Back in 2007, I had a wee little incident involving British Airways and my luggage. We were on our way to Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. British Airways made me check my bag, despite the fact that it was within regulation for carry-on. I don’t even remember the bins being full, but that’s not the issue here.
The checking of the carry-on bag was forgivable, but what happened after was not. When we arrived in Johannesburg, my mom’s bag immediately showed up, but mine didn’t. Worse yet, they couldn’t really track it down. We hoped that it would appear the next day, but no such luck. Very fortunately for me, I can fit into my mom’s clothes and had some underwear packed into my handbag (always do this, even if you don’t plan to check).
We were flying to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe the next day. I hoped that my bag would appear, but it did not. We traveled onto the Okavango Delta in Botswana, with no news and no bag in sight. Our guide was calling daily (and probably more) to see if someone had tracked it down somewhere. After two days in the Delta, we finally got word that they had located the bag, and that they would try to deliver it. Unfortunately, we were also set to fly (in Cessnas, not commercial) out the next day, at a specific time. So there was no guarantee that the bag would arrive at the Victoria Falls airstrip before we were set to depart. Our guide was doing the best he could, letting us go on the last Cessna to leave, and trying to delay as much as possible.
With my extreme gratitude, a guide with another incoming group a few days behind us rushed the bag to the airstrip literally as we were boarding the flight. I seriously have never been more happy to see my luggage, as it was cold, I was without proper clothes, and at this point it had been at least 5 days. I know the obvious question is–well, why didn’t you just go to a store at this point? We had one opportunity to do so, to go into Bulawayo. However, the day we were “close” (2 hours) from town, was also a national holiday so the stores were all closed anyway. Soooo….
Here comes the real reason I hold a grudge against British Airways, despite the fact that perhaps TSA or someone else to blame. I open the bag and first I notice that a bunch of my stuff is wet and soaked in mud. With an intact and LOCKED TSA lock that did not appear to be tampered with (I’m sure they aren’t hard to pick though). Hmph. Annoying, but the bag wasn’t waterproof so I’ll get over it.
Then I realize that the entire top layer of items is gone from the bag.
The guide immediately called British Airways in Vic Falls, who essentially said we needed to file a claim when we came back through the airport. Which was going to be in 7 days. We confirmed that this delay was o.k., and they said it was. When we returned to Vic Falls, they said since the bag was originally routed to Johannesburg, they couldn’t accept the claim, and we would have to do it when we returned to South Africa (another 5 days or so). Long story short, when we tried to file a claim with BA in Cape Town, they made us run over 30 minutes to another office in the domestic terminal which was of course closed (and they most likely knew this when they sent us), and all the way back to the first office, who then told us to go to the police station in the airport to file a report, to have the police tell us that the claim had to be filed in Vic Falls. British Air then suggested we try to file a police report where the theft actually occurred, and then they could consider how to handle the claim. Are you kidding me?
The monetary value of the missing items was probably around $400, of which I got about 20% back from our travel insurance. Heads up: if you don’t have receipts for the items in your bag, you don’t get anywhere close to replacement value for them. But our travel insurance did provide something which was more than BA.
Not only was British Airways unhelpful, they were also totally unapologetic, pretty useless, with rude customer service.
As such, British Airways has–for 8 years now–resulted in lots of expletives from me whenever their name comes up in conversation or anyone talks about flying BA. This whole episode left a very bad taste in my mouth.
So why am I bringing this up now? Because we just booked a British Air flight to Kenya.
I have but one thing to say: Don’t fail me again British Airways.