After a good first time flying experience in Turkish airlines from Nairobi to New York transiting from Istanbul , horrifying experience of missing baggage started on my way back to Nairobi. I have never heard of a similar experience till date. What it was and why is it so unique....well read on because this is just not another missing baggage story!
One Silly Mistake to Start it all…..
We were traveling from New York's JFK to Istanbul having a 3 day stop-over, and then to Nairobi. Little did I suspect that the whole journey after arriving in Istanbul will turn into one big nightmare. Actually, things started going wrong at the check-in itself at JFK but it did not occur to us that a tiny goof up would cause never ending stress for months! At JFK while boarding, we had six checked- in baggage including a stroller. The lady at the counter got confused on the number of items and assumed it to be total of five bags including a stroller. She punched some number in hurry and because of her silly mistake one bag went on to the belt without any tag. Thankfully she gave us correct tag numbers for the entire baggage.
Missing bags and a Sadistic Pleasure!
When we landed at Istanbul, thanks to the mistake at JFK, we got only four bags and a stroller. We immediately filed a complaint at airport's lost and found department with the baggage tag number that we were given. All of our winter clothes- jackets and lot of other important stuff was missing. It took us almost two harrowing hours after landing to lodge the complaint. After clearing immigration we had to wait till the belt stopped without our luggage appearing on it. Actual lodging of complaint itself took a long time as the queue was long with around fifteen to twenty passengers fussing about the same problem of missing baggage. Well, what can I say….it did give me a little (sadistic) comfort that we were not alone in this ordeal!! We were told that the airport authority will inform us once they received our missing bag. They were confident that it might come on next flight which was in the evening.
When we reached our hotel and informed the manager to expect a phone call from Airport regarding our missing bag, he smirked and said “Oh Turkish Airlines! This is a common problem. They are famous for losing baggage.” Just imagine our plight, all hopes died right there! Anyways, we kept inquiring about our bag for those three days stay in Istanbul. A call each in morning and evening had become a ritual but nothing happened and there was no news of any baggage. Our hope was also becoming bleak because generally, missing baggage reaches the owner within two to three days and may take upto a week in the worst case scenario . I assumed that ours might be the worst case scenario! Well, as the events unfolded we realized it was more than that!
One More Goes Missing!
After three days we flew back and when we thought that things could not get any worse we received only three bags and a stroller at Nairobi. It was all looking like a joke now! Usually when there is a change of flight then sometimes there is an err in transferring luggage from one flight to another but this time we were on a direct flight from Turkey to Nairobi. We started the return journey with six items in hand and now we had reached our destination with only four!
After we collected our bags from the belt in Nairobi we saw many unclaimed suitcases that were still lying on it. When we inquired from the guy who was putting luggage on the belt we got to know that they were the ones that Airline had missed on the previous day. He added that with this particular airline, this was the normal scenario. Our hearts sank but again a comfort came about that my bag might also arrive tomorrow. Again we lodged a complaint in lost and found department where we met other passengers who had suffered the same agony. Herd mentality took over…..and I again tasted that sadistic pleasure!!
Becoming an Expert at Follow Ups…..Service Anyone?
We kept in touch with Nairobi airport and Turkish airlines during the following days but without luck. Turkish airline call centre gave gibberish about the search was on and every other day they sent mails asking about the lost baggage- type, model and color. But we kept at it relentlessly. I would sometimes call them twice in a day and then a mail would arrive trying to comfort us and again asking for the same details! It did not help that sometimes people who I spoke to hardly understood or spoke English.
One fine day, they asked us to send an email describing the items in the suitcase along with gender specifications and brand type. Usually no one would remember these things in detail especially when there were five suitcases that were packed. But fortunately I remembered as that was the only suitcase I had packed!
A Bloody New Revelation!!
In the meantime our relatives in New York went to the JFK with the lost bag’s tag number. They were told that the number we had till now and which was used by call center to trace our missing baggage was not in the departure airport records. This confirmed our suspicion that the lady at check-in counter had just given us a tag number without actually tagging the bag. JFK Airport authorities also informed that the baggage that comes without tags is retained at the Airport itself for two to three days and then sent to Istanbul. After hearing this we immediately regretted not doing this before!
After this new revelation, I called up Istanbul Airport’s missing baggage department. They gave me a mail id of the department where baggage without tags was kept. I sent a mail with description of my bag to the id and was told that the similar baggage was seen in the missing baggage store. When I called next day I got a reply saying that I should be contacting call center and not the airport. When I dialed the lady who had spoken to me the previous day reacted weirdly saying she was not supposed to dish out any information and that all communication would be routed through the Call centre only.
One Recovery as the Mystery deepens……
We received one suitcase in two weeks time, the one which was lost on Istanbul - Nairobi sector. It looked like someone had tried to break it open to check the contents but thanks to its number locking system it stayed! The handle was broken but all things inside were intact.
With time we lost all hope of finding the bag lost on JFK--Istanbul sector so we demanded a refund. We were categorically told that once the process of refund was put into motion, our bag would not be returned even if it were located. They also acquainted us with their refund policy which was calculated based on weight multiplied by ten. This meant that we would be getting only $230 whereas the bag we lost contained items worth $700-$800! But as they say, beggars can’t be choosers we agreed to apply for refund.
Voila! Its Here and How!
In spite of our mails agreeing to reimbursement, Turkish Airline did not start the process and kept the search on! By this time we were so tired of this routine that I posted a complaint on Turkish Airlines’ Facebook page about how my baggage went missing and now no refund was being initiated by them. Within two days we got a call that my bag has been found and is on its way. I actually could not believe that we were finally getting it after a wait of two long months.
This was one of those extremely rare case and my joy knew no bounds when I saw that all things inside were intact even though the lock was broken to check all the items which we had mentioned in the mail. There was a signed paper kept inside saying the baggage was opened for security reasons. With everything suddenly going our way, our other broken suitcase was also exchanged and the money was reimbursed for the new suitcase. We never bothered to check the final behind the scene story because the relief and simple incredibility of it all was too overwhelming for us!
So this was my most horrendous experience with missing baggage till date! I am only glad that this story has a fairy tale ending. If you have had a similar experience, do share it with us in the comments below. Also, look out for our next on tips to save you the pain when baggage goes missing!