Monday, March 31, 2008

BA are not alone, just worse!

A recent experience with my favorite airline of the moment, Air France, shows that no airline is perfect.  And as this story concerns baggage, it is appropriate to mention BA, my least favorite airline, and the ongoing saga at T5, Heathrow (which I note is now often called deathrow).

Well, the other day I flew from Africa, connecting at Paris CDG on the second flight of the day to Birmingham.  As usual my cabin baggage was left at the foot of the stairs to the BAe 146 as it does not fit into the overhead storage locker.  This bag had been lovingly toted by yours truly from check in at Pointe Noire, through the nightmare that is Brazzaville and on to Paris, where it was dragged onto three buses before being deposited at the foot of the stairs to the plane.  I had done sterling work in getting it that far and it was in as new condition.

Upon arrival at Birmingham my baggage arrived looking, superficially, like it was in good condition.  But the customs official knew better and pulled me over.  The zipper had broken and I was asked to open the case for inspection.  We examined every sock, every personal item, every dirty piece of laundry.  I asked why I had been singled out and was given the third degree treatment - had I been given anything to carry, etc. etc.  Truth is, they had seen the damage, probably even witnessed the conveyor belt at is ripped off the combination lock, now missing, and had decided that the case was now worth inspecting.

Once the customs official was satisfied I had no drugs, dried fish or other illegal substance, I went back to the baggage hall, the case now contained in a large plastic bag to prevent my soiled clothing from spilling out, and waited to make a damage report.  Which I did and where I was assured that a replacement bag would be provided.

But when I called the Air France baggage department I was told that my case would be collected, repaired and delivered.  No timetable on when this would happen, of course.

The case cost £50.  Even with packing and a replacement combination lock we are looking at no more than £60.  But the airline policy is to ship the bag twice and repair it.  Which, by the way, they will!  But meantime I need a new bag.

By the way, the phone calls took over an hour.