Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Flying Librarian

In December I traveled back to Canada from India. It was a long trip and we had five hops. Somewhere along the way we lost two of our baggage and didn’t know about it until we reached Toronto. And we had one more hop to make. We were flying Air Canada from Frankfurt.

We got home and got one of the baggage sent back to us after almost a week. The second one – no body knew of its whereabouts. All I had was the 1-800 number given to me by Air Canada. Much to my astonishment that number took me back to India. If you didn’t already know, India is now famous for its call centres. Young men and women who can speak English are hired and trained to speak in American accents. These poor souls don’t have a clue where any luggage is. They look at almost the same computer screen that I look at from my computer in Canada and tell me they don’t know where my luggage is. Well, I can tell that myself.

I get in touch with people, people who are important in the airline industry to find my luggage. Lucky for me I knew people who knew people. One of these people from India tells me they found a baggage matching my description and details of contents and that it is at Frankfurt Airport. I had some peculiar things and I knew right away that it was my bag. How many would people carry a gold/black saree and a rice grinder in a black bag? Now I was all excited that something was known of my luggage. But do you think I could get Air Canada to get it over for me?

I called the number in India and explained it to them. I was very patient although it had now been over a month since I last saw my bag. They kept asking me to call them next week. Why? I don’t think even they knew the answer. I tried all the numbers listed on the Air Canada website and couldn’t get through to anyone. When I finally did, he transferred me back to the 1-800 number. He did so even after I asked him not to put me through to that number. I specifically asked to speak to a person to whom I could explain that I have found my bag and all they need to do is just bring it to me.

It was February and I still hadn’t been able to find my luggage that I imagined was sitting in a room crowded with all the other lost bags. It was frustrating that Air Canada didn’t do anything about finding my bag. It was even more frustrating that even after I found it, they wouldn’t do anything to reunite me with my bag. Trust me, those call centre gals and boys were wasting my time. Or they just loved hearing my angry voice week after week.

Remember I said I knew people. I called one of those people who worked for Air Canada itself in Canada and pleaded with him to do something. All he had to do was make one phone call. My bag found its way home in two days. We were happy to find each other. I can grind all the rice I want to make my Dosas and wear my gold/black saree.

Once emotionally stable, I couldn’t stop thinking how chaotic this whole experience was. Being a librarian I am fairly organized. I don’t think anyone in Air Canada or at least in the call centre knew how to handle my request. They were not trained to expect unusual situations - such as what to do when a customer says they have found their own luggage. If Air Canada has a library, I really hope it is not as chaotic as their luggage handling department.

All is fine when your luggage leaves and arrives with you. But if you loose it then I wish you Good Luck. You’ll certainly need it. For, as my friend in Air Canada tells me, luggage gets auctioned off after a while and you will see no trace of it.