I was flying from Austin to Minneapolis to Los Angeles to Brisbane to Melbourne Australia for the International DB2 User Group (IDUG) conference a few weeks ago. Another airline probably could have gotten me there in fewer than four segments, but this is what vicious loyalty will do to you.
The trip became interesting when I landed in Los Angeles LAX airport. Several text and phone messages alerted me to the fact that Delta's partner, Virgin Australia, was going to be leaving LAX late at 2:30am PDT instead of 11:55pm. This, of course, impacted my connecting flight in Brisbane.
"Oh well" I thought. "It's the nature of air travel". I waited in a long line at Terminal 3, checked-in, then went through TSA security. While going through security, one of the TSA agents remarked "Good luck, they cancelled the Brisbane flight last night!"
By chance, I figured I'd try going into the Virgin America Club thinking that, perhaps, my Delta Diamond status and Sky Club membership would get me in. I was warmly greeted, and then the conversation got interesting.
"Mr. Hayes, do you realize Brisbane is leaving late? We've published an estimated 2:30am departure but we're not really sure when the flight will leave. Meanwhile, we have a flight leaving for Sydney in about an hour. If I could upgrade you to premium coach, would you mind taking the Sydney flight instead?" said the helpful agent.
"What's the catch?" I said.
"Well Mr. Hayes, the timing is kind of tight. I'm not sure your bags will follow you to Sydney. If they don't, we'll get them to you." said the agent. "Okay" I said. And after the agent made a few calls, I was handed a new boarding card for seat 10B in premium coach. Nice.
Fast forward about several movies, a nap, and 14 hours later. We've landed in Sydney. I cleared customs quickly (I think they use IBM DB2 LUW). Now I wait for my bags. And wait. And wait.
No bags. I went to the baggage desk. "Ah yes, Mr. Hayes, we have you and your two bags on our list of bags that didn't make the flight. We'll find them, then deliver them to you. What do your bags look like?"
HERE IS AN IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE LESSON!
Take a Picture of your Bags before you surrender them to the airline!
After sharing verbal descriptions of my bags with the agent and giving my hotel address in Melbourne, I journeyed on to catch my flight from Sydney to Melbourne. I was already late due to the baggage issue, and getting from the Sydney International Terminal to the Domestic Terminal is no small feat. Still, here's my second pleasant surprise from Virgin Australia: They held my plane to Melbourne for me!
HERE IS AN IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE LESSON!
Remember to pack at least one change of clean clothes in your carry on bag!
Upon arriving in Melbourne, I took the SkyBus from the airport to downtown for only AUD$17 instead of spending AUD$60 on a taxi. Nice! Just saved some pub money! The Marriott Hotel had my room ready early! It's all good! I made a quick visit to Target and bought some shampoo and a razor. I'm all set for tomorrow.
For my return to the USA, I was supposed to fly on Sunday from Melbourne to Brisbane to Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Austin, leaving at 6am and getting home at 11:58pm. I'm worried about that Brisbane connection.
I called up Delta and explained that Virgin Australia lost my luggage, I had no clothes, and wanted to come home early. I had researched the flights that I wanted. Melbourne to Sydney on Friday, and Sydney to Los Angeles to Salt Lake City to Austin on Saturday. I expected the flights would cost significantly more and that I'd get hit with exorbitant ticket change fees. However, much to my surprise and amazement, the Delta agent said "Mr. Hayes, let me take care of those flights for you. Hold a moment please."
I hear his keyboard clicking.
"Mr. Hayes, I've arranged those flights for you and emailed you a confirmation. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
(stunned look in case that smiley doesn't work)
"Aren't you going to ask me for a credit card for change fees?" I sheepishly inquired.
"No Mr. Hayes," he said. "I think we've already given you enough trouble with the lost bags."
WOW! I am floored, shocked, and very pleasantly surprised.
On Tuesday, my bag containing my clothes arrived.
On Wednesday, the first day of the IDUG conference, DBI's booth arrived in time to set it up on Thursday.
On Thursday, we had a great day at the IDUG AP conference and enjoyed meeting with many nice people.
On Friday, I grabbed a taxi to the Melbourne airport and arrived a few hours early. Upon checking-in, I inquired with the agent if there was an earlier flight and could she put me on it - without additional up charges. Sure enough, she put me on an earlier flight, gave me an express pass through security, and invited me to the Virgin Club. Nice.
On Saturday, I arrived at the Sydney International Terminal extra early to check-in with Delta. Good thing I did. Somehow there was a problem with my ticket. The agent handed me off to another agent, who handed me off to a supervisor, who made several phone calls to resolve the issue. I waited patiently. The senior agent apologized a lot for my delay whilst working out the problem.
Long story short, when I arrived at the boarding gate in Sydney, I was handed a new boarding card for an upgraded seat in Business Elite. Remarkable!
The Airlines LOST my Luggage and I'm HAPPY about it!
- Virgin Australia upgraded me to premium coach and got me on the earlier Sydney flight
- In Sydney, Virgin Australia held the plane to Melbourne for me. I admit that it is odd hearing your name over the airport PA system.
- Virgin Australia eventually delivered my bags, as promised, to my hotel
- Virgin Australia put me on an earlier flight from MEL to SYD without additional charge
- Delta graciously changed my return ticket to the USA without the anticipated costly change fees
- In the wake of check-in problems, Delta upgraded me to Business Elite from SYD to LAX.
- Delta also upgraded all of my domestic segments (to and from LAX/AUS) under the Diamond Medallion program benefits
I'll say it again. Sometimes bad things happen, and those things aren't necessarily your fault. But, how you CHOOSE to respond can make a world of difference towards a positive outcome!
A Bit about DBI Software
From time to time, DBI's software has had a couple of bugs. I doubt any software is perfect. Even IBM DB2 has bugs. Nonetheless, the point is, at DBI, service is a key differentiator. Not only do we try to promptly help customers with any issues, but we'll also inquire as to how else we can help you. In fact, DBI makes it a point to proactively contact every customer every quarter to check-in, see how things are going, and ask what we can do to help! When we started doing this, I think a few of our customers fainted... How often does your software vendor call you and ask how they can help?
So, the next time the airline loses your luggage, be happy about it! If your flight is delayed or cancelled, or if there is another problem, try your best to be polite with the airline representatives. Too many times I've seen people yell at agents. Don't shoot the messenger! People will be more inspired to help you within the limits of their authority when you are NICE.