Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Late Luggage and Recovery: The Italian Way

Tuesday, September 31 and Wednesday, August 1

I fly AirBerlin from the JFK airport, headed to Lucca, Italy by way of Berlin, Rome and Pisa. The flight is delayed on the JFK runway. Although I make the Berlin transfer, it does not surprise me that when I reach Rome, my luggage is not on the plane.

The next flight from Berlin to Rome is scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m. My first thought is to remain in Rome until my luggage arrives, which means I miss my flight to Pisa. I know if I continue my journey to Lucca without it, a struggle is sure to ensue. Italy has its own rhythm. However, what if my luggage is not on the 6:30 flight? I've wasted time and money.

I fly to Pisa and take the bus to Lucca. By 6 p.m. I settle into my apartment.  I use Skype to call Rome's lost baggage department.  I must give them my address. I discover that the baggage office closed at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 2

 Luggage - Retrieved at last
I begin calling at 8:30; the office should be open.  At first, no one  answers, then I receive repeated busy signals, sometimes the phone is answered, and then disconnects. I persist. Eventually, speaking to someone. Bad news, without a telephone number my luggage won't be delivered.

 The apartment I rented does not include a telephone. Although I brought my cell phone, and planned to purchase a SIM card, I forgot the charger. I decide to treat myself to a new cell phone. After all, do I have a choice? Buying one will prove a challenge.

I begin at the tourist information office and learn a company called TIM sells and maintains Italian cell phones. At the sales office, no on speaks English, and I struggle to explain and understand. By early afternoon, I own a new cell phone.

Attempting to contact the Rome baggage office to give them the required number, again I experience repeated busy signals, and I worry the office will close before I reach anyone. I luck out, and manage to give someone my number. My luggage will be delivered on Monday, or so I'm told. So much for the four day maximum quoted delivery. I shop; I spend money and wait.

Monday, August 6

I decide to confirm delivery, and again, beginning calling at 8:30 in the morning.  Finally reaching some one, I discover my suitcase remains in the Rome storage area, no explanation given. I tell the woman I'm speaking to that  I will pick-up my bag in Pisa. She promises my luggage will arrive in Pisa on the 2:45 p.m. flight.

I take the bus to Pisa, which takes a little over a half hour. My luggage is not on the flight. Staff in the Pisa baggage refuse to call Rome. They email and wait. Apparently they only have the telephone number I have and aren't prepared to experience hang-ups, busy signals and no answers. I doubt the Rome office will read the email anytime soon.

I remember I have a cell phone, and begin using it. Eventually reaching a person. My luggage left the storage area. She doesn't know why it wasn't on the flight. Apparently it isn't possible to telephone the area of the airport where my suitcase may be sitting. She must email and will call me when she receives an answer. I don't bother asking when she will receive an answer because she won't know and it could be days, or not at all.

If I stay in Pisa until the next flight from Rome, I miss the last bus back to Lucca. I leave Pisa. Sometime after 10 pm, I receive a call; my luggage now resides in Pisa.

Tuesday, August 7

Feeling confident, I ride the bus to Pisa. Upon arrival, I speak to the same woman I spoke to yesterday. She makes it absolutely clear that the telephone call I received was not made by anyone working in lost baggage, and leaves to investigate. Perhaps my luggage is not in Pisa after all.

Several stressful minutes pass, and then my suitcase is placed in a sort of revolving trap door.  The lost baggage area is well protected. I think some passengers just might threaten bodily harm. A group from Belgium is returning home today, and is told their missing luggage might arrive tomorrow.


Receiving compensation is impossible. No one answers phones; emails are answered requesting more and more information. I give up.

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