OPEN LETTER TO NORTHWEST AIRLINES
and, to a minor degree, NOVIA Copenhagen
A story about incompatible luggage-scanning systems, ureliable statements, little or no care for customers and employees with little or no knowledge about the things they had done or were supposed to have done
Traveling to Seattle
We, Beth Pedersen and Per Jakobsen, were traveling together from CPH > AMS > SEA on Sunday August, 26th 2007
Our three bags were checked in in Copenhagen. They were all checked in in Per Jakobsen's name. Don't think it's possible to check in in both names, so we have never asked for it. Luggage tags are always referring to one persons name and ticket, when a family is traveling. And we have never asked to have one bag in one name and the next bag in the other name and so on. And we never pack our bags individually. Things are mixed in each bag.
At arrival in SEA one bag was missing. A nwa representative was present by the carrousel in the luggage claim hall. She had a print-out showing approximately 12-15 names from that flight who were missing luggage.
'Jakobsen' was on the list. We were all told to go the Luggage Service Office elsewhere in SeaTac airport. We spotted over her shoulder, that there were handwritten notes attached to each name, except to 'Jakobsen'. That turned on our fear immediately.
In the small office the atmosphere was chaotic. 12-15 'names' most of them representing two people wanted their missing luggage asap, but all were calmed down, because the representatives on duty that afternoon could tell them where in the world their luggage was, and when it was expected to arrive in Seattle.
We noticed that everyone was handed a small bag of toiletries (a toothbrush and -paste, a comb and a deodorant [containing something that could be compared to water] plus a few other items) and were told that they could spend up to $50 on further necessities the first 24 hours of delay, and then $25 per day for the following four days. In other words: Up to $150 in total. If it was a couple, it was these amounts 'each'. The money would be reimbursed at presentation of actual receipts.
We waited for some 10-15 minutes before we were called to the desk. The representative told us, that they did not knew where in the world our bag was, because it had not been 'scanned' at all. Other peoples missing bags had been 'scanned' that was why it was known where they were. So, sadly, our fears came true.
We got a small tag with a 'File Reference Number' so that we could check a website to follow the tracing of our bag.
We had to ask him for the complimentary "emergency" bag of toiletries, and to the question: "We heard your colleagues telling other couples, that they could spend up to $50 each the first 24 hours of delay and $25 a day the following four days. That goes for us as well?" he replied: "Yes".
Totally exhausted after the long journey, the thoughts of missing or loosing a bag and the chaotic atmosphere in the nwa Luggage Service Office, we took a taxi to our hotel. Usually we go for one of the shuttle-services.
After a couple of hours rest, we are ready to go downtown for diner. On our way out, we check the nwa site in the hotel's business center. It read: Bag 1 Status: Tracing continues. Please check back later.
At arrival back a couple of hours later we check the nwa site again. It read: Bag 1 Status: Tracing continues. Please check back later.
Good night. Sleep well.
Staying in Seattle
The following morning the nwa website was checked. As the previous night, it read: Bag 1 Status: Tracing continues. Please check back later. We went out to buy some personal items within the total limit of $100. Back at the hotel later that day the nwa site was checked: Same message. We were in Seattle for holidays, not worrying about delayed or lost luggage, we tried to tell ourselves and went out for sight-seeing. But, it's not funny to be that far away from home, not knowing if a lot of personal items will show up or not. The thoughts was back on this issue every 10-15 minutes. We should leave Seattle in three days for the Canadian countryside. What would the selection of shops be on the route we had planned? How long could we wait before starting to buy the more special personal items (e.g. walking boots) here in Seattle? While back at the hotel again, we went to the computer: Same old story.
Late in the afternoon we felt we had to TALK to someone and rang the number on the slip we had with the 'File Reference Number'. Here we got an automatic tracing system the telephone equivalent to the website. We went to the hotels front desk, and one of the clever persons there found out, how we could get in touch with a REAL LIVE person.
We call the number and gets in touch with a representative. She can not give us anything new be patient and wait. A flight from Amsterdam is in later today. Maybe it is on that plane. Our response was: "If it was on that plane, the file we can check on the internet = the same file that you look at right now would tell us, we believe".
An hour later we decide, that someone has to tell us what is going on with our belongings and we call again. A new representative tells us: "It is a problem, that the bag has not been scanned at all". Our reply is: "Then maybe the tracing should begin in Copenhagen?" We are getting angry, and she suggests, that she puts us through to a supervisor. We say thank you. The supervisor can not give us any help, so we are getting even more angry, and suddenly she simply hang up without any notice at all.
We call again, a meets a new representative, who will redirect us to a supervisor. We wait for at least half an hour, before the representative is back. The supervisor actually the one who hung up 45 minutes ago refuses to talk with us, but has promised to call CPH, AMS and the Luggage Service Office in SeaTac in an attempt to intensify the tracing. And she had told the representative, that we could spend up to $250 each to buy new personal belongings. We asked the representative if that was written in the file. "Yes", she replied.
Ok, that was at least a minor torch in the darkness. As it was rather late in the evening we did not go for further shopping (even though it would have been possible) but went for a meal at 'the local' around the corner. That night we were exhausted like hell at bedtime.
The following morning we checked the nwa website and it reported: Received at airport / Delivery process initiated. Happy like a child at Christmas we went to the front desk and got the awaited bag. Delayed approximately 36 hours.
The tags on the bag proved, that it had been left behind i CPH on the day of departure, and that it had been in Atlanta before landing in Seattle.
On August, 30th 2007 we should pick up a rented car in SeaTac. We went to the nwa Luggage Service Office for reimbursement of the $100 we had spent. The man on duty (not the one we spoke to 4 days ago) immediately tells us, that we can have $75 as only one person was on file, and that a new 24 hour period had begun.
We refer to what had been talked about four days earlier, that we were two people traveling together and that we, if he wanted it, could show him the two small bags we had with "emergency" toiletries. He replied: "Only one person is on file, and I have to stick to the rules". Arguing for about half an hour followed. The man on duty four days ago was called. He could not remember that we were two, and what we had talked about. "Then look at the flight schedules or the Amadeus number WE ARE TWO PEOPLE TRAVELING together" we shouted!. They said: "Sorry, this is not written in the file on the 26th. It only reads one name". Then we said, that the man on duty the 26th, had not done his job the way he was supposed to.
We tell them, that the bag contained items belonging to both of us. He asks to see the receipts, puts on his reading glasses and starts an in depth examination. He asks to name items in the bag that belonged to Beth Pedersen. We said: "Walking boots for example". Looking at the receipts he said "Well, I don't see that you have have bought any new walking boots?". "No, we replied, "For two reasons: 1. The walking boots are for use later on during our holiday, and 2. It is pretty difficult to get a decent pair of walking boots for $50 or less".
Then we tell him what a supervisor (via a representative) had promised us on the phone the 27th, and that we were told, that she had written it in the file. His reply was: "Which she did not". "My goodness", we said, "imagine the size of troubles we could have been into, if we had spend the $250 each we were promised! On walking boots for example". He asks: "Do you by chance have that supervisors name?" We reply: " No". Could not imaging it being necessary to ask for any names. And, our mothers taught us to trust in people. Today we regret, that we did not ask the representative for the supervisors name. But: Would she have given it to us?
He continues: "What other items on these receipts, are compensations for similar items in the bag, belonging to Beth Pedersen?" This questioning was very embarrissing and humiliating, but we had nothing else to do, than to reply: "Deodorant, lotion and creme e.g."
"Are you flying with nwa again on this holiday?" he asked. "Yes" we replied. We told him our next departure (SEA > BOS on September 12th), and he looked us up on his computer. Could not understand why this was important? Maybe it proved, that we were a couple traveling together? But that could have been checked 45 minutes ago via the Amadeus number.
Finally we got the $100 as a check with the words, that this was against the rules. Well, not our problem. To be honest: We did not in any way feel any guild, that the man on our behalf had to act against the rules. In NO way. The guild-question has to be placed elsewhere.
We had to cash the check elsewhere in the building.
But, we would have prefered to be without all these frustrating troubles. If our luggage had been scanned, or if the nwa employees we met during the chaotic hours had been more service-minded, had done what they were supposed to do and had stayed away from giving ureliable statements, this letter would not have been necessary.
Dear nwa: Something in your rules has to been changed, and/or your representatives has to be better trained.
Dear NOVIA Copenhagen: Update your scan-systems, so that it will be compatible what similar systems out there.
Beth H. Pedersen and Per Jakobsen
Correspondance with nwa Correspondance with Sky Team KLM ticket show KLM
Thoughts after a lot of correspondance: We get replies standard replies. And we get excuses, and some money as vouchers to spend on future flights with nwa or their partners. Let's see if we can use these vouchers. If we ever will fly with nwa or their partners again, we will be highly aware of everything that might go wrong, prejudiced and suspicious.
After the last reply from Sky Team we realized, that letters are not read properly. Now we try to get our missing Flying Blue Miles. Let's see if we will ever use them.
Northwest Airlines and their Sky Team partners are NOT among our favourites.
Postscript general matters
The most frustrating issue was and is, that we did not knew if we would receive our bag again, and if so: When?
nwa have 30 days to continue the trace. After 30 days it is declared finally lost, and you can have a "full" refund well, actually up to a certain maximum.
A holiday usually lasts from 7 to 21 days. If we had not received the bag on let us say day 4, we would have had to go out and buy for a lot more than the $150 each. At least if we wanted to stick to the plans and ideas we had made for our 22 days holiday. If the bag would have been found after day 4 but before day 30, we would have had to pay the difference between the two times $150 and the actual expenses ourselves. And our holiday would have started in a much different way than planned and expected. But we would own "double up" of nearly every item in the bag, if that would be any comfort?
So if missing luggage is not traced within a few days, you actually have to hope, that it is lost.
Published September 24th, 2007
Minor edits: Sept. 25th, 2007. Nov. 11th, 2007.
Further correspondance added October 21st, 25th and 29th, 2007. Nov. 8th and 11th, 2007