Upon finally reaching home after a long travel day this Sunday, I realized that my camera bag was not in my backpack.
It quickly hit me where I'd left it.
It was on the American Eagle flight 5087 Sunday, from Nevis to San Juan. The flight was over half hour late coming in from Nevis, and we had only 30 minutes or so to clear immigration and customs in San Juan, and transfer our checked bags onto a flight into Newark airport.
I remember taking the camera bag out of the backpack boarding the Nevis flight, so that the backpack would fit the smaller overhead compartments on the American Eagle plane. And of course, I forgot to grab the camera in the rush to connect with the next flight.
I relay all these details, because most reasonable people would assume there would be two ways to quickly connect with an airline on a piece of luggage left on one of their planes.
The first would be a centralized, national "Lost & Found" toll-free number. If that weren't available, one would expect to find "Lost & Found" in the phone menu when calling any of the toll-free numbers.
The other would be to be able to the airline's website and quickly find a "Lost & Found" tab where one could dash off an email with the specific details, so that the airline could quickly follow up.
Well, as I write this, I've been on hold for over 40 minutes trying to reach the LOCAL Baggage claim cum Lost & Found department in San Juan.
The American Airlines rep on the national toll-free number said that I would need to contact EACH of the baggage claim AND Lost & Found phone numbers at EACH of the locations where I thought I might have left the item. I'm looking at a list of over 4 telephone numbers. And have just managed to dial one so far.
While I was waiting, I thought I'd go online and check out the American Airlines website and see if there was an option to connect online on this issue. After scrounging around for over 20 minutes, I found no area on the web-site that relates to Lost & Found.
I next typed in that phrase in the search box at AA.com, and got the following results. Essentially a listing of those three words in every published document on the site. Take a look at it and see if it's at all helpful.
Most likely, I'll be writing off the Nikon D40, the super zoom lens, along with a handful of high-performance memory cards. About a $2500 write-off.
More importantly, I'll of course lose all the pictures taken on this trip, which of course are not easily replaceable.
This is the second time this year, I've had this kind of an experience with items left on an American Airlines flight. A few weeks ago, my wife left a winter coat on an American Airlines Business Class flight, where the attendant forgot to return the coat upon landing that they normally offer to hang up. In that case as well, she was rushing to catch a tight connection, due to a delay on the originating flight.
There too, we spent the better part of a week calling AND visiting the Baggage Claim and Lost & Found phone numbers in four cities (it was a complicated itinerary). In each case, the person on the phone, or at the Baggage Claim office in person, seemed generally eager to pass the hot potato of a customer request for help onto the next link in the travel chain.
That coat too was a write-off.
In both cases, I knew exactly on WHICH flight the item had been left behind.
In both cases, there was a high likelihood that the items would be recovered in the normal cleaning and preparation for the next flight.
In both cases, one would expect those items to be forwarded to a lost and found area.
In both cases, one would expect a easy way for passengers who discover the loss, to quickly and easily connect with the said item without having to call half a dozen representatives of the airline all over the country.
I'm a long-time Platinum flyer on American Airlines. And this post is not to single out this carrier. I would expect to have a similarly frustrating experience getting centralized help on Lost and Found on most of the other carriers.
I guess the reason for this post is to publicly reflect on how the blindingly obvious customer service solutions (in hindsight of course), are never, ever implemented by the companies that otherwise fight tooth and nail for your business.