One of the great paradoxes of flying is that the plane can't leave with the bag and no passenger. But it can leave with the passenger and no bag. And so it was that I landed in Auckland last week with no luggage. Given how much I travel I probably should be relieved how infrequently this happens to me.
Air New Zealand is one of my favorite airlines. What's not to like - lay flat beds, terrific food and wine, brilliant entertainment system, friendly staff. So, as I heard my named summoned to the baggage claims counter I was expecting the best. I pretty much got the reverse.
- Business class passengers expect business class service. And that includes when you screw-up. In all fairness to Air New Zealand a terrific concierge that was traveling on the plane tried to help - but after ten minutes with a less than interested baggage claims attendant pretty much all was lost.
- Business travelers are different. A white t/shirt isn't going to cut it. Instead we get to go to meeting after meeting entertaining our hosts of tales of how incompetent you are as a cunning distraction from our rumpled rags.
- If you know our bags are on the plane when we aren't, you surely know when we are on the plane without our bags. Tell us before we land rather than surprise us on the ground.
- Equip us for the day ahead. The little bag of tricks I was provided with included a razor and toothbrush from the neolithic period, a white t/shirt and, appropriately whitening deodorant (They must have been anticipating a long wait for my bag but not the fact I don't ware white shirts). Rather than carefully considered, the bag represented some kind of weird assortment of end-of-life cosmetics in mini tubes. At least make your bag of goodies as good as those on the plane and the brand. Anything less is an insult.
- Over communicate. How hard would it be to text me the status of my bag. Or give me a call to let me know it was on the way. Don't subject us to a voice response system that doesn't work and provides no human connection.
- Make fixing the problem a priority. When I called the next morning my bag had arrived in NZ but nobody was quite sure where it was. Until they told me it had been offloaded from the onward flight due to being excess baggage. Ok, four more hours might not seem like much to the airline but to the passenger running between meetings its plenty enough.
- Web enable every step of the process. Air New Zealand seems to have fixed the issues most companies have with search by removing the search bar all together from their primary nav. This is about the stupidest, most customer unfriendly thing I've ever seen a company do on the web. Drop into site nav and you can get to a search bar - definitely doesn't pass the "would my mum do that?" test. Lost luggage; lost bags, lost bag - all yield no result. Nuts! Now, to get where you need to go on the site you go to "Before you fly", then to baggage. Buried in there is a section for "mishandled baggage". From there you can track it online. Talk about hiding a solution! By the way - "mishandled baggage" also yields no result in their search engine.
- Just give us the money up front. You've already pissed us off. Give us the measly $150 allowance for clothes and other things on the spot. We're busy enough without having to file more paperwork for a clean pair of underwear. Here's a thought - how about paying for the cab to the nearest department store as well?
As for any trip involving checked luggage, I chuck a spare t/shirt, socks etc. in my carry-on bag. Did that ever pay off on this trip! Unfortunately my habit of pretty much wearing all black on the road only made more of a comedy of the whitening deodorant.
I'll still fly Air New Zealand again - they are a terrific airline. But they just dropped a star in my book.