Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lost Luggage Story ... Alitalia Crappy Customer Service

The Chicago Marathon race recap is coming, it is little overwhelming topic for me so far ... please stay with me. In the mean time, here is crazy story that added a little more stress to the Chicago / US experience :D

In the first place, I want to say that I really liked the on-board service of Alitalia flight attendants. But that was about it :( The lady at the Rome airport was unfriendly even though I was fllying business, didn't even point me in the right direction to the airport lounge. And how about trying to call them somewhere?!?!? 2nd exception was Fatima (I think that was her name) at the Chicago airport, she was also helpful and supportive. Apart from that, during this whole story, the most helpful were Delta employees, they even knew more about my luggage!

Get a glass of wine or cup of coffee, this is going to be long!

Day 1 - Friday Oct 10, 2014 (Prague - Rome - Chicago)

Friday (Oct 10, 2014) I was flying from Prague to Rome and then Rome to Chicago, super complicated in order to have some comfort while using my dad's miles for the overseas flight before Chicago marathon. I had over 90 minutes to change flights in Rome, so no big stress. The flight to Rome was operated by Smart Wings and they usually don't check luggage for connecting flights. Not that I requested that! The lady at the check in called somewhere and asked if she can check in my luggage to Chicago. I asked if there was a problem with my luggage and she said no, that they will check it in, so I don't need to pick it up and re-check-in in Rome. Big mistake on my side! I should have said that I am happy to do so. Later I was told that this happens with huge percentage of luggage coming from Rome from connecting flights :(

After 12+ hours on my way, I arrived to Chicago, went smoothly through the immigration office check and was waiting for my luggage to arrive. Waiting ... and watiting ... and waiting ... When an employee told me and few other people that there is no more luggage coming, I had to laugh. The only other option would be crying and I wasn't going to do so. This race seemed to be wicked. But that is story of another blog post. So I want to the baggage claim Alitalia counter, waited behind few other people. Filed complaint, filled in my address in Chicago, explained how important it is for me to get the bag the next day (Saturday) as I have my racing gear in it for Chicago marathon that starts Sunday early morning. = My BIG MISTAKE No. 2. Take your racing kit to your carry on luggage.

Day 2 - Saturday Oct 11, 2014 (Chicago)

I was told that the earliest the luggage can arrive is with the same flight next day, arriving approximately at 7 pm and that the delivery people only pick-up the bags until 7 pm. So probably if I want my bag, I need to pick it up at the airport (= 40 USD one way taxi drive). I was also told that I should keep all the receipts from anything I need to buy while I don't have my luggage and will be reimboursed (I am in process of claiming this ... based on this experience so far, please wish me lot of luck!). You know, you should not stress before important race :D So "just in case" the luggage does not arrive, we re-purchased my whole racing kit, fuel belt, nutrition etc. on Saturday ... very relaxing pre-race program!

Saturday evening after an early dinner we took taxi to the airport just to realize that the luggage did not arrive. Fortunately there we were taken care of by Fatima who at least explained us more of the procedure and she messaged Rome that I am leaving Chicago on Monday, so they send the bag immediately. 

Day 3 - Sunday Oct 12, 2014 (Chicago - RACE DAY)

Sunday after the race, after spending 48+ hours in one set of clothes we went to get me some "people" clothes finally (and a Nike finisher t-shirt), because it wasn't until Monday morning I could get the luggage. We also tried to reach the original airline and the Prague airport to find out about where the luggage was. No help there. Prague airport was friendly, but only told me that "honestly, Rome airport is the worst and your bag is definitely stuck there" and Smart Wings gave me an email address where I should send my claim. In the evening I called Alitalia in Chicago again, no success :( Nobody picked up.

Reached the Alitalia other international help line and at least added information about my next stay in New York. Also added this information in the online file system. Oh yes, there is an online "tracking" system, where you put in the file reference number and your name and it gives you details, you can also edit / adjust them. Well, it said tracking, please check back later for 3 days with my luggage!!! How crazy is that in today's world of online tracking of the smallest envelope with DHL / UPS / FedEx?!?

Day 4 - Monday Oct 13, 2014 (Chicago - NYC)

Monday after arriving to New York City, we went into the calling process again! This time it felt kind of lucky as I was told that the bag is on the flight from Rome to Chicago and yet again I re-confirmed my address in New York, I was even given Delta flight number and times when the luggage should arrive to JFK airport in NYC. Now it seemed that obviously, in Rome nobody worked in the delayed baggage dept. all weekend? How crazy is that? 

Day 5 - Tuesday Oct 14, 2014 (NYC)

Tuesday I was hoping to get a call from Delta around 3-6 pm as the bag should have arrived just before 3 pm. No news :( I called back with Delta (much easier to get hold of real  people and find proper phone numbers to call) - unfortunately they did not have my bag / file reference number in the system which ment that the bag was not yet with them!!!

I was trying to call Alitalia at JFK airport, no success ... In Chicago, there was at least a voicemail. At JFK, it said "mail box full, please call again later" - what a great service! I tried several more times and finally talked to a lady. Who explained me yet again that I don't need to call them, because when they will get the luggage, they will call me back. Not a slight bit of understanding for the fact that it was almost 5 days my bag has been missing. She at least confirmed that my bag should come on the Delta flight. So I bought some more clothes, so I can feel as a person in NYC ...

Day 6 - Wednesday Oct 15, 2014 (NYC)

Wednesday morning the things were getting serious again. We knew I had to leave for my flight on Thursday morning at 9 am. That meant that if they do not deliver the bag on Wednesday, it was probably going to miss me again. The European flights arrive in the afternoon / evening, so the airlines (at least Alitalia) don't open their counters at the US airport until afternoon (and Chicago is closed Tuesday & Wednesday as there is no flight). No way to reach the phone number, we tried to google some other local number for Alitalia NYC office, but all of the numbers were going to one of the options I already knew very well: 1) call center probably in Italy that does not know anything more than you can see in the online verification system, 2) redirect to the airport desk where you get to the voice mail most of the time.

Delta on the other hand was little easier to reach and always way more supportive and showing more effort. So finally Wednesday morning they told me my bag was with Delta at the JFK!!! HALLELUJAAAH! Unfortunately the standard procedure is that they have to hand it over to the original airline = Alitalia = that does not open until afternoon. One of the Delta people suggested that I can also go to JFK and pick the luggage up if I want to be 100 % sure to get it. Seemed like a great idea worth over 130 USD... then we realized we don't know which terminal. So we decided to try the Alitalia address in Manhattan. Walked in the building and was told that there were no Alitalia officess anymore in the building and that they don't know where they moved. (Our guess was nowehere - saving on costs only having that automatic phone number and email address you can manage from Europe.)

Well, last option take cab to JFK and guess that as the flight was domestic, we go for Terminal 2. It was almost 11 am again and we only had Starbucks as we wanted to go for a nice breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park, yet the situation changed. At Delta Baggage Office old Chinese lady put in the file reference number and said she cannot look it up in system, whereas we knew the Delta people were able to do so. I thought se misspelled the code, but she insisted she has to put in the tag number (the bar code that is on your luggage and on the little strip that you keep on your boarding pass - people always keep this with you until you retrieve your luggage!!!). I knew the tag number was not in the system (why the hell do they put in on the bag then?). We insisted on rechecking, so the lady went to talk to her colleague. 

HEUREEEKA, she came back asking for my ID and how the bag looked. The guy started asking why we don't go to Alitalia and if they were on strike. So the US people in the airport even don't know that the Alitalia counter does open later. He told us that he went to the counter to hand over the luggage but nobody was there. Long story "short", he finally gave me my bag after more than 5 days on the journey! He wanted to keep the original of my claim to have proof for Alitalia that he handed me the bag. We suggested some hand over protocol, but as it clearly it was not in his "how to deal with bags manual", he did not want that, he just wanted to get the original, saying that I don't need it! 

Finally we made him go and make a photocopy for me as we knew this was only the first part of the story. Now it continues with the claim for reimboursement of the purchases we had to do...

I will keep you posted!

Useful numbers:

Alitalia US lost luggage: +1-800-905-9992
for JFK press 1 - 1
for Chicago press 1 - 2
Alitalia call centre: +39-06665640 (I guess this one is situated in Italy)

Delta Call Center - baggage claims: +1-800-325-8224


  1. No ...a teď si představ, že jsi vozíčkář,a ztratí se ti vozík. Pak se na tohle budeš dívat. úplně jinak :-)

  2. Geesh, what a total nightmare! At least you eventually got your luggage back, though - some people never do!