The One with the Thoughts of Frans

Archive for April, 2010

Fun With American Airlines and British Airways

Unlike my last post about airlines, this one’s about luggage.

I was going back from the US to Amsterdam, transferring at Heathrow. Customs & security in England took so long that by the time I got anywhere near the A-gates they’d already started boarding, so I hurried to the gate and got on board of the plane as one of the last people. Only later did I discover that Heathrow is the absolute craziest airport in the world that should take a very, very good look at how they do things in a proper airport like O’Hare or Schiphol. They don’t even seem to know anything about their gates until 30 minutes or so before it’s scheduled to leave! Anyway, pretty much as soon as I was in the plane the pilot said something like “it looks like everyone’s on board already, so we’re taking off 30 minutes early, woo!” I remember thinking something like “good thing my luggage didn’t have to go through 1 hour of customs & security.”

We landed in Amsterdam, I got off the plane and I waited at the luggage belt, but my baggage never showed up. As I was looking around to figure out where to go to fix this problem, this guy working there came up to me in his cart and was like “can I help you?” So I said, “I just got here with British Airways flight BA217 [or something along those lines anyway]” and he said “that’s the one from London?” and I said “yeah, does it make a difference?” He said “no, actually it doesn’t. Anyway, you have to go to that office right there” while pointing at this place with a huge line in front of it.

I went to that office and waited for 30 freaking minutes until it was finally my turn. Then it turned out that this was the KLM & partners lost luggage claim thing, and the BA lost luggage office was on the other side! I wasn’t the only one misled by the bloke driving around on his cart and like 5 people who had been waiting behind me followed me to the other office where of course all the time no one had been to at all. Turned out my suitcase was still in London and it was scheduled to come toward Amsterdam in about 30 minutes on the next flight. Gee, thanks.

I scheduled a delivery for the next day between 9 and 12. That was all very decent, except for the fact that they actually came at 14. When I called them at 12:30 they said “oh, it’s normal that they might run a little late.” Sigh.

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Fries Red White

I’ve been reading a lot of over the past few days. It reminded me of the following experience I had while working at a fast food restaurant when I was 17 years old. The conversation took place in German.

How can I serve you?
I’ll have fries red white.
Do you mean mayonnaise and ketchup, madam?
No, I mean those red and white condiments that people always have with fries. This looks sarcastic on paper, but trust me: it wasn’t.
I’m sorry, we don’t have any white condiments other than mayonnaise. Could I get you mayonnaise and curry sauce, perhaps?
No, not mayonnaise and whatever else you said! Fries red white!

I figured I’d just take a gamble and I gave her fries with mayonnaise and ketchup.

There, was that so hard?

For the record, no other German customer has ever ordered their fries red, white or in any other color; all other Germans ordered fries with a condiment, such as mayonnaise or ketchup.

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Fun With American Customs & Airlines: Special Thanks to

A few years ago I booked a flight to America and I got a confirmation e-mail listing the details of the flight. Because it was my first time with an e-ticket, I assumed that was all that I needed. I don’t mean the type of e-ticket you print yourself but the airlines call it e-tickets anyway. Turns out I was supposed to have received another e-mail and that the reservation number I got wasn’t an actual e-ticket number. It was apparently a problem with KLM’s system. Even though I paid with iDeal, it hadn’t properly registered it. The woman working for KLM at the check-in desk quickly made a few calls, found out the problem was known, and within 5 minutes she’d gotten me a boarding pass to Detroit. She told me that they were working on getting my connecting flight in order.

At the other side of the ocean, about 8 to 10 hours later, things were less nice. Customs was making a fuss about my lack of a connecting flight ticket. Gee, if you want people to have all their tickets fixed up at customs, how about you stick those airline desks before you have to pass through customs, or otherwise shut your stupid pie-hole about it. I was in luck: I could see the airline desks from customs, so I could point at the NWA desk and be like “well, if you want all ticket issues to be resolved you should put those desks before this checkpoint. I need to go to the NWA one over there.” He grudgingly admitted that my logic was flawless, added a stamp to my passport and stapled this green immigration paper in a way that made it stick out annoyingly. That crooked stapling became a recurring theme during all of my subsequent visits to the US except one.

So then I went to the NWA desk. I told the woman that KLM had messed something up with my reservation and that they should’ve fixed it by now. KLM told me they’d probably fix it in about 1-2 hours, so that presumably would’ve been before the plane even left Amsterdam. She then asked if she could see the boarding pass I’d gotten in Amsterdam and said “you were late, weren’t you?” I said something like “um no, I just told you, KLM messed something up with my reservation because something went wrong with this payment system where my money was transferred but the system didn’t register this correctly.” She replied, “so you were late.” I tried one or two times to explain the situation again, but I met a blank stare and a repetition of the notion that I must’ve been late. I ended up saying something like “sure… could you get me my ticket for the connecting flight please?”

Her NWA computer didn’t have me in it with my KLM e-ticket number (that the KLM woman gave me), so she had to phone a colleague who did have access to KLM’s booking system. Consequently she could type in some code on the NWA computer which finally resulted in my ticket. I still don’t know why she couldn’t have just typed my name, but oh well.

Perhaps to compensate for all of the trouble, the connecting flight to Chicago was executed in the most comfortable plane I’ve ever been in. The seats were wide, there was plenty of leg space. I can tell you that I would’ve preferred the preceding 8 hour flight in that plane.

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