Friday, May 13, 2011

Airline Lost Luggage

We normally do not make leisure travel plans during the winter. The one and only time we did, Mother Nature decided to deliver alternative plans for us.

It was the winter of 2003. A snowstorm had developed in the west which shifted its way towards the east coast. Snow had fell steadily during the Sunday evening of Feb 15th, the day before President's Day holiday. It snowed throughout the night and the next day. White out conditions persisted throughout the day and the metro area airports were closed. By the time the snow ended on Monday night, New York City has been blanketed under 19 inches of snow. Other major cities on the East coast like Washington D.C and Baltimore have been similarly paralyzed by the blizzard.

We were scheduled to leave for Bahamas on Monday, Feb 16th. Hotel and meal plans have already been purchased from the Atlantis resort, Bahamas. We have finally surrendered to the lures of the incessant tv commercials featuring the sun and fun at the resort, its water slides splashing down the sides of the Maya temple and the call of the sharks lurking in their Mayan pools. We were so ready to escape the New York winter and to have fun in the sun!

When Monday Feb 16th arrived, we could only stayed at home and watched the news sullenly, hoping naively that the weather could clear up soon and that the airports were be opened shortly to allow us to leave on Tuesday for the island however long it would take to clear the delay. Instead, the airport would not be opened again till Wednesday. Hence it was closed for 3 days. Major delays were inevitable.

Upon arrival at the airport on that Wednesday morning, the ticket agent assigned us to fly standby. The agent tagged our luggages, explaining rhat the luggages would only be loaded onto the plane if we had confirmed seats. We went to the gate area, hoping for the best. Alas, there were only room for 2 passengers to fly standby. Somehow, the stress of not able to fly and thinking of the lost vacation and monetary values got to me. I was almost in tears, drowning in disappointment. My young daughter was equally crestfallen having built up so much expectations to visit the aquarium at the Atlantis resort.

More disappointment was in the bag. We went to the ticket counter to get full refund for our airline tickets. This was resolved immediately. However, we could only retrieve one of our luggages. The other one has been probably loaded onto the flight to Bahamas. The agent in charge of the luggages was peeved, telling us that it was a breach of security since the luggage was placed onto the plane unaccompanied by its owner. There was nothing else we could do. We got the luggage lost claim form and left for home.

After a few days when the airline has confirmed that the luggage was indeed lost, we filed a claim for the loss. Since it was an international flight, the reimbursement was really minimal - a mere $200 or so at that time. Had it been a domestic flight, the reimbursement would have been a larger amount. We rather have our luggage back. The luggage contained mainly garments but some items have sentimental values. My daughter till this day, still remembered that she has lost her favorite blanket and pair of dress shoes. After this snafu, she would never let us place her security blanket in the checked in luggage when we travel. It was always placed in the carry on baggage. This practice continue until she outgrew it.

I had called the hotel to explain our situation and inquired about the possibility of credit due to the NYC airport closings. The hotel indicated that they would look into it but they were not very responsive. Fortunately, our monetary loss was limited when I called the credit card company to discuss the situation. The company was very helpful and immediately offered to credit the expenses to my account while they investigated the disputed charges. It was eventually resolved favorably.

We were lucky that this adventure has limited our loss to just a luggage. I once saw a show on tv that featured a store that sell the contents of lost luggages from the airlines. I always wonder whether our personal effects were in that store or perhaps sitting somewhere else in the warm Bahamas sun. Till this day, we have yet to venture to Atlantis which has since expanded considerably. Perhaps one day we will, hopefully with our luggages intact. For now, we would just continue watching its commericals luring us again with that steep Mayan tower water slide.

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