Lost Luggage Leaves Traveler In A Lurch

June 30, 2010

in Luggage Stories

My parents are a little bizarre in that they don’t fly together. No matter what. Period. Full stop. So you can imagine the nightmare that sometimes ensues when they travel internationally to visit me, between layovers, different cities, and delays. They cut their own holiday short and I’m left to ferry back and forth from Ferihegy airport in Budapest (no short trek from where I live). Still the delight from seeing my parents is worth much more than their idiosyncrasy. After 24 years of flying apart, they are now going to fly together in response to my dad’s trip over — and the return — on Continental.

A good chunk of my life has been spent in the air, especially as I live abroad. Living in Europe makes it a hop, skip and jump to different countries, and when I was still in America I attended school out of state. Since moving to Europe, I fly home twice a year and my parents come over once. As any seasoned traveller knows, especially post 9/11, expect delays. Plane is two hours late to depart? No sweat. A mild annoyance, sure, but not a flight from hell. The plane running out of peanuts? Sucks, but you move on. After what happened to my dad, though, I will NEVER fly Continental again. The story is honestly comical, like the plot of a bad movie starring a washed up Adam Sandler.

My dad was flying Denver to Newark to London to Budapest. My mom, who had a great flight on Delta, flew Denver to NYC to Budapest. While my dad is in Denver at his terminal, I get a phone call telling me he finally just boarded – an hour and a half late – and it looks unlikely that he is going to make his connecting flight in Newark. He doesn’t know when he is going to get into London. I tell him to call me when he is in Newark and has the scoop. Flight there was fine, no real big mishaps, just an obnoxious Jersey girl sitting beside him talking about how everyone from Jersey isn’t like the MTV show. My dad, smartly, ordered a drink. At Newark I get a phone call. He’s on the flight to London. The pilot made up time. HE BARELY GOT ON. Not only did he barely get on, but the woman who took his boarding pass made a snide remark on how he managed to get across the airport in time and then suggested she hoped he fit in his seat because they didn’t have time to remove him. My dad, at this point, is incredulous, boiling over, and already swearing he’ll never fly Continental again. I’m pretty sure she was probably making a poor-in-taste joke, but still. We hang up and I expect him on time, proud of him for his little victory over a delayed flight in Denver.

The flight is then, despite her comment, delayed two hours from take-off due to a runway back-up. This, of course, puts my dad on edge as he has a short layover in London.  As they keep telling the people on board they’ll depart any minute, for two hours they refuse to let anyone use the toilet, and anyone using electronics is promptly told to shut them off. Behind my dad was a little girl SCREAMING about how she needed to pee. For an entire hour. Granted her parents should have taken her before the flight, but really, two hours of taxiing? I know it happens, but to not allow the toilet? Still, my dad isn’t one to complain, and he settled in with his book and waited – until the pilot, fed up with people getting up to use the toilet and being told “no,” announces the next person to get out of their seats will result in him moving out of the queue and taking the aircraft to the back of the line where they’ll start the process over again. Nice fear tactics, Continental.

After take-off my dad managed to speak to a flight attendant regarding his luggage. At Newark, his baggage was streamlined so he didn’t think anything of it, but in London he was switching from Continental to British Airways for the flight to Budapest. He asked what he needed to do, if he needed to pick up his luggage and transfer it or if Continental would be handling it. Every airline and airport has different procedures regarding change of carrier, so he wanted to be INCREDIBLY SURE he didn’t make a mistake. She told him not to worry, the luggage was on the flight and it’d be dealt with in London. He’d need to go through the baggage check (I can’t remember what it is called, but it’s a queue like security, from what he described).

His flight lands late after being delayed, with no apologies from the Continental pilot, and he is kept on the plane as they wait to disembark. By the time he gets off, he is trying to let someone, anyone, know he has thirty minutes to board his flight to Budapest. He has to go through Security and do his baggage. Continental’s flight attendants tell him “not their problem” and he tries to battle through Heathrow. My dad is a totally mild mannered, nice guy, so he is not one to push to the head of a queue and say I AM ABOUT TO MISS MY FLIGHT LET ME THROUGH. He stands there, like an idiot, until it’s his turn. Oh, dad. Of course, he misses his flight to Budapest. Speaking to the luggage guy, he asks if his luggage was there, to which the man scanned his luggage tag and said “yes” — which we’ll find out HAD NEVER LEFT NEWARK. Dad calls me after he speaks to BA who were MAGIC in sorting him out a flight to Budapest three hours later than he was expected. Mom, at this point, has landed and is complaining about the heat, but not about her flight.

Three hours after he was scheduled, he arrives. Mom and I are delighted as we know he’s had a rough flight and it’s around dinnertime. Especially as my dad was given a snack on the LDN-BUD flight, but nothing else. We know he missed lunch and that he didn’t get a late one, as I’d trumped up where we were going for dinner. Everyone starts coming out from the flight and mom and I are trying to spot his bald head, but as the trickle turns into a stream, no dad. I look at her and I go “how much you want to bet they lost his luggage” and sure enough my dad, along with five other people, did not have luggage. I didn’t know this until he called me, completely defeated. To complicate it further, my dad didn’t know the address of where he was staying in Budapest (they stayed at my friend’s flat), and he does not speak Hungarian. Ferihegy security refused to let me back there to help him with his paperwork and translate. This I wasn’t too perturbed about because that’s standard, but by this point he is on a flight from hell. He is, however, optimistic about his luggage being in London, and as there is one more flight that day he might get it then. He asks and the women with him inform him they do not, honestly, have any idea where his luggage is. They don’t know if it is in Denver, Newark, London, or Budapest.

Being a good daughter, I check to see if it arrived on the first flight by calling the lost luggage department in Ferihegy. Not there. At least we know it isn’t in Budapest. They tell him they’ll call when they find it. Keep in mind, the trip from where I live to the airport takes an hour by public transport either way and 30 minutes by taxi. The taxi to and from is about 60$ and the public transport, while only 2$ for the train and 2$ for the bus, is not air conditioned and this was a record setting day of heat for Budapest; around 40C.  BA and Continental both refuse to take the blame and neither offer him any compensation in regards to his lost luggage. Indeed, he was told it was “his fault” for not packing clothes into his carry on. He landed at five pm, we didn’t leave the airport until 7.30 pm. The next day, late in the afternoon, he gets a phone call that his luggage is there, but they will not and cannot deliver it to him as it never went through customs. I get this is probably standard, but come on, he receives no compensation and no assistance for having to travel back to the airport on HIS HOLIDAY to get his luggage. We trek there and back, wasting the better part of the next morning when we went to pick it all up — all while my dad is wearing the same outfit for over 48 hours.

You’d think it couldn’t get worse, but you haven’t heard the return flight.

I do not have a printer with my laptop. Sunday night my mother wanted to check in for their flights. We checked her in, online, without printing the boarding pass and my dad, bless him, said he wanted to just check in at the airport because of weighing his luggage, so either way he had to go to the counter for Lufthansa who was running his flight from BP to Frankfurt (in Frankfurt he was exchanging to Continental, again, to fly Frankfurt to Houston and then Houston to Denver). Lufthansa’s WONDERFUL STAFF then tells him the flight is oversold and since he was late to check-in (in the first few to check-in as soon as check-in opened, but whatever) he was now relegated to flying standby. My dad tried to explain he had a connecting flight and they told him “too bad, not my problem, your fault.” He asks if he misses his flight what they will do to get him to Frankfurt and then to Houston and then to Denver. He is told by Lufthansa he will have to deal with Continental in Frankfurt, but they’ll fly him on standby all day to get him to Frankfurt – at some point. It would then be, in their words, Continental’s problem to deal with him in Frankfurt and find him a hotel if they can’t get him out of Frankfurt. Luckily, he doesn’t have to endure this as he manages to get on the flight to Frankfurt.

Having experienced losing his luggage transferring airlines, he asks if everything is okay/what he needs to do in Frankfurt. Lufthansa tells him it’s fine, the luggage will transfer without a problem. My dad relaxes, has a nice flight, and arrives in Frankfurt. Okay, so rude airline staff at the airport; that’s common. My dad lets it roll off his back. Of course, he is flying Continental home so rude airline staff and a bad flight, ho!

His flight to Houston is, of course, delayed. It is then slow crossing the Atlantic, which makes him arrive in Houston with no chance of making his flight to Denver, especially as he has to clear customs. He is instructed to go to the Continental desk and find out how they will get him home to Denver. With lots of sighing and hemming and hawing, they finally agree to put him up in a hotel. My dad, being my dad, inquires where his luggage is because he is paranoid – and for good reason – Continental, AGAIN, does not know where it is. They have no record of it, period. AWESOME. So he is stranded in Houston and no one knows where his luggage is. Then, as Continental is ever so sweet, they proceed to give him 12$ for TWO MEALS (dinner and breakfast). Is that a joke? My dad is diabetic and while 12$ is just enough to get a McMenu he cannot eat that. 12$ doesn’t even pay for Chili’s!!! And let alone, he has to pay for breakfast and travel from the airport and travel back to the airport as Continental will not pay for that. My dad, however, said whatever, left, and downed some drinks in Houston.

FINALLY the next morning they get him to Denver — on time, a miracle!! — and lo and behold, no luggage. This was yesterday US time, so as of writing, he is still waiting for them to locate his luggage. Moral of the story? Fuck Continental.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

poco June 30, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Long, but legitimately a FFH.


c June 30, 2010 at 8:24 pm

it was a comedy of errors, seriously. i kept getting phone calls every few hours from my dad telling me he was delayed, luggage was lost, he wasn't sure if he was getting out of budapest, he was stranded in houston.. it was just like how much worse could happen short of the plane having to crash land in arizona?


zzz June 30, 2010 at 11:19 pm

was that a novel ? zzz


rerere July 1, 2010 at 4:46 am

The flights were too close too eachother. And, could you have made that story any longer.


madachode July 1, 2010 at 4:59 am

1st who cares where you live, and 2nd if a gate agent comments about your dad fitting into a seat, don't you think that not eating would actually do him a favor and a favor for the rest of the flying public?


c July 5, 2010 at 12:03 am

I said where I lived to illustrate the length of the flights?

I'm sure it would. He did fit in his seat, just so you know, but he is a fair fellow. He is just heavy built. Broad? Not a obese. It was just a poor taste joke.


loyal reader July 1, 2010 at 5:03 am

Face it, if Madachode ever had something civil to say I'd know the world had come to an end. Madachode, the favor to the public would be for you to shut your yap.

The FA had no business making a remark about your dad fitting into a seat; if she meant it as a joke, it was a very poor one.


madachode July 2, 2010 at 3:22 am

fat people are a threat to national security and the flying public. they should be told that they are too fat to fly so that maybe they would realize that it would be a good idea to stop eating and start running.


Bob July 1, 2010 at 9:22 am

Continental blows doggie.


david July 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm

wow long story that should have been shorter

i find it funny how you portray your dad as a calm person never gets agitated etc……….yet he says i will never fly continental to the gate agent (to me that isn't exactly calm-was he shouting prob not but that is venting)

and since you travel so much as you say you do, then you should know its against regulations to go to the bathroom during taxiing take off and landing due to safety


c July 5, 2010 at 12:02 am

He didn't say that to the gate agent. He said it to me when telling the story of the first flight! I'm sure he smiled tightly at her and went on his way, to be honest, but I wasn't there.


c July 5, 2010 at 12:05 am

Also, as Bob said below, I know it is against regulations, but when they have been taxi'ing for two hours, come on. It wasn't a complaint about not going pee, it was a complaint that the taxi'ing took two hours and during that the pilot was threatening to take the plane to the back of the line should anyone dare and stand up.

I've taxi'ed for a while before, but never more than 30-45 minutes.


Bob July 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Yea Dave, we all know it is against regs to use the head during takeoffs landings and taxiing however it is against my regs to piss myself ,so when it takes two friggin hours in line to take off I am going to use the head if I need to. As far as the captain threatening to return to the terminal or the rear of the line I say go for it and good luck explaining to his bosses why he is even later than usual.


david July 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm

that would be a quick explanation, i was following the rules and did what i believed to be effective and you can ask the crew and so on

your prob the first person to complain and try and sue if you get hurt using the bathroom going there or back, you never know when they will be cleared, i have been on flights where we believed we were in a long line but then we had a short take off approach so we didnt wait long


Bob July 6, 2010 at 10:27 am

Yes, Dave you absolutely have my number, I am a total jerk off-like yourself and I always am looking for a reason to file suit,again like you. It is amazing how much you know about me on the basis of a post on the internet, you are obviously brilliant and above reproach- oh wait , from what I can glean from your post you are nothing more than a common tubesteak with little man complex. The only question is , is your complex in your head or in your pants. And again my mommy potty trained me not some waitress on a cut rate airline so when I have to go I will go and not act like a sheeple or anything similar to you.


Jim July 6, 2010 at 9:48 am

A little too verbose….too many details….so, I stopped reading. It seems you are full of yourself….and, want to share the minute happenings of your life with everyone for justification of your being.

I guess there may have been a flight from hell somewhere there…but, I lost interest.


Salamandra July 6, 2010 at 6:19 pm

So boring. BS please, dont let long stories here. For the love of GOD


Abby October 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

yes, that was such a LONG STORY! too much details and such.. im sure they gave him more then $12 maybe hes joking around and such. Also wouldn't he learn his lesson the first time and not check his bag!? I know our family never check our bags for that reason…lesson learned! Also that is ALOT of details for a person who wasn;t there….


Aimee June 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm

My father is a continental employee, and so I fly standby every time I fly. So first, GET UR BIG KID UNDIES ON, FLYING STANDBY IS NOT A HUGE THING. Second, Be grateful you get to even check your bags. We can't because we fly stand-by. I get to pack a months worth of clothes in a carry-on. I think that this is over dramatic and drawn-out, and I can say that I have never met an employee that rude. I am also so incredibly proud of Continental that I could just burst.


Dr. Sex Potato February 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Diabetic and drinking?


Mark October 21, 2014 at 1:37 am

That sounds like hell…losing luggage is never fun. But when you have 3 flights to make, you have to think worst case. If either of your first two flights are delayed, that affects the rest of your travel. If you do have that many connections, it's best to leave some time in between so you have time to make your next flight. And I would definitely pack a change of clothes in my carry on…as I mentioned, even if you DO make your connection by a hair, your bags aren't likely to make it with you.


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