Wednesday, June the 23rd, 2004

that made me rich. Well, richer.

Dear Sir/Madam,

My journey originated at Detroit Metro (DTW) (on flight NW68 ) and my travel route to Chennai involved stops at Amsterdam and Mumbai. I arrived at Mumbai late Tuesday (the 15th of June) evening on Northwest Airlines (flight NW42) from Amsterdam to find my luggage missing. I immediately filed a property irregularity report at the airport of which I have a photocopy. At that time, I was informed that my luggage would make it on the same flight the next evening, and would subsequently be delivered home. I was also given the contact information of the local KLM office and asked to get in touch with them for further information.

I had been on the phone with the KLM office contact given to me, and they did respond, but not very accurately. I was informed pretty much the same thing everyday – “That it would be sent home that evening”. On the morning of the 19th, when I hadn’t seen any progress over the past few days, I decided to stop by the office personally. When I arrived at the given office address, I was basically told to voice all my opinions in a mail, and the airline would do the needful. This is that mail.

When I enquired regarding compensation for this delay, I was informed that I ought to wait for my luggage. This was so that I could ascertain that everything was in order, and file for this allowance as well as for anything probably missing together. There wasn’t a form, there was no procedure indicated, and the person I spoke to wasn’t very helpful. He wasn’t even able to give me the contact details of the manager.

It’s times like this when all a passenger really needs is to hear reassuring and accurate information regarding progress. I was offered none of that. All I got were (after repeated attempts) people who didn’t seem like they cared and excuses that were laughable in a professional environment (“Oh, you know our customs sir”). While they were informing me my luggage was sent to Delhi instead of Mumbai, and that the delay was probably being caused by the time taken to transfer my customs clearance papers from Mumbai to Delhi, the tone implied that it was OK for me to be going through this because I am an Indian citizen with a permanent address in Chennai.

Presently, I am a doctoral student in the United States. Having a home here doesn’t imply it is any easier on me to handle any of this. I had no clothes, toiletry or any other essentials on me for over three days. Not all of this is about the monetary value of the items themselves. I had papers and books to help me with my work. Without them, I was pretty much sitting unproductive, twiddling thumbs waiting for them to come.

I would like to be compensated for the hardship that I have experienced and essentials that I’ve had to purchase in this waiting period. I believe fair compensation would be about 300$ (100$ a day, for 3 days) as my luggage arrived late evening on Saturday the 19th, over 3 days after the intended arrival time. I also have some of the receipts for my purchases in this period, which I will gladly furnish if requested.

This was easily one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had while travelling, and I don’t believe I would want to go through it again. However, I am glad that my luggage did arrive eventually, and that everything was in order. I do thank you for that.


An aside:

Of course, though I’m not sure how much me saying this is going to result in a positive transformation, I sincerely believe the Northwest counters in DTW are seriously understaffed. There were a handful of overwhelmed women handling extremely large crowds. I do understand the e-ticket machines exist to take up some of this load, and consequently staff are probably laid off on their acquisition, but they don’t seem to be doing their job adequately. The queues for the regular paper tickets for the international flights were much longer than those with e-tickets. And I also noticed a bulk of the regular staff was spending a good deal of their time helping people use the ticketing machines instead of being useful elsewhere. This doesn’t seem very productive.

I do believe my luggage and I would have made it on our intended paths, had we been handled by more than a skeleton check-in staff at that airport.

This is a printer-friendly version of the journal entry “The letter to the airline people” from actuality.log. Visit to read the original entry and follow any responses to it.

7 Responses to “The letter to the airline people”

  1. puli says:

    pity, its one helluva time you’ve had. I can understand as I’ve had a similar (not exactly related) experience with a headset manufacturing company. It was not until I sent them an email like this that they really bothered to look into my problem!

  2. Unfortunately, this is very common in India. I have a long list of firms and all the background data to write a whole series of articles on the high quality of service provided by various companies in India.

    Two issues to remember for the next time this happens to you:
    1. At the airport, after you figure out (on your own usually) that your bags haven’t arrived, walk up to the airline’s counter and demand cash compensation immediately. Your position is enhanced by the fact that you have a return ticket leaving the country. Last time this happened to my Dad in the 1990s, he received at least $50 in local currency immediately.
    2. Don’t wait this long to publicize the issue & take it up with the airline head-office in the country where the trip originated immediately.

    In both cases, if you hold a frequent flier membership, use that to your advantage.

  3. wahgnube says:

    puli: Was it logitech? Because I got conned into buying a rather expensive logitech headset which was essentially fished from day one. Quite annoying.

  4. wahgnube says:

    Ram: Poor service is more common here, but the actual losing of luggage itself is a lot more common in the US. They’ve delayed my stuff 3 times in my past 5 trips.

    Of course, there it is fixed within 12 hours, while here it took a lot of screaming and 4 days.

    And I do have a frequent flier membership and I did use it. I asked them for compensation immediately. They weren’t OK with parting with the cash before they could figure out how much they owed me. A number based on how heavy my suitcase was, the length of the delay, and the value of what I claimed was missing from it.

    Which was waaay more than what I originally thought they’d give me, so all’s well.

  5. puli says:

    nopes, it was a company called cyber acoustics. they specialize in headsets for use with voice recognition software i think.

  6. Vigvg says:

    Good show ! And all I ever got from airlines was a free upgrade to business class… sheesh…

  7. wahgnube says:

    Vigvg: Oh, money apart, I got something comparable too. Something like 25 euro off for every 100 euro I spend on my next ticket with them (yeah, right). Business class couldn’t be worth more than 25% over no class could it? :)

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