Well, I came down to collect my baggage hoping to get done soon. To my frustration, my checked in baggage never arrived! I noticed that YYC too had a section where they kept unclaimed baggages and I looked there desperately in search of my lost baggage. Simultaneously, I could see a long queue in front of the Air Canada baggage counter. “c’mon, not again! gimme a break!”, I told myself. Not able to find my bag, I queued up as well to report the incident. Fortunately for me, I had too much time at hand. I arrived at YYC around 8:30 AM and my next flight was at 1:30 PM. I walked up to the man in the counter and produced the tags that Air Canada had given me while checking in. After a quick look at the computer, I was told, “we don’t know where your baggage is, it’s not here”! I reported my delayed baggage with full description and my temporary address in India and told them to forward it there. I was given a tag wit a baggage tracking number and was told to keep an eye on the baggages that would arrive from YVR with the next flight and report them if I find my baggage. I must also inform Lufthansa of my delayed baggage – thus came the instructions. Hence, I waited for a while till the baggages from the next flight arrived. My baggage never arrived and yet again, I found angry passengers forming a fresh queue in front of the baggage counter.
“The hell with Air Canada”, I told myself. I wasn’t prepared to wait for my baggage any longer. Fortunately for me, I had packed essential pieces of clothing and some spare extra clothes into my hand baggage along with all the valuables. I have learnt with experience (and also thanks to the movie “meet the parents”) to do this every time I travel long distances. I figured that I should be okay even if my baggage does not arrive in 2/3 days. I desperately needed to freshen up. Besides, I felt as if I was smelling from wearing all the stale clothes from the day before. So, I walked up to the nearest washroom, had a shower, changed clothes and made good use of the toiletries I was carrying with me. This worked. Now I was able to think clearly once again.
I took the nearest elevator to go down, walked up to the Lufthansa check in counter. I met two Lufthansa officials near the check-in machines and told them my story about the lost baggage. “You did everything right. I would suggest you to check in now. You can check in your baggage separately later if you find it” was the suggestion. I found the suggestion quite reasonable. Hence, walking up to the first class check in counter, I produced my itinerary and passport. A nice girl greeted me. I requested isle seats for both my flights and she happily obliged. Finding a friendly person to talk to, I told her my story about last night. She was appalled. “I am so sorry to hear this. You are having a terrible day. I am praying for you. I really am. I hope you get your bag in time”. “Thanks”, I said and received both my boarding passes. I was now secure.
I still had a few more hours at hand. I decided to take my breakfast and then explore YYC a little bit more. I knew there were some stores that sell cowboy hats. For a while, I wanted to have one of those. It was my last opportunity to buy stuff from “home” Canada and make use of the CAD I had with me. I had breakfast at Tim Hortons, a fresh cup of coffee – “ah, I am gonna miss this”, I told myself. I bought a felt cowboy hat and some other essential items/medicines for my long trip ahead. I charged my macbook and ipod and was all set for a 9 hour haul to Germany.
We left YYC (and Canada) at the scheduled time.
My 9 hours on board towards Frankfurt was uneventful. The girl sitting next to me was pretty boring and ugly, so I looked around for a better better company to chat with. Those flying long hours alone would realize that spending those hours simply with ipods, movies and books gets painful if you can’t talk to someone. At least it does for me. Across the isle, there was this young woman traveling somewhere in Europe with her husband and two adorable toddlers, a daughter of about 3 years and a son of about 1 year. My time was well spent watching the kids and talking to their mom. Every time her son started crying out loud, she would look at me with a funny face full of embarrassment. I wasn’t disturbed at all and told her that long flights are not only pain for us but also for them, so it’s not a big deal. “I have two more connecting flights after this. It’s going to be a pain ..”, she said with a north american/european accent. “I have one more to go, 8 hours! …” said I, and she looked at me with surprise. “Where are you heading?”, she asked. When I replied “India”, I could see her trying to figure out the geographical location of the country and trying to find a reason why it would take me 8 hours. “It’s okay, I am used to it”, said I. “Besides you don’t have kids traveling with you …. Have a good trip to India” she told me.
At FRA, as we got off and boarded the bus, we were greeted by -2 deg chilling temperature of the early morning. The day break was still a while away and we silently drove towards terminal 1.
My time at Terminal 1 was spent mostly on getting refreshed again, changing clothes, having shower once more, moving around and looking at duty free shops. I also spent a good amount of time looking at price tags and converting the amount to CAD. “One euro is 1.75 CAD”, I muttered and ultimately refrained from buying pretty much anything. “Yes, Euro is expensive. Ever since the dollar has gone down, we don’t do good business anymore. American travelers are unwilling to buy anything”, a merchant told me. A 13″ Sony VAIO laptop, 4 gig ram, 2.86 Ghz Intel core duo with 200 gig hard drive was priced at 1348/- euros. A 32 gig apple ipod touch was priced at 389/- euros.
I did spend some money browsing and checking the status of my delayed baggage. “Found/waiting for confirmation”, it read.
In due course, I boarded the plane that would take me to my final destination. The final leg of the journey was also uneventful. Finding no one else to talk to (I think south Asians are not, in general great conversationalists), I started conversation with one of the hostesses. I told her that I was meaning to learn German (close friends know already that I have been meaning to learn an european language for a while). I inquired about good German tennis talents of today, told her that I grew up watching Steffi and Baker* and hoped that Germany should produce more tennis stars like them in future.
After little more than 8 hrs, we reached CCU in the dead of the night. I spent the rest of the night at CCU and drove early morning to my former home.
The next 2 days I spent sleeping most of the time, trying to come to terms with jetlag and fatigue from the travel. In between I checked the status of my baggage and it read “received at airport/delivery process initiated”. On the third day (Dec 31st), I called Air Canada central baggage office again. This was a long distance call and I had to wait 20 minutes before being answered. “we think that your baggage is in Calgary but we can’t be sure”. “Do you guys know what flight schedule will be used to deliver my bag?”, I asked. “No sir, we do not have this information”. “Can I call any other office or person who would know this?”. “No sir, this is the only office you should call”, came the answer. I was totally pissed and at this point, for the first time, I lost my temper. I told the guy that I would take this up with Air Canada customer service once I get back and without waiting for a response, hung up.
I had already informed local Lufthansa office at the airport about my delayed baggage. They updated all the information on my file and told me that they would call me as soon as they had any news. On Friday morning (Jan 2nd), I received a call letting me know that there was a bag at FRA bearing my name scheduled to fly to CCU that night. “keep your fingers crossed”, the guy told me. Next day, Saturday Jan 3rd, I received another call letting me know that my bag has arrived and I can pick it up anytime. On the same day, I picked up my much awaited baggage from CCU.
The following are the after thoughts of this experience:
(1) I believe, this experience though painful, made me more educated that I previously was. So a part of me does not regret that I had to go through all this mess.
(2) I am not flying Air Canada again ever, unless I am really broke.
(3) I am probably dumping my travel agent. I don’t think they did a good job even though it was also my fault not to scrutinize the itinerary in the first place. I will be more careful next time.
* friends know that even today I am still a die hard fan and supporter of Graf who, according to me, is one of the greatest sports personalities world has ever produced.