Somehow, even though I really don’t travel that often, air travel has been a frequent topic of my blogging.
Usually, I’m bitching about something. This time – I’d like to sing the praises of the airline that lost my bag and gained my trust.
Back at the end of July, I traveled to San Francisco for the Moby Dick Project conference. I was flying Virgin America, and I’d packed light – just a rollerbag that I didn’t need to check, but when I got to the gate in Boston, it was a full flight and I thought, “You know, I’ll be a good doo-bee and gate check the bag, giving up the overhead space for someone else.”
The gate agent put a wrinkle in the plan, though. He informed me that instead of being able to pick up the bag at the jetway in San Francisco, it would come out at the baggage carousel with the checked luggage. Not ideal, but whatever.
Except I never saw my bag again.
I got off the plane at SFO, toddled down to the baggage carousel and waited. And waited. And while everyone else collected their bags, mine never appeared. I stopped in the baggage office, reported my bag lost, and waited a few minutes more while an actual person tried to solve the problem. Another traveller hadn’t claimed their bag – and they took the time to look up that traveller’s phone number and call, to see if they had somehow picked up my bag instead. No luck.
Now clothes-less in Palo Alto, I went on a little shopping trip to pick up a few things, nearly slit my jugular vein with the hotel-provided disposable razor, and dealt with it. And typically, after a few days, my bag would be delivered via Timbuktu by a surly baggage delivery person who would drop it at the door, ring the bell and be off.
Instead, I got a call the next day – from another actual human. No sign of the bag. “We’re really sorry. Usually these things resolve pretty quickly, it ends up on the next flight, but not this time,” I was told.
Saturday, I was flying home – stopped by the baggage office again. Talked to another human. No sign of the bag. “We’re truly sorry,” said the woman at the counter, who explained the process. In a couple of days, the claim would be turned over to Central Baggage, who would keep working to track it down. In the meantime, here’s who I could call.
Before I could call them, though, someone from SFO called me. Still no sign of the baggage, and it was going to Central Baggage. They’d be emailing me some forms, too, to help ID the bag and so I could tell them what was in it.
The forms arrived a few days later – and they were a bit involved. I needed receipts for the items, so I put down everything that was in there, and provided the receipts (God bless online shopping records) for the items I could.
After that, I got an email about each week from Virgin, letting me know a) the status of the bag – still missing; b) the next steps in the process; and c) that they were sorry for the inconvenience – and I could call for more updates.
Anyone who’s had their luggage mishandled knows it’s incredibly frustrating and never very convenient. Plus, typically you get the runaround from personnel and voicemail hell from the company.
Not this time. In all, I probably had about ten contacts with Virgin America about this bag. With actual humans. And in the end, they are writing me a check to help me replace my stuff. Do I wish I had my stuff? Sure. Does the check replace everything? Not quite.
But I was treated like I mattered. I was given honest answers, kept informed, and actually felt like Virgin America wanted my business.
Because of that, I want to do business with them again. And I want to tell my friends – fly Virgin. They lost my bag – but they won me over.
Here’s my final letter to Virgin America’s Central Baggage account:
I’m not sure if this goes to an actual person or not, but since everything else in this process has been handled by actual people – I’ll assume it does.
It’s unfortunate the bag never turned up, but I wanted to say thank you for your handling of the matter.
Throughout the process, I have felt informed and that there were people on the other end of the phone who actually cared about resolving the situation, as opposed to just passing the buck. You told me what was going on, checked back in with me regularly, and kept me in the loop throughout. People actually said “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
And in the end, I feel that the settlement amount is quite reasonable, and will allow me to replace a great deal of what was lost.
You haven’t just settled the claim with me. You’ve given me a new favorite airline. And considering this started with a lost bag, that’s saying something.
Thank you for your customer service. It’s appreciated.