Our lost together locations

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Electronic Carpet Bombing

Most of you know that Jodi and I had our bags lost in transit while flying from Milano to London to Tel Aviv. Jodi thought it would be a good blog post to share the emails that we sent them.

I agree. Very little information has been changed.

Email #1 - Subject: British Airways Customer Relations Nightmare

Wednesday January 13th, 2010.

Re: British Airways File Reference #ABC123

Gentlemen and Ladies:

I know you're busy people, but I think this is something that needs to be brought to your attention.

You currently have two very unhappy customers. Our names are David Kruger and Jodi Rice, we are on our honeymoon, and we have spent about $2000 (CDN) with your airline and are sorely disappointed with the misinformation provided by British Airways following the delay of our bags this past week during the snowstorms in London. This misinformation has led us to make purchases that we have now been told may not be covered by your liability policy.

First, some background: We booked a flight with your airline in August from Toronto to Tel Aviv because we knew we would be treated the way we expected to be treated, and also because we knew that we wouldn't have to worry about anything. For the most part, we have been very pleased with the level of service offered by British Airways in flight and on the ground.

We booked a flight from Milano (MXP) to Heathrow (LHR) on January 7, 2010 in order to continue on with our flight to Tel Aviv. Our flight was meant to leave MXP at 19:45, but with the bad weather was delayed. We were told by the British Airways (BA) representative to take our bags to “Bulky Bags” at MXP at 17:45 – two hours beforehand. In the meantime, we diligently checked online (at our own expense) to see if the flight (BA 581) would be canceled, or when it was scheduled to depart.

My wife and I are both school-teachers, on a sabbatical year, and we're conscientious people. We didn't want to put anyone, including ourselves, in a precarious position by checking in our luggage too soon, so we didn't do so until 20:30, when we wanted to make sure our bags would be on our flight, which was pushed back until 22:30.

Let me now tell you about our luggage, and why it mattered so much to us. We left Toronto on September 20, 2009 and have travelled through Scotland, Ireland, North Ireland, London, Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. These bags have all our “worldly belongings” on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as several important gifts. Because of flight restrictions, our toiletries and bottled souvenirs (alcohol and olive oil) are in the checked luggage as well.

Our carry-on luggage has our important medications, electronics, books, some fragile souvenirs and some snacks.

We got on the plane and it took off. The flight was great. The aircrew was fantastic, as to be expected, and the captain informative and charming. We landed in Heathrow without incident at about 23:30. However, the airplane couldn't get a stand, which delayed things, and we then had to stand in line at Customs for an hour or so.

Upon entering the Baggage Hall sometime after 1am, we didn't see our luggage. In fact, we heard an announcement saying that there would be no more baggage delivered and we were to leave the Baggage Hall. Amidst the understandable chaos, we found a BA employee and he gave us a form to fill out. We also realized that the Tube wasn't running and we wouldn't be able to get to our hotel. He said that BA would pay for the cab ride, and gave us a card with a number to call about our baggage, saying that they would be delivered to us, probably the next day.

So, without our baggage, on our honeymoon, with no toiletries and no clothes but those we were wearing – which thankfully/luckily were hiking boots and a few layers of jackets, we waited for 30 minutes in the freezing cold to get a cab to our hotel.

We got to our hotel about about 3 AM, and stumbled into bed. In the morning my wife started calling BA in an attempt to find out where our bags where. The number on the card didn't seem to be active, or was overloaded with callers. A friend in London also tried to call various BA numbers and got a number different from the one we had. The following are in fact snippets of the friend's online chat with Jodi while the friend tried to call:

Jodi: i'm worried that a) our bags didn't even get on in Italy (things were pretty lackadaisacal there) and b) our form might get lost in the shuffle from last night, or not processed in time to get our bags to us before we leave

at this stage i'd just be happy being reassured that they actually know where our bags are and are processing them

between not having eaten since lunch yesterday, being up all night and all this stress, i'm sick and am trying to force down corn flakes like one corn flake at a time and of course all my drugs are in my bag

[and, after we finally got hold of a BA representative:]

we got her [the British Airways rep] to have the bags sent on to israel asap and we will buy stuff to keep us tided over here and get it reimbursed

So, as you can see, we were deeply concerned about our luggage and took many steps in order to speak with someone at BA about what we could/should do. We were prepared to go to Heathrow to pick up our baggage if need be. We were told by a woman (with an Irish accent?) with the initials of “X” not to go to Heathrow because it would be a waste of time, but instead to go and buy what we needed for two days in London. Jodi asked about what the upper limit was, and she was told to get what we needed and BA would be very reasonable in reimbursing us. Understandably, the BA representative told us to buy just a couple of days' worth of clothes, and to stay away from the designer shops.

Fair enough! This is what we did.

We've kept all our receipts, and I won't itemize them here, but in a nutshell they include:

Toiletries (such as shampoo, deodorant, contact lens solution, toothbrushes and paste, razors), winter hat/scarf, underwear, socks, shirts, pants, a guide book (we had one in our luggage, but needed to plan for a month in Israel), and a small backpack to put this new clothing in, as we already had a full carry-on each. Nothing extravagant. No designer shops. Just two adults who needed to make sure they could function appropriately in London. Mind you, we didn't buy shoes, although our hiking boots were inappropriate for city walking and led to back, foot and knee soreness after three straight days in Italy and London. The total of these expenditures is 333.43 GBP + 88.40 GBP for the cab from Heathrow, for a total thus far of 421.83 GBP.

So our intrepid honeymooners leave London's Heathrow Airport Sunday January 10th in the morning, on a flight to Tel Aviv. We're leaving without our luggage – our luggage that was meant to fly with us Thursday January 7th. That's 2 ½ days without our luggage. We understand the logistical problems involved in directing thousands of pieces of delayed and lost luggage following the unexpected weather and flight cancellations, but at this stage we're not even sure our bags have made it to Heathrow in the first place, and no one can seem to enlighten us.

Going on faith, we get on the flight, assuming that our bags are going to be at Ben Gurion Airport. I bet you're on the edge of your seat wondering if they were there. Well, to save you the anticipation, sadly, they weren't.

We've gone from Milano to London to Tel Aviv without the comfort of our own underwear, socks, anti-perspirants, contact lens solution, pants, shirts, shoes, and without knowing if three very important gifts were going to ever make it to the intended recipients. Jodi now has a cold and those cold medications we had are in our lost bags.

Once again, we enter another country without our bags. Instead of snow and freezing temperatures, we now have sun and temperatures in the 20s Celsius, but no shoes, shorts, or sunscreen. And once again, we need to make some purchases in order to live with some degree of comfort.

So we buy shoes suitable for the weather and for walking long distances in the city, and a couple of short-sleeved shirts each. We need more toiletries, since we don't have several things we need, and which are in our toiletry bags, wherever they are. The total for these purchases is 1171.88 NIS (or 195.64 GBP).

We still have not purchased shorts.

Monday, we continue to check on things online. Our bags have not been found. We check the BA website and see that you deal with a company in Israel for your luggage. We called QAS (http://www.qasisrael.co.il/) and are told that someone would call us back the next day (Tuesday, January 12th) but no one does.

On Tuesday, we call the number again at the end of the day, and speak to Y, who tells us that one bag has been found and will be delivered by the end of the next day (Wednesday, January 13th).

He also tells us that passengers travelling “Tourist Class” (we flew “Euro Traveller” from Milano to London and “World Traveller” from London to Tel Aviv) are allowed 25-75 GBP, after 24 hours, to spend on necessities. I don't know if Euro Traveller and/or World Traveller are the same as Tourist Class, but this was not information we were given by “X” in London.

This bombshell is unacceptable. Having been told by two people (one at the airport, another on the BA Customer Service line) not to worry about any kind of limit but to make reasonable purchases, which we did, and being reassured that they would be reimbursed, and then being told by another that we exceeded more than half our limit simply by taking a taxi – our only option at 2am – is misleading, upsetting, and downright ridiculous.

Appalled, we asked to speak to someone with more authority than Y to discuss our concerns, but were told no such person was available, but that someone could call us back. We never received such a call. We were growing increasingly disappointed, having hoped for much better from BA, given its reputation for customer relations.

So we now sit and wait., unable to carry on with our planned travel in Israel, unable to book hotels, B&Bs, tour companies and operators, and putting friends and family who are expecting us into difficult positions, because we are not able to travel. We had planned to go to Petra, Jordan, but our sleeping bags are in our baggage, and you can no doubt appreciate that we have been reluctant to make any more purchases, particularly any that might be deemed “unnecessary”.

As of this morning, it would seem that both our bags had been found and were expected in Tel Aviv from Heathrow on a flight today. Were our bags not to show up today, we would be forced to buy shorts. Again, a necessary expenditure. If we are without our bags tomorrow, we will need to buy “nicer” clothing, since it is my 40th birthday and we have reservations at a restaurant that will not allow us to show up in jeans. Jodi will need to buy a skirt to attend any religious services and to visit several conservative religious sites in Jerusalem.

These expenditures are not our responsibility, since they would not be a problem if we had our baggage.

Since the first part of this letter was written, we have encountered further carelessness from British Airways and their agents.

Upon checking online today (Wednesday), we learned that one bag was delivered to Tel Aviv on a flight that landed at 16:19 today, but as of this writing, at 22:50, it still had yet to be delivered. This is hardly prompt and expedient customer service! We have been without this bag for six days, and it seemingly won't be delivered until tomorrow.

You may be wondering where the other bag is. Apparently, it is at Chicago O'Hare (ORD). How this bag ended up in Chicago is beyond all comprehension and is tearing the last strands of stretched patience we have remaining. The complete and utter incompetent, negligent illiteracy is unbelievable!

Immediately, we called QAS back. Our record now showed that only one bag was missing, not two – they knew where the bag was in Tel Aviv, but were apparently unaware that they had sent the other bag to a completely different and unaccountably absurd second destination. Aside from re-labeling that bag for proper forwarding to Israel, Z at QAS wasn't able to help us beyond supplying two numbers for BA customer service here in Israel. At the first, A at BA's offices in Tel Aviv was sympathetic to our plight, but couldn't help us, and she gave us a number to call for BA at the Tel Aviv airport. This number didn't work, so I tried the other number from Z and at that point I got a number that wasn't answered. At this point we were so frustrated we called it a night.

So, here we sit with no baggage for six days.

We expect to hear back from someone at British Airways tomorrow. My 40th birthday. I have had better birthdays and, frankly, better moments on my honeymoon. 967-1111.

We also expect full compensation for our expenditures, and at this point, we think it appropriate to be compensated above and beyond that for the time required to deal with the ineptitude of British Airways and its agents, and the pain and suffering we have had to endure because of time lost on our honeymoon.

Yours truly, and none too happily,

David Kruger & Jodi Rice.

P.S. This has been sent to the entire list of Directors available to me at reuters.com. If I have excluded the relevant and responsible person to deal with this, I will expect someone to forward this along. Many thanks.

Email #2

Thursday January 14th, 2010.

Mr. Walsh, (President/CEO BA)

Since several of these email addresses "bounced back", and company.secretary@ba.com is out of the office until 1/18/10, I figured I would try your email address directly.

Mr. Lord (Director of Operations), I apologize for the duplication, but I wanted both of you to know that I had sent this email to each of you.

I expect to hear back from someone at BA today.

Yours truly,

David Kruger.

Surprise Email

They didn't realize that I had Cc'ed Jodi on the initial email, and I didn't do it to be nefarious or anything, but it meant that when they passed around information internally, she got a couple of emails. Like this:

"Another one for your team please. Many thanks. I will follow process on Nirvana." P to K.

"I've read through the customer's email and passed this one on to be prioritised this morning."

(The job title KILLS ME!!!)
Third Party and Continuous Improvement Manager
Customer Relations

Email #3 - Subject: British Airways Customer Relations Nightmare - Continued

Monday January 18, 2010.

Good evening Mr. H.

I unfortunately find it necessary to contact British Airways once again, since we're continuing to suffer as a result of the incidents associated with the misplacement and painfully inappropriate shipping of my wife's bag to Chicago. Rehashing the content of my previous email would seem unnceccessary, as I'm sure you're well aware of what happened to our bags.

I do however find it necessary to point out a few dates. We flew from Milano to London on January 7th and from London to Tel Aviv on January 10th. We received my bag on January 14th. We still have yet to receive my wife's bag, which presumably is on its way from Chicago to Israel. Supposedly it was sent two days ago from Chicago, and last I checked it's not that long to fly from the U.S. to Israel.

We had planned to go walking/hiking at Masada and swimming in the Dead Sea. We've postponed the trip waiting for my wife's bag, which has our hiking pants and bathing suits. We have now had to cancel that trip and are hoping to be able to find the time before we leave the country, since a) hiking pants here are too expensive, and b) we have one pair of hiking pants and swimsuits and don't need another pair.

My wife's travel pillow and sleeping bag are in her bag, so she's without those, and again, we don't need to buy another one to have two of these.

I'd throw in the fact that her umbrella is in her checked luggage (fear of it being considered a weapon), and it poured today, but that just seems to be adding something in to have you feel sorry for us.

Then again, I guess that's what I'm trying to get across here. British Airways has misplaced our bags, caused us to buy clothing we didn't want to buy in the first place, spend hours of our time while on vacation to find/buy these things, and still we don't have my wife's bag.

We're now hoping to find out that the bag will be in Rishon L'Ziyyon when we get back there tomorrow - which is an unplanned trip - as we need the sleeping bag to continue on with our travels to Eilat and Petra, Jordan.

I do want to thank you for the debit card with 620 GBP on it. That was great, but truth be told, and a welcome surprise. But we're unsure of what role it serves. When told about the debit card's existence, my wife asked if it was instead of the compensation, in addition to the compensation or a part of the compensation. She didn't get an answer from the BA rep she asked.

As well, my wife was really pleased with the way that A.H. approached the situation when she was on the phone with him. She felt reassured that things would be handled the way we expected them to be when we booked with British Airways in the first place, and after her conversation with your rep in London.

Thanks so much for taking the time to deal with our issues/concerns, which I know aren't the biggest problem your airline has to deal with, but for us they're a huge problem and I suspect you realize that.

Yours truly,

David Kruger & Jodi Rice

P.S. We received an email from M @ BA Israel, and his reference number
(ABC123) is different from our BA case reference number (XYZ987). I have Cc'ed him (the email address I have for him) and the two email addresses I have for QAS, so they know about our desire to have the bag in Rishon L'Ziyyon tomorrow.

Email #4 - Subject: British Airways Customer Relations Nightmare - Part III

Tuesday January 19, 2010.

Mr. H.

This is starting to get ridiculous.

We have received two phone calls from QAS using words like, "maybe", "hopefully" and other non-committal terminology as it pertains to a bag that was supposed to be in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Apparently it's in London.

This is unacceptable, and while I appreciate that Mssrs. H., Walsh, Lord and B. have more important things to do than receive emails from a Kindergarten teacher from Toronto, my time is worth money as well. A lot of my time has been wasted with this. My wife's too. Our energy. Our happiness.

Our honeymoon.

This has been a huge source of stress for us, and on that note I'm including a little reading for you folks, which I hope you'll take the few minutes to read. And just before the link I ask this question:

How much is my time worth?


I know for me, this isn't my job. I'm not getting paid to try and get back our bag, that contains gifts, souvenirs and things that frankly we don't want to replace. Truth be told, I have close to 900 friends on Facebook who are expecting to hear a happy outcome from this, so that they continue to have confidence in British Airways.

I just want the damn bag returned to us tomorrow, so that we can attempt to salvage some of our time in Israel, where we have been for 9 days without feeling grounded and happy. We have been without our bag for 12 days now.

T-W-E-L-V-E D-A-Y-S!!!

Yours truly,

David Kruger.

The Conclusion

We got our bags back. Mine took a week and Jodi's took two weeks.

We got fed up and considering we were told to replace what was in the bags, and we were covered by the Montreal Convention for up to 1900 GBP, we went to the Israeli version of MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), LeMaytayel, in the Dizengoff Centre and spent 5600 skekels (about $1600 CDN) doing just that.

Jodi's bag got here the next day.

How and why her bag went from MXP to LHR to ORD, instead of TLV, we'll never know.

To be honest, we're sick of telling the story, but we're REALLY good at tag-teaming it and could probably be convinced to pull it out at some point. For a meal or a place to sleep (Yes Dawn/Dee/Ro, we know you're going to have something to say about this! Heh.)

I thought it would be nice to include the two emails from our new best friend at BA, A.H. to finish it up.

Thank you very much for your email addressed to our senior management team. I was delighted to hear that you have received both of your bags. I would like this opportunity to thank you again for taking the time to speak to me on the telephone. It was very nice speaking to you and your new wife.

The baggage problems you experienced on your flight from Milan must have been extremely frustrating, particularly as it took two weeks to return both pieces of luggage. I am very sorry that your birthday and honeymoon were affected by the delay. Clearly we let you and Mrs Rice down.

We know that getting our customers’ bags to the right place is a critical part of our operation. That’s why we worked so hard to improve the baggage system at Terminal 5, and it is now one of the most advanced systems in the world. However, during the disruption period we recently experienced, we did face problems with the system. This resulted in your bag being incorrectly rerouted and prevented an earlier delivery. Please accept my apologies.

I do appreciate the efforts you made to keep your essential purchases to a minimum. We have altered the standard procedure to enable myself to deal with your baggage claim. This should improve the efficiency and resolution of your claim.

I would be grateful if you could send an itemised list, including the dates of purchase, values and receipt of the essential items you and Mrs Rice were required to buy throughout the affected period. Our address is:

(We know what it is)

Alternatively, you may fax the claim directly to me on #. Please mark the documents for my attention and reference your case number, ABC123.

To make some amends for the baggage failures, I would like to offer you and your wife a complimentary space-available one-way upgrade for your return to Toronto. This will include both flights from Tel Aviv and London Heathrow.

I must emphasise that it will depend on the availability of seats on the day, so I’m afraid we will only be able to confirm that you have in fact been upgraded when you get to the departure gates just before your flights leave.

As long as there is space in the next highest cabin to the one you booked, we'll be happy to upgrade you. If you have prepaid for your seating and your upgrade is successful, we will not be able to refund the seating fee.

If we find we can't upgrade you for either one of your flights, you will be considered for an upgrade the next time you travel with us - though again, it will have to depend on the higher class seats being available on the day. If this is necessary, please reply using the link below, and provide me with your new booking details.

Thank you again for your time and your patience. We look forward to welcoming you and Mrs Rice on board for your return to Canada, and hope you enjoy the remainder of your holiday.

Best regards

And then,

Dear Mr Kruger

Thank you for your email regarding your upcoming return to Canada and for providing me with your booking details.

I can confirm that I have added the upgrade requests into your booking. I will also send messages to both airports the day before your departure to ensure they are aware of the requests.

Should you need to make a claim for any additional essential expenses that we are unable to cover, I will be able to provide any relevant baggage information to support a claim on your travel insurance.

I look forward to receiving your baggage claim and hope that you and Mrs Rice are offered the space available upgrades on your return to Toronto in February.

Best regards


Dawn said...

OMG. Sounds vaguely like my dealings with the EWSRN. Hope you enjoy the upgrade on the way home.
You know you are both welcome to a bed and a few fabulous meals here anytime, and you won't need to tell the baggage story again.

DefiniteArticle said...

"I have close to 900 friends on Facebook.."

Indeed -- and this is the Kruger Army, on which you can rely to raise a ruckus anytime there's an injustice in the world.

As Dawn said (hi Dawn! Nice to meet you.), no need to recount the story (unless you wanted to), just come and drink whisky with us. Get BA to give you a free ticket to NY (instead of their nebulous upgrade dealie. I have choice names for these folks, and you know I know my choice names).

Eat some more dates while you're there -- must be good for the system. Looking forward to seeing you both sometime after the grand return!

David said...

Dawn, we just need to find the time.

Ro, we asked for the upgrade, and if for some reason don't get it, we'll go looking for a free flight. But the drive to NYC is good with us, since it means it's easier to bring baked goods!