My Cruise is in the Bag Baby, But Where is my Luggage? Oh #!%!!! it is Formal Night Tonight!!
How are all you brave air travelers doing today? I hope you are well amidst all the new added baggage fees from the airlines, fuller flights, less flight options, oh yeah, lets not forget many airlines are now charging us to mishandle our luggage on top of the stress and chaos of air travel in today’s challenging world.
So lets talk about your cruise and what happens when you arrive to your ship for your departure but your luggage does not. If you think you are out of the woods and this is a simple fix my friend, think again, this is a mess and your challenges have just begun. Over my years as system manager of baggage services I helped more air/cruise travelers with this very real problem that is a spin-off from the continuing decline of luggage handling. Chances are this may have happened to you or someone you know or will happen at some point if you fly and cruise.
First lets address your first steps you must take to protect yourself, I will then address how the airlines will handle this and what your rights are that you MUST know because the airlines don’t always spell out your options to you. I will then address how this can be a very complicated process for the airline to finally get your luggage with you at one of your ships ports of call.
- When you arrive to the airport and your luggage did not arrive with you, you MUST file a luggage claim with the airline you arrived to your final destination on. This rule applies regardless if the final carrier was responsible for the delay, loss, damage, etc. of your luggage, or if you were rerouted to another carrier from your original itinerary etc. DO not fall victim to the airline baggage agent who tells you otherwise, they are just passing the buck with you and you will certainly be coming back to see them in the end but now 10 times more frustrated and angry.
- Provide the airline representative with your cruise information, departure time of the ship, ports of call, dates of arrival and departure, your immediate contact information, ships contact information. Also ask the airline representative for their detailed plan to reunite you with your luggage in the event your ship leaves before they can get your luggage to the ship at your departure point.
- Provide the baggage rep with detailed information about your missing luggage i.e. who is the name of the person on the luggage ID tags affixed to the luggage? What brand and color is the luggage? What type of bag is it? Look at the IATA Baggage chart to identify the bag type that most closely matches your type of missing luggage. What are the characteristics that would make your luggage stand out? Be detailed and accurate in providing information to the airline rep, doing so will only help the airline baggage rep help you.
- Ask the airline representative for a complete print out of their plan so you have all the details for your ship’s crew as the ship crew will need to know so they can begin their process to work with vendors to retrieve your luggage if it arrives at one of the ships ports of call.
- Cruise ships crew members help many of their guests with lost luggage problems just like you so they will need this information to help them help you.
- Ask the airline representative what their hours of operation are at the airport you arrived to without your luggage. Many times a baggage office is unmanned much of the day and the phones go to voice mail which can be very frustrating for you or your ships crew if they are in need to talk to an airline rep. Make sure you ask for either the ticket counter phone number which is almost always manned during hours of operation AND ask for the airlines station manager’s direct phone number. Station managers tend to check their messages often and will contact the appropriate airline rep to have them contact you, or you may hear from the airline manager them self. (That is what I use to do, call my customers and take care of them) Also ask for email addresses as cruise ships have email access available to you in the event you do not have cell phone signal while cruising, you most certainly can access the ships email station to then access your personal email from anywhere so email addresses is critically important as this will provide you with a REAL option for communication with your air carrier and will also save you time. You can ask for the airlines local email address for the baggage service office, the supervisor, the GM, and I would also ask for the Central Baggage Service email as well. Make copies and keep all your records of email attempts and any other attempts to contact the airline during your ordeal.
Now that you have all this information, what about formal night for the first nights dinner on your cruise ship? Swim suits, shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, sandals, etc. Your situation you are now facing is what I write in my book about being considered a grey area for the airlines and lost, delayed, damaged, luggage and cruising. Let me explain for you. Even though airlines are fighting for survival, they still want or should want to retain you as a customer so you will fly them again and tell your friends to fly them as well.
Ask the airline rep at your arrival airport before you leave for your ship, what are they going to do for you monetarily, seeing that they did not get your luggage to your destination and now you are facing a HUGE inconvenience for the first day or two of your cruise. My guess is from a baggage rep you will be told the usual pitch which is true and standard but will go something like this, “Mr. Smith, we are not able to offer you any compensation within the first 24 hours of your luggage being delayed but if the bag or bags do not arrive by tomorrow, you are entitled to spend up to $25.00 per day on toiletries, etc. but you must save your receipts for reimbursement later” This is standard so expect to hear it from the airline rep.
At this point, if you receive the “Standard Answer” ask to speak to the airlines General Manager at your location or a supervisor. Ask “Courteously” for an allowance that is REASONABLE for your immediate needs. Such as $250.00. You can generally purchase a nice pair of pants, dress shirt, shoes, etc. to tide you over until your luggage arrives with you. The airlines understand a reasonable request for reasonable circumstances. If you can get by with less, then ask for less but the key is to be polite, professional, and reasonable and you probably will get what you are asking for. Make sure you write down and document the names of all airline reps you speak to especially when given authorization to spend money.
Make sure the airline rep documents this in your claim record and make sure you save all your receipts for any items purchased as the refund to you will be processed and approved by the airline’s General Manager at your airport destination or the Central Baggage Service Manager for the airline and this is not negotiable.
If the airline GM at your location or a supervisor denies you this, immediately ask to speak to the Central Baggage Services Manager as it is this person who knows their job best and usually has the final decision on this sort of additional compensation.
I ought to know as I did this for many of my former customers and it is fair considering the circumstances at hand. In the event your luggage does not arrive in a day or two, then I would ask for and get permission for additional compensation to be refunded later, usually after a 30-45 day claims process.
DO NOT PURCHASE ANYTHING without permission and expect full compensation back from the airline. You may find yourself coming up short on monetary reimbursement if you do this.
Now the challenge is for the airline to find your luggage and now reroute it on another airline to your cruise port or ports of call depending on how long it takes them to find your luggage and get it to you. This is a challenge none the less and I have seen bags arrive at ports and sit there undelivered even while the ship is in port. The ship leaves and your luggage was not far from you but we are now dealing with different cultures and priorities and most of the time the priorities are not the same as yours. So now the airline has to get the bag from that port and have a second or third party make an effort to get your luggage to your next port. Can you see the complexity of this mess, the domino affect has now begun. I have seen this sort of thing turn into a nightmare for my customers. Remember the worse the nightmare for the airline’s customer, the more you have the right to demand compensation and when these things happen compensation is easier to obtain from the air carrier.
So how can you prevent much of this from ever causing you such an inconvenience when taking a cruise? Easy, plan ahead a little and prepare for the worse. Most cruisers are partying before their flight leaves their home airport, the shorts are on, the vacation has begun.
Wear a set of your formal clothing on the flight as if your going for a business meeting or a nice pair of pants, skirt, shirts, shoes etc. Something you could wear for a dinner on your ship. Pack your sandals, swim suit etc. in a carry-on bag. Now you are pretty much prepared when bad things happen to your luggage and the luggage handling process is on the decline so you have to become more savvy when traveling by air. Plan a bit more even if it means not wearing your shorts on your flight to your cruise departure city. A little discomfort can save you a great deal of hassle in the long run. Be creative but you can do it. An ounce of prevention can save you major headaches and loss of valuable time, worry, stress and more.
Simply do what I did with my family a while back when we flew from FL to Vancouver B.C. and took a 7 day cruise to Alaska; we all had 1 carry-on bag per person with enough mix and match clothes to take the entire cruise and have all the clothing we needed. It worked out fine for us and none of us suffered for it. We never had to check a bag and never worried about it.
Just keep in mind that when you face luggage problems and don’t know where to turn, that is where I come in, you can simply email me through my website and get free advice from me that can help you. Cruising is an awesome experience and I can’t wait to take my next cruise. Enjoy and have a great time!!!
Safe travels to you and yours,
Scott T. Mueller
Author The Empty Carousel a Consumer’s Guide to Checked and Carry-on Luggage