfailingly waiting with grim expressions at the lost luggage counter I can vouch for the fact that this is a nightmare that comes true only too often for anyone's comfort.

Today's experience makes me want to share a few simple questions I want to put to the various airlines to whom we give so much of our custom and who should be giving us service good enough to justify our custom and money.
Actually I want to rave and rant and generally raise Cain for today's experience was so irritating and so totally avoidable if only the airline had put to use efficiently resources it has at its disposal .

I was all set to board my flight to Bombay from Beijing via KL when I was told the flight was delayed by an hour and more . I had already been concerned when my travel agent had shared the schedule with me leaving barely an hour plus for the transfer. But I had been assured that this was a routine flight partnering and there would be no issue and please Ma'am not to worry ?
So I was pleased not to worry and hung around Beijing airport with my colleague in Cancer Care Dr Razak who was with me till KL at least. Sleet and rain slicked roads and traffic in Beijing had ensured we reached the airport well in advance for our 1 am flight and now we had to kill time till 2 30 am . The gruesome crime happened at Starbucks over Cafe Latte , Cappuchino, scones and muffins. It was not just time we killed but also my waist line and I swore to myself I will not worry about making the connecting flight but enjoy this special time with Razak who is one amazing person and with whom one rarely gets to spend quality time.
2 30 am rolled around finally and we boarded and settled down to get some sleep as the plane took off. My sleep was fitful for the most part for try as I would I could not keep thoughts of the by now surely missed flight in KL
Once we landed , well after the boarding time for the Bombay leg I was happy to see an Air Malaysia person standing with a board and expression that said Bombay ? Come on Run !!
Climbing the Great Wall the previous day had both physically and mentally boosted my confidence in my fitness levels and so I set off behind the eager beaver guy in blue . He kept talking into his cell phone while all the while looking back to see if I was keeping up with him . Off we flew over the hills and dales of KLIA , past the shinning stores and the restaurants , over escalators and whatchamacallit walkalators . I was told in between breathless gasps that if the gates closed I would be taken care of and kept in comfort for all of the twelve hours that it would take for the next flight to Bombay but please Miss hurry they are still open. Liking the Miss my feet flew over aforementioned hills and dales and we reached the gates in one piece despite having had to take the train to the other terminal .
I was pretty proud of myself . This was even more admirable than scaling the Great Wall . At least there I had not had so many chips on my shoulder ; my laptop and my winter coat and cabin baggage to lug along.
With reassurances that my checked in bag was being expedited too I was hustled through security and whisked into the plane.
Then that awkward moment when you know everyone in the plane knows who has just lurched in and is finding her way all the way back to 27 F . The passenger because of whom they have all had to wait hmmmm...
So all is well and I do not have to spend 12 hours in KL but can expect to get home in time for a nice Sunday lunch right? Wrong! as I found out of course for , you guessed right , after an excruciating wait at immigration even though it was daytime and ours was the only international flight and having waited at the luggage conveyor belt till the last bag trundled by and the belt screeched to a tired halt , it was obvious my grey and black Delsey had not made it to Bombay. Despite those assurances of expedition , no sir my bag had not found its way into the connecting flight.
Tired and miserable after a long over night haul and bleary eyed trying to sight the bag that was not there I tried to see if there was an airline staff around but no such luck. What my by now really upset consciousness registered was a couple of other passengers lurking around with the same resigned look of disbelief.
When the staff eventually turned up we could see she was completely clueless . We were asked at least four times each , " sir, ma'am, so your luggage has not come ? All your four bags sir? Yours also madam ? You are sure? Oh ok let me go find the forms you have to fill . So what is in the bags ? All the four bags have not come ? And so on and so forth .
Eventually forms were found and filled , luggage contents listed out : you do not want to know that I had two winter coats, two pairs of jeans, hair dryer, brushes, foot wear , my make up and so on so I will spare you those details . By the time all this was over and the really disgruntled customs officer had added her rude questions I was wondering if it would not have been better to have spent all this time in KLIA itself and come with my luggage . It was already over two hours plus since we had landed and no progress .
My questions actually are the following:
1) Is the duration of an international flight , in this case , six hours or so , not enough for the folks at the port of boarding to let their counterparts at port of disembarkation know that the following pieces of luggage have not been loaded?
2) can the so singled out passengers not be informed of this upon landing and not have to find out for themselves after waiting at the conveyor belt watching enviously all others troop off with their luggage ?
3) should not an airline staff be stationed at the site of the luggage belt once the plane lands?
4) should the staff not, when they deign to arrive at all, not be well versed and trained in this little detail ?
To be fair to the young ladies they do try their best but they are limited and challenged by systems that can easily be put into place making everyone's lives easier .
I guess I should not complain too much for I did not have to unpack today nor do my laundry nor put the winter clothing away back into the loft . All that can be taken care of tomorrow when they have promised to deliver the bag home and as someone I know headed to Tara said , tomorrow is another day.


sks said...

Sorry to hear of your unpleasant experience. It also depends on the airline - I've had this happen at least 3 times travelling from Manila to Delhi via Singapore, when the flight has got delayed and I've had to run for the connection - but the bags couldn't make it. When I arrived at Delhi, Singapore Airlines staff already knew my bags had not made it, I filled up a form, and they gave me an amount to tide me over until the bags came the next day. So, there is much that other airlines can learn from SIA! I have had unhappy experiences too, the most memorable being in 1986, when I was on a direct flight from Delhi to Amsterdam, and a whole container of luggage got left behind - KLM wouldn't even give us a toothbrush, let alone money to buy a change of clothing. Not that money would have made a difference at that hour of the morning (7am) when shops were closed, and I had to move on to another town by 9am for a meeting - I had no choice but to go in the clothes I'd slept in on the plane! After that, I always ensured I carried hand baggage with at least a change of clothing and a toothbrush!!


You poor soul!40 years ago, when Nalini travelled to the US as a bride,when travel was more pleasant, her luggage did not reach her for the next three days.

Hope you do not have any more misadventures on any of your travels in the future.