The Crapification of Air Travel, And Don’t Expect AMEX to Help, Either

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends much of her time in Asia and is currently researching a book about textile artisans. She also writes regularly about legal, political economy, and regulatory topics for various consulting clients and publications, as well as scribbles occasional travel pieces for The National.

Early Tuesday June 27– just before midnight, as a matter of fact, I went to Kolkata’s international airport to board a 2:00 a.m. Thai Airways flight.

I was quite excited– travelling still does that for me, and that’s part of the reason I continue to do so much of it.– as I was en route to Hong Kong to visit an old Oxford friend and celebrate my birthday. I also had some meetings lined up.

I intended to check in two hefty pieces of luggage, carrying what I needed for what will be a three-month journey before I return to my Brooklyn home in September.

When I travel, I always opt for inexpensive, well-made luggage– choosing unique pieces, so there’s no chance that someone else will mistake my bags for theirs. This time, I had a mid-size wheeled bag, covered in orange leatherette printed with a map of the world– the replacement for a much nicer bag that Egypt Air had ripped the wheels off on a Cairo-Port Ghalib flight on New Year’s Day. The orange leatherette bag– a tacky and tasteless example that no self-respecting chic person would be caught dead with–  was the best replacement I could find, and perfect for my purposes. I’ll use it, until some airline inevitably rips its wheels off at some future date, it meets with some other accident, or simply wears out. Then I’ll replace it with something similar.

My second bag– a blue and white printed cloth duffel bag– was about to take its maiden airline voyage. The duffel was heavily packed– including some diving gear, several books, clothing, my favorite pair of leather lace-up walking shoes, toiletries, a dental retainer, a bag of adaptors and chargers, among other items.

At the last minute, I also tossed about a dozen cloth-bound notebooks into the duffel bag. When I visit a country, I carry a notebook for jotting down notes about my journey, and when I plan on revisiting a country, the notebook for that place comes along with.  I also included notebooks I needed for pending work.

Now, attentive readers can sense where this is going and ask, why didn’t I throw the notebooks in my carry-on?  A good question.

Well, that already contained my laptop, a camera, two lenses, my birding binoculars, and a couple other vital things And, I know from experience that weighs at least 12-15 kilos, and I just didn’t want to fight with anyone to allow me to carry my notebooks onboard.

So I did what one should never do: put something irreplaceable into checked baggage.

Check In– Kolkata: Day One

The check in experience in Kolkata was not seamless. I asked for a paper tag to put on my new bag and was told, “No need, Madame. We will tag the bag.”

At this point, faint alarm bells were ringing. Which I ignored.

Since at this point in Kolkata– a small airport– no other check-in desks were open at midnight, so there was no place to procure a paper tag.

The flight routing I’d chosen made a connection in Bangkok. I’d opted for a Kolkata-Bangkok-Hong Kong routing on Thai Airways, rather than a direct Cathay Pacific flight, as I could pay for the Thai flight with American Express miles, rather than lay out cash for the more expensive Cathay Pacific non-stop.

I can easily sleep on any flight, but I decided that since the non-stop flight was only 4 hrs, I wouldn’t really get enough sleep to make it work my while to pay cash for the flight, so chose Thai Airways.

Big big mistake.

I’m about to tell you why.

The agent checked me in, and handed me a boarding pass– to Bangkok only– and started to tag my bags.

Wait I said. I’m going to Hong Kong. Oh. Several minutes passed, and a couple of other gate agents were roped in to help correct his error.

A bit stroppily, he asked where was my visa? That was a reasonable question, because most people who fly from Kolkata to Hong Kong are Indian nationals, and therefore require advance visas to visit Hong Kong.

I have a US passport I said politely. I qualify for a visa on arrival.

Oh.

Several minutes passed while the agent searched for confirmation of this fact, and then he handed me my boarding passes– Kolkata-Bangkok, Bangkok-Hong Kong.

Given the confusion, you can be sure I watched very carefully as he took the old baggage checks off my bags, tagged them properly to Hong Kong, and added bar codes as well.

The rest of my journey was uneventful. Thai Airways actually has nice large seats in steerage, the service was polite, the food edible.

The first flight took off and landed on time, I had plenty of time to reach the gate for the second, and that, too, took off and landed on time.

Arrival In Hong Kong

My nightmare began not during either flight but after I landed in Hong Kong, at the luggage carousel. My orange leatherette suitcase arrived, no problem. I waited for the blue and white duffel. And waited. And waited.

I watched as other passengers collected their bags.

Finally, I realized I had a problem, found an agent, and was escorted to the desk to fill out a lost luggage report. I described my bag as a blue, soft bag, without wheels and pointed to something similar. It’s not a suitcase I say.

The paperwork was completed quickly and efficiently. Although the reporting form was headed Thai Airways, the actual agent listed on the form is SATS HK Limited Baggage Service. Here the crapification begins.

I provided the address of the friend I was visiting, her ‘phone number, and the ‘phone number of her Hong Kong helper. I hadn’t opted to buy a Hong Kong SIM and my dumbphone remained switched off. The agent told me that the bag probably hadn’t made it onto the ‘plane, but there were three or four more Thai Airways flights that day, and my bag would be loaded onto one of those, and I’d likely have it before the end of the day.

Without any working ‘phone of my own and knowing that my friend’s a doctor– so not always able to pick up her mobile during the day– I called the SATS HK Limited Baggage Service number a couple of times. I was told that they cannot find any record of my bag having passed through Bangkok And they’d yet to hear from Kolkata either.

I spoke to my friend, who told me not to worry. She had flown on Cathay Pacific two weeks previously. Her bag went missing in Rome, there was no record of it either. Nonetheless, Cathay called her several times a day– notice Cathay called her– telling her they were looking for the bag. And then three days later, it simply appeared– with all its tags intact, and no explanation about what had happened.

Day Two

Today was my birthday and I’d made plans for the evening.  With most of my clothes missing, I was arrayed in a rather zaftig fashion. I called SATS HK Limited Baggage Service number a couple of times. One time, I was asked whether I had a pair or shoes in the outside pocket of my wheeled suitcase. No, I explained again, it’s not a wheeled suitcase, but a blue and white duffel bag, quite heavy, filled with books, etc. I explained that not only do I need my notebooks, I also have dental retainers, and some special toothbrush, etc., in the bag, that I’m supposed to use every day. The toothbrush would be quite pricey to replace and the manual thing I picked up at the 7/11 is not adequate.

Don’t worry, we’ll find your bag. I made a couple of more calls before anyone admitted that SATS HK Limited Baggage Service had yet to receive any report from either Kolkata or Bangkok about the bag.  Had anyone checked the lost  luggage section of either airport? No, we cannot reach anyone in either place.

I checked out the Thai Airways website. Major crapification. Please click on the Feedback page.  And try and submit feedback. Guess what? You cannot. The first item tells the user to Select subject. But you cannot Select Subject. (When I subsequently pointed this out to someone from SATS HK Limited Baggage Service, they said, yes, we know, we can never get through to them that way.)

I asked the SATS HK Limited Baggage Service people about compensation for stuff I need to buy, they replied that I need to speak to Thai Airways. I called Thai Airways HK Airport customer service number, and  was told I need to call a number– that of sa SATS HK Limited Baggage Service.

I called them again and am told they haven’t heard from either Kolkata or Bangkok.

I found a number for Thai Airways Kolkata Airport-– where I knew I’d find an English speaker– called the airport, get a person, who told me to call back in a half hour and in the meantime, he’d check for the bag.

I called  back: no bag here Madame.

Day Three

More of the same. I called the SATS HK number again, I’m told again no one can reach Bangkok, and there’d been no response from Kolkata. I explained I’d called Kolkata and was told there was no bag there.

That’s what they always tell customers. Well, I asked, could you call Kolkata for me? Maybe they’ll tell you the truth.

Several calls to SATS HK followed, and each time I was there was no response from Bangkok, and there was  no record of the bag as having made it there.

I tried the Hong Kong Customer Service number again, and was referred to the SATS HK Limited number.

Then, I called Thai Airways Kolkata again, this time opting for a sales and ticketing number, and reached a baggage supervisor. He seemed to know what he was doing, promised to follow up with Bangkok and to get me the name and number of a person I could talk to in Thai Airways customer service in Hong Kong.

Day Four

Basically, more of the same. Still no news from Bangkok.

I decided to take the day off and enjoy Hong Kong.

When I returned to my friend’s flat, an email awaited me from the Thai Airways baggage supervisor person in Kolkata. He assumed I had my bag by now. I responded: I don’t. And rang him to ask him, again,to provide me with a contact at Thai Airways customer service in Hong Kong.

An email soon arrived with a name and number of a person for me to speak to, but by the time I could call, he was gone of the day– and the following day is a national holiday, the twentieth anniversary of the Hong Kong handover.

I also spoke to SATS HK Limited Again, and this time, insisted they take my email. I received an email shortly thereafter.

Day Five

Next morning, another email arrived from SATS HK Limited, this time, with pictures of bags attached. None of these is blue and white, nor are they duffle bags.

This message followed from SATS HK:

Thanks again for your email, as we already rechecked in HKG and Negative found, please give us a little time to contact with Bangkok stations and it hard to get through to them.

Please call back to us within 01-02 hours later.

We apologize for all inconvenience caused to you.

Today found me scheduled to fly to Ho Chi Minh City.

I arrived at the airport early, found  the booking desk for Thai Airways– shared with about 20 other airlines– and met a Customer Service Manager for SATS Gateway.  He was very cordial, and escorted me to their office, where I met various people I’d been speaking to and corresponding with for the last several days.

They seemed to have a different conception of what a duffel bag is than I do– I pointed to a picture that resemblesd my missing bag, and there followed a flurry of typing of what I was told was a message to Bangkok. I was also told they still hadn’t received any replies to their earlier messages, and no one had yet to pick up the ‘phone when they rang Bangkok. “Baggage office is always very busy.” I told them I was on my way to Ho Chi Minh City, but when they found the bag, they should deliver it to my friend, who would hold it for me until I could swing back through Hong Kong  and collect it.

At this point, they handed my 780 HKD in compensation [roughly 100 USD]. Not much for what’s now day five without my bag. I signed for the money, insisting this is only an initial payment for the compensation I expect to receive, which is laid out in the Thai Airways contract of carriage.  SATS provided a claim  form but this was neither the time nor place to quibble about compensation; and anyway, I knew I must take that issue up with the airline.

Although I was told SATS  HK would forward the bag to me when it was found, I said I didn’t want to do that, due to my concern that would be just a license to pilfer the bag (not that there’s anything of real value to anyone else in it, but one never knows what will catch someone’s fancy).

If my bag were to be sent onto Ho Chi Minh City, and anything subsequently went missing, there would be much finger-pointing and no accountability. If instead I later collect it in Hong Kong and anything is then missing, I would know the theft had occurred somewhere between Kolkata and Hing Kong.

The SATS HK Limited people promised to email me regularly with updates– at least twice daily–  and I said  if they did that, I’d avoid calling much until there’s further word.

Day Six

Day dawned in Ho Chi Minh City, and shortly thereafter, I received a message for the SATSHK people:

Thanks again for your email, we still not received any feedback from Bangkok station, we apologize for all inconvenience caused to you. We will chase Bangkok stations again, once we received any feedback and will inform to you directly by email.

All of my colleagues know about your cases and will follow up and action every day.

No real news, but at least they were communicating.

It was now six days and counting since I’d reported the bag missing, and I was still being told “we still not received any feedback from Bangkok station”.  That to me says: no response.

No one had yet found a barcoded, missing, blue and white cloth duffle bag.

I remained pretty sure no one see snared the bag.  Reason one: I waited for it at the Hong Kong baggage carousel when I picked up my first bag. and didn’t see it  Reason two, it’s a blue and white printed cloth duffle bag, and doesn’t look like it’s worth stealing– e.g., not an expensive piece of designer luggage. I really am known for having bags that no one else would be caught dead with. Reason three: I bought it from a small boutique in Jaipur, India, and it has a distinctive design– so it’s not a standard black suitcase that someone might grab by mistake.  Reason four: the bag has no wheels, but contains several notebooks, paperbacks, and clothing. In other words, it’s unwieldy, and heavy, and any thief would think twice about trying to muscle it out of the airport. And reason five: If it’s indeed somewhere in Bangkok– the only place that no one seems to have received a response from– no member of the public should have had access to the bag anyway, which was supposed to be transferred from one ‘plane to another.

AMEX to the Rescue…NOT

Sometime late on Sunday night, after a short email with Yves where she suggested I write this post about the crapification of Thai Airways baggage tracking service– outsourced to this SATS HK Limited Baggage Service, which doesn’t seem to be able to get any other baggage service, either in Kolkata but especially in Bangkok– to respond to its calls or messages.

This stood in contrast to my doctor friend’s experience, also flying into Hong Kong, where Cathay Pacific was in charge of its own luggage arrangements, and kept her fully  and regularly apprised of what was going on.

I remembered that not only had I booked this flight with American Express Travel, but I had used points I’d collected on my Platinum Amex card to do so. I’ve been a cardholder since 1988, when I first started attending law school.

So, I thought: maybe American Express might be able to use some of its muscle to help find my bag.

I know, I know–before I get skinned by the commentariat–  the American Express card is pricey, and the annual fee is going up to $550 this year. Is it worth it?

Sadly, my experience makes it clear that the Platinum Card aint what it used to be, and the service I received in trying to get my bag suggests that Amex has decided to engage in a race to the bottom in the further crapification of its flagship product.  Let me tell you my Amex story, gentle readers, and perhaps you can vote on which baggage tracing service sounds crappier– the Thai Airways system– managed through SATS HK Limited–  or the “help” I’ve received so far from Amex.

So, first step, was to call Amex. I explained my problem. Got placed on hold– elevator music.

Finally got a human– a man– who was rather obnoxious. One pet peeve of mine is that I hate being referred to by my first name– which no one ever gets right anyway– but by a title.

When did these American companies shift to using first names anyway? To me, it’s an obvious ploy to establish intimacy, when what the company should be doing, is providing excellent, arm’s length customer service. We’re not chums, after all, so let’s not try and get all chummy.

Anyway, I asked respectfully to be referred to by title, and was told that, since the title wasn’t on my booking, the agent couldn’t use one. I kid you not. At this point, I admit I got stroppy, and said perhaps I would cancel the card then, and the rep said– wait for it– he could put me through to a number and I could do just that.

Indeed.

Well, I can and do occasionally lose my temper, but rather than doing something genuinely stupid, I just hung up. It had  been a rather long and trying week.

Called Amex again. Explained the problem again. Much warm fuzziness, apologies from Amex.

This time, I was on hold for more than an hour, waiting for a supervisor.  Extended symphony of exceptionally insipid elevator music. The rep occasionally checked back in. I finally said I couldn’t  wait any longer, gave her a deadline by which time I had to ring off, and when 15 minutes after said deadline, no one came back onto the line, I hung up. Total time on second call: About an hour and a half.

Called Amex again.  At this point, I’ve made two calls, spent more than 2 1/2 hours on the phone, and spoken to at least three or four people– none of whom has made any notes about nor has has any record of the previous calls.

This time, however, I’m lucky. The rep realizes this is a matter that can be handled by their Premium Global Assist Department. Within about ten minutes, I’m put through to a human, and this time, she seems to know what she’s doing. She collects some details, and promises me an email reply w/in 5-7 hours.

Great! Except, upon reflection, the following question occurs to me: Amex is no doubt mining my data and collecting info all the time about me. So, why, when I initially called with this request for help, did it take three calls, at least five reps, and 3/12 hours on the phone for someone to put me through to the dedicated department that deals with this issue so that I could log my problem.  Now, maybe I should have known what department to ask for. Not! I mean, after all, who knows what services and add-ons are attached to credit cards anyway. It’s not like I make a habit of losing my bags and therefore know this system inside and out.

But, at least I went to bed thinking I had got somewhere.

Day Seven

Until the a.m., when I received the following reply:

I hope you are well despite the delay in luggage.

I have spoken with Thai Airways and the representative has advised there is no new information in regards to your luggage. They are still currently in the process of looking for it. We will reach out to them again tomorrow and will update you as soon as we have spoken with them. They ask if you have questions regarding compensation to contact them at 0116622887138, they are open from 9am-4pm.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 800-345-2639 or internationally at 715-343-7977 and refer to your case number. You can also respond to this e-mail.

Thank you and safe travels,

So much for the vaunted Premium Global Assist service.  And the Amex muscle. Which seems to consist of Amex making one call– getting no info– and then telling me to call a Bangkok general number. No extension. No name of live human who can help me.

Incidentally, Bangkok is the wrong place to call– as I was actually never really in Bangkok. I never cleared immigration. I simply walked from one gate to another in the airport.

And then, Amex will “reach out to them tomorrow.” The email, incidentally, was signed first name, last initial– again trying to foster that illusion of intimacy, rather than focusing on dong anything such as provide competent customer service.

Well, I fired off a reply, where I made these and a couple other points. I’ll spare readers that as I’ve summarized the main ideas here, and this post is already too long. But I did chide Amex for essentially saying, “Your bag’s still missing, no one has any idea where, and we’ll follow-up tomorrow.”

And then received the following reply a couple of hours later:

I understand your frustration and concern that Thai Airways did not have more information on the status of your missing bag. In hopes that I can clarify what we are able to do on your behalf in this situation, I’d like to explain the Missing Luggage Assistance benefit.

When your luggage is delayed and/or the airline may have misplaced it, Premium Global Assist Hotline can help track its status. Premium Global Assist Hotline will contact the airlines on a daily basis to check the status of the luggage. We will continue to follow up with you and the airline on the status of your luggage, and provide you with a daily update. While the airline that the claim is filed with is ultimately responsible for finding and getting the luggage back to the passenger, we can also help to coordinate return of on your behalf. We do make every effort to obtain, clarify, and verify information from the airlines regarding the whereabouts of the missing luggage, and advocate on your behalf.

I have had our Lost Luggage team attempt to reach out to Thai Airways several times this morning to see if they had any updated information. At this point, we have not been able to reach a representative from Thai airways. We will continue to reach out the Thai airways for an update, and will update you again at that time.

Note that this message seems to contradict the earlier message, where I was told someone spoke to Thai Airways: “I have spoken with Thai Airways and the representative has advised there is no new information in regards to your luggage.”  The second message says: “At this point, we have not been able to reach a representative from Thai airways.”

So what is it: did they, or didn’t they?

Leaving me to wonder: Why was I wasting time with Amex anyway? Independently, I’d managed to speak to a helpful Thai Airways baggage supervisor in Kolkata, and he had actually helped a bit. And was still taking my calls and suggesting avenues that I could follow up on. Whereas Amex wasn’t doing anything but providing compassion theater– and no actual help.

I Finally Manage to Connect with a Thai Airways Customer Service Rep

Turning away from Amex, I realized that the SATS HK  people I spoke to in Hong Kong on Saturday had failed to honor their promise to send me twice daily emails. So, I had no update on the status of their efforts to call or get a response from anyone in Bangkok.

But with the Hong Kong national holiday and the weekend over, I tried again to call the Thai Airways HK customer service person whose number the Thai Airways Kolkata baggage supervisor had provided to me.

And guess what?   He answered his phone. So, on day seven of this ordeal, I finally managed to connect with Thai Airways customer service in Hong Kong and spoke to another real live human who works for Thai Airways.

After explaining my problem, he told me I had to write them an email, explaining my issue, including an attached copy of the Property Irregularity Report I had filed on the June 27, as well as a copy of tag for the missing bag.

I was tempted to ask why he didn’t call SATS HK Limited Baggage Service in the Hong Kong airport, who had been (mis)handling this issue from the get go, but hell, I still hope to recover my bag.

So I eschewed venting and instead thanked him profusely for his help.

And then immediately sent an email. And waited.

I copied my email to several of the colourful cast of characters whose email addresses I’d collected during this sad and sorry tale. No immediate replies. Just before the close of the Hong Kong day, I decided to call to make sure that my email had been received.

So I again called the Thai Airways HK customer service person I’d first spoken to earlier during  the day. Since the email had gone to his colleague and not to him directly, he had no idea whether it had been received.  Please wait.  I said, no problem, I’ll ring you back in 10 minutes.

And I did– to find that the email had been received, but now to be told that they’d only just today become aware of the problem. Yes, he actually said that.

So, now  I had to be patient and wait for people whose job it was to handle queries such as this in the Thai Airways HK customer service department to call, telex, etc– on the trail of my bag.

Five minutes later, I received this email from his female colleague:

Thank you for your e-mail and please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused.

We would like to inform that you baggage is still under tracing and you will be in contact again soon. [Jerri-Lynn here: I think they meant “we”.]

Of all the people involved in this sad and sorry tale, the Thai Airways baggage supervisor in Kolkata has been most helpful and responsive. So I thought that I at least owed him a head’s up that I was about to post my Never Fly Thai post.

He said he’s still hopeful the bag might be found, and said that it’s not a bad airline. It’s unusual for bags to be lost this long, but they do sometimes turn up.

He also understood why I was writing this post. He asked me to provide scanned copies of my boarding passes, and that I shortly thereafter did

And just a little while ago, this arrived from the SATS HK Limited customer services manager (supervisor) in HK:

Thank you very much for your email.
I know how you feel during the absence of your bag.
We are still trying our best to locate your baggage despite of negative response from the airports involved.

One of my colleagues responsible for tracing will email you the latest result of our work.
Please rest assure that we will keep you updated in regard to the location of your baggage.
Your understanding is highly appreciated.
Kind regards.

Bottom Line

Oh, what a fool I have been! I should have paid up for that Cathay Pacific flight.

Because at least in that case, if my friend’s experience last month is any guide, that airline would be diligently looking for my bag, and calling me periodically with updates.

Instead of sending me messages telling me that haven’t received feedback, or saying “We are still trying our best to locate your baggage despite of negative response from the airports involved.”

And in the meantime, I sit and wait, and wait, and wait– not in Casablanca, but in Ho Chi Minh City– yearning not to receive my letters of transit, but for someone to find my missing bag– or at least for Bangkok to start looking for it.

 

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83 comments

  1. Archangel

    Ugh. That’s awful.

    OTOH, you could’ve been flying into Manila, then found yourself detained because some official “found” live ammunition in your bag, and you’d have to pony up a hefty “convenience fee” to be on your way.

    Reply
    1. Irrational

      I did and do exactly that after some grueling experiences with Air France and have never lost a bag since. Mind you, the new airline specialty seems to be destroying zippers.

      Reply
    2. Optimader

      Was going to point out the same “film” is cheap on the phone
      … not a big fan of soft luggage thesedays either, Soft duffles with loose straps is the stuff of back room issues with conveyors/ automated luggage handling equipment.

      Times have changed when it comes to dive/gear duffle-bags and such if your flying commercial. Then if there is a connection your chance of a luggage malfunction goes up geometrically.

      This is the best gearbag going in my experience
      https://www.66north.com/us/women/accessories/fishermans-duffle-bag-60l/

      The top opening rolls to close it so you can basically compress it to conform with the volume of the contents and it has two cirumferential straps to cinch it up tight so its not floppy like a normal duffle bag. Kinda turns into a log. Bulletproof textile

      Reply
  2. Bugs Bunny

    The Thai Airways feedback form works for me (Chrome on Mac).

    Never had a bag completely lost but I’ve had one disappear for 2 weeks so there’s still hope…

    Chennai customs stole a camera out of my bag once when they delivered it to my hotel. I signed the receipt like an idiot without having opened the bag.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Well, you’re in luck– must be a safari thing. I just tried to again and couldn’t get past the Select Subject line.And as I said, I was also told by the SATS HK people they had issues with it too.

      Reply
      1. Mike

        On a Mac, Safari does not have access to certain forms online, and this after years of complaints from businesses and customers. As stated by “visitor”, Firefox is OK, or Opera. As usual, be careful about the need for encryption, and watch for IP leaks.

        Reply
  3. Lord Koos

    Ugh. I’ve never flown Thai Airways, but Cathy Pacific has the most uncomfortable coach seats I’ve ever experienced, they are really awful for a long flight. I can recommend Bangkok Air, but they fly more locally.

    I’m surprised you had so much carry on luggage. We traveled light around SE Asia for seven months with only softsided carry-on bags plus two small backpacks, and bought whatever else we needed as we went. Of course we were not bringing nicer clothes for meetings or whatever.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      For worst seats in Asian carriers, it’s probably a toss up between Sri Lankan Airlines and Silk Air. I can have problems with my back on a long flight, and the seats on each have caused me problems in the past.

      Reply
      1. Carl

        In our experience, long flights and economy simply don’t mix, although some carriers are definitely better than others. Competent customer service similarly seems to vary by airline, as you alluded to a few times in this post. When we travel overseas for leisure, we never check bags. Just reduces the risk of nightmare experiences, and really, that’s what flying has become, domestically and elsewhere.

        Reply
      1. Carl

        As a diver myself, airlines pretty much killed taking most of your own gear, cameras excepted, when they started up with the checked bag fees. It made renting equipment much more attractive than lugging a full set of gear around.

        Reply
        1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

          Not for me. I like having my masks– and there are things you cannot rent. Rashguards, diving leggings. Nor can you count on finding anything that fits in remote locations. Believe me, what I carry is carefully pruned down to essentials. I have to schlep it all around, remember.

          Reply
          1. Enquiring Mind

            Think of the extra items as an ongoing workout to keep in top form for the eventual fun.
            That has helped many an adventurer through lines, stairs, queues and whatever else the modern world throws at one before relaxation may be found. :)

            Reply
  4. JamesG

    As for not owning a bag that looks like others, buy Duck brand tape in a gaudy color (I use neon orange) and put enough on your bag to ensure it looks like yours and no one else’s.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Hmm– hope you’re wrong there. I fly through that airport often, and have never had a problem. I watched it bounce down the conveyor. I admit that your hypothesis is consistent with there being no record of it in Bangkok– but as far as I know, that sort of outright theft of a bag isn’t a problem in Kolkata. Have to ask the Thai Airways Kolkata baggage supervisor when I speak to him again tomorrow if there’s any record of it actually being loaded.

      Reply
      1. Hana M

        If it’s smallish maybe it never left the airplane luggage hold. It might be someplace else entirely depending on where the airplane is. Maybe there is a way to track the actual plane(s) you were on. Perhaps one was taken in for maintenance or got assigned to another route.

        I learned the never check irreplaceables the hard way, too, when I stupidly packed a bag with a ring from my great grandmother, a gold locket from my fiance, etc. And had the whole lot stolen at Brussels airport (presumably by baggage handlers).

        Reply
        1. Enquiring Mind

          Domestic airports have their own challenges. The Logan Airport team liberated two Harvard t-shirts that I had purchased for my kids. Agreed on the extra precautions, and supplement with emailing yourself copies of various items like tickets, passport, itinerary or similar, all password-protected. Remember the old days when you could practically just walk right onto a plane, and be accompanied by family wishing you a safe trip before they deplaned prior to takeoff?

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            Mom still has, I hope, a picture of tiny four year old me with the crew in front of a B.O.A.C. Constellation that we flew across the Atlantic Ocean in. I’m told I went up front into the cockpit and sat in the navigators seat, marveling at the world of fluffy white clouds passing by. There was a Golden Age once.

            Reply
  5. Michael

    American lost my wife and I’s bags on a LAX-MAD-IST trip in 2013. The first leg is our favorite code share flight operated by Iberia Air (the food and booze are fabulous in Biz class) we booked with points. After 6 days of phone calls and promises and no bags, we left for the airport to fly on to Budapest. Taking one more opp to deal with lost luggage, we surrendered our passports and went behind the security walls to the office and sat at a desk with a person who was beginning to review our claim when our bags were wheeled past me on a cart. “There they are!” I exclaimed and my wife burst into tears as she turned and saw them too. We signed a form, wheeled our bags away, retrieved our passports and were on our way. Dreadful experience, more for my wife than me, which changed our behavior forever.

    Reply
    1. footnote4

      I read through the first phrase and thought “jeez, this story is going to be terrible!”

      The full thing is still pretty dramatic.

      Reply
  6. fajensen

    I think I now want a Russian credit card:
    “We send Yuri, to sort out? Yes?”.
    That is a service I would pay for.

    Reply
  7. Clive

    Unfortunately credit card concierge services are largely running on brand fumes and have been irredeemably crapified. They used to be run in-house by a team of experienced specialists (and the team leaders were often ex-executive PAs so knew how to get things done and had access to the sort of contracts needed to make a difference in resolving the kinds of niggles cardholders would get (like Jerri-Lynn’s tale of woe)).

    Now it’s just outsourced bums on seats typing stuff into a search engine and offering a nice line in tea and sympathy. Only without the tea. And, sometimes, as Jerri-Lynn found on one of her calls, the sympathy.

    Unless you spend $100k a year on your card, don’t expect anything from the card issuers.

    There are some assistance services out there (stand-alone) which aren’t blatant rip offs.

    (Big gnashing of teeth in solidarity from me Jerri-Lynn! Not that it helps…)

    Reply
    1. fajensen

      There is more of that coming down this particular spout:

      In Sweden the only actual credit card available is Diners Club. Every other card, even AMEX, are charge cards with a credit account attached. This means that, unlike a real credit card which operates like a ledger, charges are applied immediately to the credit account. So, when ones card get ripped off …. one gets a form from the bank to contact the vendor and ask for the money back (the very people who in Sicily is of course part of the scam). They often beta-test in Scandinavia, soo … in a few years … suckage will arrive.

      Then there is the scam that one can book a hire car, hotel room or whatever and *presumably* pay immediately with the proper, full strength card. Then when one arrives to pick up the damn car or hotel room – and Lo & Behold, the bastards does not accept the card one used to “pay” with, the “payment” was in fact just a verification of the functioning of the card used for the reservation, not connected to the procured service at all.

      Even had bloody Diners set me up like that in Heathrow so now I shall forever not use Avis but Sixt because their customer service is so much better equipped (I got a better car for the same money on another occasion because I went to the wrong pickup point).

      What Else?

      Maybe The one where they close your card while you are travelling because stupid Klarna.se got hacked and you find out because the card is rejected and have to call the bastards. Then they refuse any responsibility for any “inconvenience” this may cause – like potentially being stranded at some god forsaken petrol station on the Autobahn, with the hotel booking stuffed too!

      Reply
  8. RGF

    Is this not a subtle argument in favour of eschewing commercial air travel, with all the pleebland interactions it entails, and flying only on private or military/M-16 aircraft?

    Reply
    1. Klim

      Cornell University economist Alfred E. Kahn was among the first to view the airline industry strictly as a business. He believed that breaking up the industry structure would create new airlines, increase competition, and lower fares.

      He was very proud of having deregulated the airlines in 1978. If he only knew.

      Reply
  9. JoeK

    I had a brand-new travel bag destroyed by the baggage handler for Air China at HKG a couple of years ago; it looked like it had been dragged on the tarmac or in the wheel well. I was also shunted off to a sub-contractor. This was a brand-new $300 bag, and I had to argue with them at length to get $150 comp. from them rather than the $90 they offered as “maximum compensation.” In Asia, pretty much everything is negotiable and to a degree we rarely encounter “back home.”
    I then separately had it repaired at the brand store in Hong Kong. Long story short, they did a laughably bad job, like something a child would do, and returned it to me with the straps missing.
    The point is HK is pretty crapified in many ways. The people are polite and charming enough, and will work a bit harder than their mainland counterparts, but mostly what you get in HK vs. the mainland (as the worst-service-possible baseline, much–not all–of the time) is a more polite “sorry” and a more convoluted explanation why they “can’t” do anything for you.
    They do try, sort of, but the Hong Kong can-do mentality of old (going back to the ’80s anyway, can’t say before then) has become the do as little as possible approach and BS your way out of it. The number of times I’ve heard “sorry…..” in Hong Kong….

    As to Thai Airways, well as you no doubt know Thailand and Thai people are lovely but it’s an accident a minute in SE Asia, things just barely work most of the time and the SE Asians just shrug and move on. And India….do they still cover any box you post abroad with dozens of wax seals at every possible ingress point so that your stuff actually leaves the P.O.? Even more than SE Asia I expect things to go wrong/missing and take a belt-and-suspenders approach to any kind of security regarding my most important things. The rest, including my own well-being, I consign to fate.

    Good luck, I think you will need it!

    Reply
  10. Tinky

    Ironically, when I flew back from India to London around 1980, Thai International was the finest airline that I had ever flown to date. ’twas a different world, of course.

    Great write-up, though, and I am sorely tempted to write something similar about a recent experience with Etsy. Long story short, I made a purchase, paid using a credit card, the seller sold the (unique, vintage) item to someone else, presumably for a higher price, lied to me about what had happened, refunded my money, then told the real story when pressed. What raised my blood-pressure the most is that I lost ~$40 on the transaction due to currency fluctuations, which Etsy refuses to reimburse, as sellers are apparently allowed to “cancel” purchases for no good reason.

    Infuriating.

    Reply
  11. Synoia

    I’ve flown over 3 Million miles, since the early 50s.

    I’ve seen baggage handler at Heat-throw (LHR) offloading luggage from a truck. It seems to be a contest of “who could toss a piece of luggage the furthest.”

    I only have disposable luggage. If they break it, and they will, replace it.

    I never check anything I cannot easily replace. My immediate needs are always in my carry on.

    Airlines have always been bad. My mother hated BOAC (now BA).

    Reply
    1. Rates

      Other than my one time flying Business Class on Singapore Airlines which was fantastic (and paid for by the company), my experience of airlines have always been they are a necessary experience in order to get from Point A to Point B, nothing more.

      Then again, this is an industry where you can literally lose a plane like Malaysian MH 370, and be unable to locate it.

      A luggage? Depends on luck I guess.

      Reply
  12. neo-realist

    I never check anything I cannot easily replace. My immediate needs are always in my carry on

    Definitely a key to keeping your sanity when the airline loses your luggage.

    Reply
  13. CanCyn

    My sympathy Jerri-Lynn, lost luggage is no fun. I am an infrequent air traveller and had a bag lost (but eventually found and returned once I got home) one of the very first times I flew. I also have had someone mistake my very common looking bag for theirs and had to drive almost 2 hours in a snow storm to make the exchange (thank goodness we had tags with contact info on our bags). So I’ve learned, unique luggage, and not too expensive …. thanks for the reminder that I’m on the right track, I will add taking pictues of my luggage to my security procedure the next time I fly … whenever that will be.

    Aside from my dislike of flying in general (the noise, the smells, the discomfort, etc.), the crapifcation of everything scares me most when it comes to flying. I mistrust everyone from the ticket sellers to the maintenance crew. It’s all part of the same neoliberal wheel that we can’t seem to escape. Higher profits, cheaper goods – which we continue to demand …

    I’m 55, when I was a child, no one I knew was flying to Disneyland or other resorts to the south with their families on March break. It was too expensive. Otherwise, families were better off in most ways. I’d trade affordable housing, food and medical care for an annual week at a resort in the Dominican Republic anyday …. I know Bill Maher is not admired by the NC community and for the most part I agree but he did say once that we shouldn’t be surprised that, in our quest for the cheapest things possible, we’re getting stuff made from poison, mud and sh*t. If you take that metaphorically, you could apply it to the airlines.

    Reply
  14. craazyman

    Fortunately this doesn’t sound like a complete tragedy. Seems like a lot of detective work for a cheap bag, a few runround clothes and some shoes. Evidently they weren’t like 5 pairs of Christian Louboutain shoes or all hell could have broken loose. It must have taken quite a long time to type all that out. You could have gone to the store and bought 4 new bags, sent one to Calcutta and back and erased all the memories.

    Also, they didn’t serve fried crickets on the flight? That must have been a relief. I’m amazed the plane even got there, to be honest. That’s something I’d be so thankfull for, riding on 3rd world country airline praying to God and looking out the window like William Shatner in the Twilight Zone that i would’ve forgotten all about the lost bag. I’d be on my knees praying Thanks to God just for arriving, still in this plane (no pun intended) of existence.

    Jesus. That bag is like nothing compared to just surviving. At least we know there’s still a need for English teachers in Thailand. That should be good news for somebody. Not that anybody here in American can speak Thai. If that’s what they speak there. I have no idea. I guess they must. What else would they speak? I don’t know. On the other hand maybe this was some lazy and recalcitrant Calcutta baggage dude who couldn’t be bothered to pick a fallen bag off the floor and decided to kick it like a soccer ball instead. It might be underneath the aluminum siding outside the hanger. It’s tough, thinking about how cold people can be to strangers.

    At any rate. What about those specially designed travel clothes that come in layers and have all sorts of hidden zippers for storing valuables? That’s what I’d do. But I would be sure to ride British Airways or Pan Am, if you still could. Those were the days, when James Bond looked like Sean Connery and you could fly Pan Am almost anywhere.

    Reply
      1. craazyman

        True enough . . .

        But this clip — if anybody dares watch it — is how bad it could have been. A lost duffle bag with a few skirts and shoes is a small price for a safe flight on No Baggage 3rd World Airlines out of Calcutta. This might have been what made William Shatner into a Star Fleet Captain . . .

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fFbWJJj9uFU

        Reply
        1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

          And the shoes– the shoes! Wonderful pair of Italian leather lace-ups, beautiful dark grey colour. Very comfortable, well broken in. My favourites shoes. (And quite expensive. Very as a matter of fact. And I do love my shoes.) I think you missed that this was the start of a long trip. I’ll get nothing in reimbursement for the contents of my bag. But the replacement costs: of the shoes, the clothes, the diving equipment, swim wear, various diving clothes– thousands, not hundreds. USD, not INR, HKD. But of course, the annoying thing: none of this would be of any value to anyone else. So I’m out my stuff and no one else benefits.

          Reply
  15. flora

    What a dreadful run-around.

    an aside: all those agents promising to “reach out” ? That phrase is, to me, a tell that they aren’t going to make more than the minimal effort, if that much.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Yes, the language, the language– combining condescension and the sense that the writer doesn’t give a toss, and is just purporting to care. Like Bill Clinton squeezing out a tear.

      Reply
  16. greenie

    I grew up in Kolkata and also flew Thai Airlines many times (as recently as 2014). Based on the information, I suspect the luggage never boarded on the plane in Kolkata.

    If it did, there would be electronic record of the bag. The airlines electronically match the checked luggages with passengers to make sure no “terrorist” checked in a bomb-filled bag and then decided not to board the plane at the last minute.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      The chap in Kolkata seems very competent, and he asked me yesterday evening for copies of my boarding passes– which I provided. So maybe– fingers crossed– he’ll be able to do something.

      Reply
      1. greenie

        The following information may be helpful to you.

        I once had to collect a lost bag from the Calcutta airport sixteen years back. They took me to a huge room full of stacked bags, and I had to identify mine from there. That was how things were done in the old airport. However, I suspect the people/procedure did not change despite airport getting “modernized”. So, please ask the agents, whether such a room still exists. If it does, you will have to physically be there to find your bag from that ‘lost and found’ room.

        In my case, the bag was lost, because Indian Airlines did not load it in my flight from Bangkok to Calcutta. They sent the bag in the following flight, and then sent it straight to ‘lost and found’ room. In USA, you expect the airlines to ship the bag to you. In Calcutta, they simply sent to ‘lost and found’. That is Calcutta. I heard their name got “modernized” to Kolkata lately :)

        Another bit of information – In India, we had a system of “baggage identification” in the past. This was done to stop terrorists sneaking in bomb-filled suitcases and then not taking the flight. The “baggage identification” process was like this. Everyone physically identified her checked bags before boarding on the plane, and only then the airlines loaded the bags in the plane.

        I heard the rules are still the same, but this “baggage identification” is being done by computer instead of people physically pointing at the objects. If so, your bag should have an electronic record of being in the Thai flight, and the airlines people should be able to track that by now.

        So, my best guess is that you may have to make a visit to the ‘lost and found’ room in the Calcutta airport.

        Reply
    2. fajensen

      …Except, they don’t always. There is some operational flexibility.

      I had plane trouble in Germany at the time when we had to switch even the shaver on during check-in securty checks. They loaded the luggage in but we didn’t get on the planned Lufwaffe flight because suddenly the entire flight was re-reouted to another departure immediately after. So my (and the other passengers) luggage must have arrived via the original flight, late of course (unless they actually took everything out and loaded it on a transport, which I doubt they did).

      Reply
  17. Sluggeaux

    My condolences, Ms. Scofield. What a drag.

    At this point in life, I’ve resigned myself to not seeing much of the world. It’s simply not worth the hassle. The global population bomb has effectively doubled the number of people since 1970. The infrastructure simply can’t keep up with the volume. If I can’t pony-up for a direct flight, I won’t go.

    Even domestically, nothing of value that can’t be easily replaced in the shops at my destination goes into the cargo hold unless it’s a gate-check when they’ve run out of overhead bins. I also try to avoid creating complications such as midnight check-ins, which generally involve tired and inexperienced agents and ground crews. I suspect that you were initially the victim of a tag mix-up and things went downhill from there.

    As for the use of given names rather than surnames, I suspect that this is due to out-sourcing of basic services to places where the employees are unfamiliar with Euro-American naming conventions. With AmEx, it’s always useful to sort out how to be directed to one of their U.S.-based call centers. I politely ask, because it helps communication to have a common idiom and common expectations as well as a common language.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      When I asked him three times to address me respectfully– and he refused, and was ready to put me through to cancel my card when I balked– that was wrong. And I’d swear if I had to that at this point, I was dealing with a US-based agent. The other people I spoke to at Amex seemed to be as well– I base that opinion on the way each spoke English, use of language, idiom, past experience– I wasn’t dealing with outsourced personnel here. (Compare that to when one uses AMEX’s IM system– there the agents are hopeless and each can only repeat back a protocol– I know those agents are based in India. I’ve asked and that’s the answer I received. So when I have a problem with Amex, I do make a call rather than try and resolve the issue on-line)

      Reply
      1. Whine Country

        Gave up on Amex several years ago. Look up the definition of crapification in the dictionary and American Express is given as a ‘for example’. $550 a year for that? Beatings will continue until morale improves.

        Reply
  18. Bill Reynolds

    I’ve also traveled extensively for work. (8 times around the world in the 21st Century alone.) It would never, ever occur to me to put something irreplaceable in checked baggage. I’ve had other issues with Thai, such as the flight attendants in business class refusing to tell the passenger seated next to me to stow her shopping bags that looked to be full of potentially lethal objects in the case of severe chop and which she insisted on clutching to her bosom, but lost luggage is part of what you expect when you travel. At my advanced age and state of decrepitude I now have to travel with LOTS of prescription medication, and getting all the bottles with the labels into my carryon is increasingly a challenge, but I’d refuse to fly if I had to check them. I’m not unsympathetic, but….

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I knew I was making a mistake–and that’s part of what makes this so painful. I certainly travel enough to understand that one doesn’t check anything irreplaceable into the hold. I’m still a wee bit hopeful that my bag will be found. And if it is, I’m pretty sure the notebooks will be there– they aren’t worth stealing.

      Reply
  19. Robert NYC

    “I was quite excited– travelling still does that for me, and that’s part of the reason I continue to do so much of it.”

    Say What??? I don’t know anybody who has travelled a lot and still finds any excitement in it. I start getting in a bad mood just at the thought of making a reservation. In any event your experience is nothing out of the ordinary and typical of what many thousands of people suffer through ever day. Flying in a commercial airline these days is lot like being stuffed into the rear-end of a horse head first. And the nastiness of the experience starts long before you even board the plane.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      Security overseas (ex Heathrow) is much less terrible than in the US. It’s the security theater that makes air travel miserable, not just the direct experience but it gets everyone stressed and testy, so it has knock-on effects.

      And sorry, Jerri-Lynn travels a ton.

      Reply
      1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

        Yes, I hate the security theater– which is much worse in the US. It’s not nearly as bad in other countries. In fact, flying through Hong Kong the other day, I was still finishing a meal about 40 minutes before the plane was due to depart. The waiter laughed when I asked and said I had plenty of time. Was able to get through security– very fast, efficient, 10 mins, tops, despite a long line– and then needed to take two train transfers to my gate. On the way from train 1 to 2, I was a bit worried when I spied a monitor flashing final call for my flight. Looking around, I saw I was surrounded by Vietnamese monks, who were all heading for the same plane. And I relaxed b/c I realized we all weren’t going to be left behind.

        Made it w/ plenty of time to spare and I was not even close to being the last person to board that plane.

        Reply
        1. gepay

          I can empathize with Jerri-Lynn about her latest experience flying. I have to wonder how much she really believes in man made CO2 causing catastrophic climate change – or most people at NC, judging from the comments.. I believe other main bloggers just flew back and forth to London. Air travel must be a major contribution to the production of man made CO2. If one really believed, they would change their lifestyles and/ or occupations so as to lower their carbon footprint. College campuses in my neighborhood are among the most energy inefficient users in the county. Yet, they are all firm believers that man made CO2 is causing catastrophic climate change. Of course, society has to change in order for there to be any meaningful reductions, rather than big international conferences where all the attendees fly to attend. I am not a believer.

          Reply
          1. Lambert Strether

            Well, I don’t own a car, don’t use air conditioning, my lifestyle is in general frugal, and I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars over the years insulating the house and making the heating and electrical systems more efficient. So hopefully that nets out positive.

            You’re aware that the Internet takes a lot of energy?

            Reply
            1. gepay

              I wasn’t aware that the internet uses 400 trillion btus of energy just in the US – Twice as much as air transportation. But having internet conferences would probably add only a minuscule amount of more energy. while flying to them would use orders of magnitude more energy.. The US military tho is the biggest energy user in the world. And while I don’t believe in man made CO2 causing catastrophic climate change I do believe a nuclear war would be catastrophic.It is easy to notice that US foreign policy is the biggest real danger to human life on the planet. Yet nobody has a clue how to realistically change that in the near future.

              Reply
      2. Robert NYC

        Yes, agree with your point on security and that things are often better in major foreign airports compared to the U.S. which is more third world than the actual third world. Nevertheless, it is no great shakes anywhere from my experience. The new facilities in Madrid are quite impressive, but on a scale that is dehumanizing to an extreme extent and reflects the sheer number of us humans moving about. And flying first class on Etihad or Emirates is a real privilege, but you still have to drive to the airport which in the case of JFK is enough to ruin the entire trip and then navigate through these giant complexes. I love how every one of these new mega airports force all travelers to traverse an enormous shopping mall to get to the gate. I have been going to airports since the 60s and even remember the time when there was no airport security. People used to be allowed to wait for and meet friends and loved ones at the gate!!! Back then, as a little kid I was allowed to walk on the plane with my dad, visit the cockpit, etc. Times have changed for the worse, much worse.

        Reply
        1. Jbird

          I just have to say, that as a survivor of the the security Kabuki in the United States, between the thefts, lost luggage, and smuggling I read about in some airports it seems that all any ne’er do-well would have to do to destroy a plane is to bribe someone in baggage handling.

          I do not feel any safer that I did with that single metal detector and “a” guard at JFK before 9/11.

          So while standing in line my aged/handicapped relatives with our overstuffed carry-on are enjoying TSA screeners’ often insulting, rude attention with bonus confusing or garbled instructions, I have wondered if all this is just a jobs program, or some profitable make-work contracts masking itself as being for our “safety”.

          Reply
        2. SpringTexan

          I remember that too. Flying actually WAS fun in those days, and human.

          The first flight I was ever on, at about age 8, was delayed 4 hours because it needed a part. They gave us a choice of leaving and coming back or staying on the plane. We stayed and they fed us breakfast, gave us playing cards, gave my little 3-year-old sister a stewardess cap. When we got home from the trip there were letters from the airlines apologizing and a busload of free cigarettes they had sent us.

          Yes, things were different then.

          Reply
      3. fajensen

        The “Aspire, The Lounge and Spa” at LHR T5 Heathrow is quite enjoyable and not yet crapified like the Aspire/Aviator lounge in Copenhagen. Getting lounge access rights takes a lot of the annoyance out of waiting in airports. It also helps a lot to not use “point-to-point” airlines like especially(!) Ryanair, Easyjet and so on. The savings are not worth the suffering and inconvenience caused by crap airlines using 3’rd rate airports.

        Reply
    2. oh

      The American airline traveling public have been trained to become robots who’ll put up with any and all inconvenience imposed upon them by the airline (beginning with on line reservations), the TSA and baggage handling gorillas. They meekly accept the declining service, poor meals (if at all served or sold), buying bottled water and snacks inside the “secure” area and being crammed into narrower seats with less legroom. This is the same crapification that has happened with our political system. “They have nowhere else to go..” is their mantra. We need to boycott airlines as well as political parties. BTW, all US airlines are third (turd) world airlines.

      I’m sorry Jerri-Lynn, for your terrible experience and loss of valuables. It would be so frustrating if it happened to me. Thanks for writing about it and alerting others.

      Reply
  20. PKMKII

    While both horrible in this anecdote, I’m going to put my money on Amex being the worse of the two here. With the airline, there’s at least a somewhat understandable disconnect being created by the third party baggage carrier. Some suit in contracts whose probably never been in a baggage handling facility signed up the airline with SATS, and didn’t bother creating any useful protocol or chain of communication between the people on the ground for the two. They’re mutually working through a veil of ignorance. Amex, though, is as one entity here, or at least presenting themselves as such. No excuse there. And if you had to go through three representatives before it clicked for one of them what the right department is, that means they weren’t trained properly (what is that $550 getting spent on anyway?). Your experience jives with my own as well, that these “elite” card services don’t have extra-special connections or business muscle, they just process the paperwork and phone calls on your behalf, but can’t/don’t go beyond anything you yourself could do.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      And in my case actually did less, way less, than what I’d already done. And when they provided advice– e.g., call Bangkok– it was wrong.

      Reply
      1. kk

        Don’t AmEx Platinum provide fairly generous reimbursement for the inconvenience of lost baggage, as well as the rather large payout at the end for lost item of baggage?
        From their travel insurance PDF:
        – Supposing it evolves into ‘one of those journeys,’ and your luggage fails to arrive at
        your destination when you do? After four hours, feel free to buy up to US$500 of
        clothes per person on your Card. And another US$500 worth if it still hasn’t
        materialised after forty-eight hours.
        -…if your baggage is damaged, stolen or simply goes
        missing, your Platinum Card travel insurance benefits entitle you to as much as
        US$3,500 per person, with a single article limit up to US$850.

        Hence, you could be due for compensation of up to $4,500. (but you would have to have receipts)

        Reply
  21. footnote4

    After having trouble communicating a description even to native English speakers I have taken to photographing each bag before I turn it over.

    Hope you’re reunited soon.

    Reply
  22. oaf

    …I hope you get your notebooks back…irreplaceable…not so much the paper as the thoughts and the way the words were put down. Wouldn’t be too much of a price to scan or photo your pages as you finish them, for digital backup. Airlines will always be a learning experience. My sympathy.
    Good Luck!

    Reply
  23. Jer Bear

    If you aren’t flying General Aviation, then you really don’t need to be flying. G/A or corporate flights make up over half the flights across the US and world-wide. No TSA, no waiting lines, no pornoscanners. You pay some more, but only if you think you are worth it. Otherwise, fly the cattle-cars of United, et al.

    Reply
    1. Jbird

      Okay.

      Dude, I do tend to be touchy. However, I must say that that statement seems just a touch arrogant, or at least shows a real lack of knowledge.

      Many people have trouble paying for travel at all, or at least my family does, and there is always the time consumed in the traveling along with the discomfort. There is no way I would drive the three-five days it would take to go across America traveling between the branches of the family while carting along a cranky aging relative or two. I love them all dearly, but just no. It all depends on what one can afford to pay in money, time, aggravation, and sometimes actual pain. So it’s the pornoscanners for us. Joy.

      Too bad they don’t have the system of passenger trains that use to be. From what I read, they were much more comfortable, and were not any slower than driving.

      If anyone wants to comment on train versus plane travel, I would be interested in reading it.

      Reply
    2. Whine Country

      Over half the flights across the US and world-wide are G/A flights. I’d bet that in one day, the cattle-cars fly more passengers than all those G/A flights fly in any five years. You seem to suggest that the vast majority of flyers are either too stupid or too cheap to do as you do. Nice to hear from you.

      Reply
      1. JBird

        Jer Bear

        …If you aren’t flying General Aviation, then you really don’t need to be flying…

        JBird

        …Many people have trouble paying for travel at all, or at least my family does, and there is always the time consumed in the traveling along with the discomfort…

        Whine Country

        …You seem to suggest that the vast majority of flyers are either too stupid or too cheap to do as you do. Nice to hear from you…

        I am saying most people generally cannot afford to fly much if at all; just how affordable is General Aviation especially for the average person? Just because one has a need for something doesn’t mean that they can afford to pay for it.

        We would gladly have put just my own sickly, disabled, cane using mother in non-cattle class, but our finances are…tight. However, the alternative is not to see each other at all.

        I am also reacting to the fact that the TSA, and the airlines too, makes flying more difficult every year, ostensibly for our safety, but really just adding the costs in hours, money, and much discomfort, especially to anyone with disabilities, or even just unusual needs.

        Fifteen minutes to board compared to three hours. And more space to sit or store anything, and being able to bring your own drinks, and much else besides.

        Crapification indeed. I don’t think flyers are any safer as it’s just fake security. Expensive Kabuki.

        Reply
  24. Alan

    At least you are heading in the right direction. Googling reveals that most lost stuff ends up in Alabama, from where, if unclaimed, is sold off. Not yet flown with Thai, but sounds like one to avoid for a bit.

    Reply
  25. whiteylockmandoubled

    First and last rule of air travel:

    Never check bags. Shitcan your fourwheel bag for the 3 extra interior inches of a 2 wheeler. Roll your clothes as tight as you can, stuff your carryon with everything you own and carry a huge day pack as your “personal item,” which you cram under the seat in front of you, and never check bags.

    Ever.

    Reply
  26. Carey

    “…cram under the seat in front of you…”? On what kind of plane? Any plane I’ve flown on recently not only
    has no room for a bag there, there is no room for *my feet*, said space being occupied by some kind of
    electronics box…

    Reply
  27. kk

    I am a bit puzzled by this article….
    Don’t AmEx Platinum provide fairly generous reimbursement for the inconvenience of lost baggage, as well as the rather large payout at the end for lost item of baggage? Instead, the author complains about AmEx not doing enough to search for her lost bag, which is something they can hardly be expected to do, since they don’t run airport baggage services, so it’s not clear why she expected them to deliver on this front.

    From their travel insurance PDF:
    – Supposing it evolves into ‘one of those journeys,’ and your luggage fails to arrive at
    your destination when you do? After four hours, feel free to buy up to US$500 of
    clothes per person on your Card. And another US$500 worth if it still hasn’t
    materialised after forty-eight hours.
    -…if your baggage is damaged, stolen or simply goes
    missing, your Platinum Card travel insurance benefits entitle you to as much as
    US$3,500 per person, with a single article limit up to US$850.

    Hence, she could be due for compensation of up to $4,500.

    Reply

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