December 22, 2009

DT@FR, Day 5, And Lufthansa Still Has No #$%ing Idea Where Our Bags Are



The hapless lost baggage agentt at the Marseilles airport called it a "situation sauvage." It's now five days, and we've received one of our four bags from Lufthansa. The other three are--where? no one knows, least of all Lufthansa, the airline who has apparently had a complete system failure in at least three of its airports, including two if its biggest hubs.

We flew on United and Lufthansa because that's where we have the best status. We originally booked our tickets to Munich, and on to Marseilles because there aren't really that many easy international ways to get to Marseilles via United.

In the past, we've gotten burned by flying through Frankfurt, which is an airport hell on earth for transferring, especially with a kid or two. So Munich, which is a beautiful airport, very easy.

Except a few months ago, United called me to reroute our tickets because Lufthansa was dropping its Munich-US service. And rather than go through Frankfurt, we accepted a change to London Heathrow [out of the transferring frying pan, I know.], then to Munich. We had a leisurely 2-2.5 hr layover in each city, so we decided to take it, and use the ground time to let the kids run loose, eat foot at a table, maybe get a McRib at the Banhof station outside the airport, etc.

When our flight from DC arrived early to Heathrow, there was an agent escorting passengers to the Munich flight. "Oh not you, Mr. Allen, your flight isn't for two hours." By the time we'd walked the length of the terminal, though, we found out that London was being paralyzed by one freakin' inch of snow, and Lufthansa had begun canceling and freezing flights across the board.

We ended up spending seven hours, not two, in Heathrow [where, fortunately, we were entertained by the interrogation and arrest of the very chavvy Russian couple sitting next to us; they had been spotted--on a dozen CCTV's, I'm sure--shoplifting an extra bottle of perfume from a duty-free shop.

At 10AM, we were told we were confirmed on a 1:00 flight, so we chilled, then at 1040 I went back to check about checking in, and the nice-but-clueless agent panicked, why weren't we on the 1100 flight like we were supposed to be? Off we ran, and this is where we figured we might have parted ways with our luggage [though Lufthansa was apparently under the impression that we were supposed to be on the earlier flight. Shouldn't they have had the same expectation for our bags?]

We sit on the runway in London so long, that our Munich connection was just like 15 minutes, so we hauled ass, only to find out the gate agent had given away our seats. [Though the connection was so close, they'd also picked up another party of five from our plane and driven them--in a car, across the tarmac--straight to the Marseilles plane. I've never heard of that, nor of giving away confirmed passengers' seats, but anyway.] 2.5 hours at Munich, long enough to get the McRib, at least. What a fancy McDonald's they have there.

When we finally got into Marseilles 27 hours after we'd left, of course there are no bags. This has happened to us before on this route, at this airport, so it's unfortunately not a surprise. But it's always been an overnight thing, and then all the stuff arrives on the next flight the next day. But not this time.

The way the baggage agent told us Saturday, when our bags didn't arrive as promised, Lufthansa had complete chaotic meltdowns at Heathrow, Frankfurt, and Munich, all possible locations/transfer points for our bags. One bag finally showed up yesterday--the kid's--but the reported status of our bags hasn't changed at all: "TRACING CONTINUES. PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER." We are told this basically means Lufthansa has still not managed to even locate the bags and log them back into the system, much less start them moving toward us.

We bought the kids a change of clothes each on Sunday at the awful mega-mall. The wife and I finally broke down and bought ourselves some clothes, too, and we began replacing all the Christmas presents. It's a bit comic--actually, no, it's a huge pain in the ass. When a blogger is itching for a change of clothes, you know it's serious.

Anyway, we're a bit wary of replacing everything, despite Lufthansa's apparent ineptitude. On the off chance that they have actually lost our luggage for good, we don't want to be blowing too much of our EUR2,200 reimbursement on ticky tacky French crap; we'll already get burned because we have far more than that packed into the suitcases.

Now look, I'd told myself I wasn't going to get all Dooce-y and lay out the case for Lufthansa's complete suckitude and non-responsiveness, the way she did with the screwups at Maytag, and here I am. Unfortunately, I have approximately 1.4999 million fewer Twitter followers than she does, so it may not matter. Be assured, though, that the battle--and the blogging of the battle--with Lufthansa will go on as long as they continue to screw up my and my family's lives. Stay tuned.


Surely Dooce would be happy to help out a friend and post your Lufthansa woes on her Twitter for you?

I've never heard of . . . giving away confirmed passengers' seats, but anyway.

Most airlines have some sort of X minute rule, where if you aren't on the plane X minutes before departure they can give away your confirmed seat to standby passengers.

My family learned this the hard way when I was a kid and TWA gave away our seats on a LGA-STL flight because we were hanging at the "Kidsport" play area and didn't show up at the gate until 9 minutes before departure (TWA's policy was X = 10). My mother wouldn't accept it and instructed all six of us to board the plane anyway. We stood in the aisle of the plane for about 15 minutes not quite sure what to do until airport security came and physically removed us. Good times.

I feel your pain. BA stuck us at Heathrow this Feb when 1 inch of rain ground the UK to a halt, and "lost" all 3 pieces of our checked baggage (even though we had not taken off). We waited 3 hours with a 9 month old for them to show up, then gave up. The next day we were told they were "somewhere near belt 7 in terminal 5" which was so scary that we drove back up to Heathrow, were allowed to get into the baggage hall and found mountains of lost luggage piled up all over. I wish I had taken photos. We found 2 pieces and the final one showed up 3 days later at Newark.

I am ashamed to say that British airports seem incapable of finding luggage if any type of weather irregularity occurs.

I wish you luck with Lufthansa, you seem quite chilled about the whole thing - I'd be hopping mad.

I meant 1 inch of snow, not rain.

I'm with Lee. Surely Heather would be DELIGHTED to retweet for you.

I had all my luggage, but I was unable to get from Paris to London on the freakin' TRAIN for 3 days because it was cold outside. Lufthansa and Eurostar must share customer service staff. I hope they find your bags soon.

Sucky all around. I'm sorry.

I totally agree with you about Frankfurt airport. In September, we had a tight connection made worse by a delayed connector; our domestic flight arrived at the far end of the A pier, our international flight was at the opposite end of the B pier. Fun times, trying to make the flight, with a toddler in his stroller and me heavily pregnant.

And as for the inch of snow, here in Vancouver, the city would be paralysed by that. I'm waiting for the winter Olympics to be cancelled on account of snow.

That is a truly astonishing level of ineptitude, and causes me to wonder if your bags ever actually left the USA. Because if for whatever reason they didn't, then that might explain why they're not in Lefthandjob's European tracking system.

I have no ideal how likely that is, but it's certainly conceivable, if there was some flight cancellation down the line before your luggage made the plane.

Merry Christmas, you poor naked man.

I feel your pain. I flew with Lufthansa two days ago (from Frankfurt to Venice) and I've been staring at the "TRACING CONTINUES. PLEASE CHECK BACK LATER" message ever since. Reading about your similar experiences is certainly not encouraging, but I hope it gets Lufthansa's attention. I understand there was snow, I understand there was a pile-up of delays across all European airports, but there's no excuse for the disappearance of thousands of suitcases in Lufthansa's care.

I just came across your blog. And i am in the exact same situation, though three weeks later. I have been staring at the useless "tracing continues" status for three days. I had a stop to munich from philadelphia, munich had some snow but it was way worse in philadelphia! All agents tell me that the bag is probably in munich!
But no one knows for sure!

Im never ever going to fly with lufthansa again!
I went a couple of times to new york to shop for new winter cloth on sale! Guess what, its all in the bag! I have even less winter cloth now than i had before i left for phili! :(

PS: Did you get your bags in the end?

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