Yes I know with the current situation in North America you are thinking “shouldn’t that read no carry-on baggage”? No, I’m talking Europe here and given the few days I’ve just spent in Madrid without luggage and dealing with Vueling Airlines that title is 100% correct.
Let me backtrack a bit. Laurent and I decided to spend New Year’s in Madrid this year – our trip to Barcelona in April was the first time either one of us had been in Spain and we wanted to explore it a bit more. ( Just a sidebar based on two cities and as a visitor only Spain in now top of the list for preferred countries in Europe.) We had taken Vueling on that trip and the service had been more than acceptable so we booked them again. Since I tend to travel heavy – hey 12 pairs of jockeys for 4 days is not unreasonable I took my mother’s warning about clean underwear seriously – we each booked and paid for a checked bag.
Two weeks before the trip I get an e-mail from our holiday carrier saying:
At Vueling we want to give you a gift!
We know you’re going to fly with us these holidays and we want to make it easy for you. So that you can fly more comfortably and aren’t so loaded down, we’re giving you free check-in of one suitcase. Furthermore, if you have hand luggage that respects the established rules, you can check it in at no cost.
All of us together can make your flights more comfortable and punctual.
Well isn’t that a nice seasonal gesture thought I in a moment of irrational charity so I fired off a message saying thanks very much so how do I recoup the money I’ve already given you? I received a speedy reply from Pushpa Rohrbach and was told that no refund could be given but if I wanted to take another bag I was welcome to do so. A chip in this wall of charity led me to suggest to them that the wording of their little e-mail promised a bit more than that and asked why I was sent the offer if it did not apply. Again I get a speedy response saying that it was against company policy to refund the money already paid. Now there was an enormous chink in that charitable wall so I sent off a quick response mentioning that I had not requested a further refund just wanted to know why I had received the offer and suggesting that it was misleading and badly worded. Again Pushpa replied with her needle obviously stuck in a groove that they would not refund what I had already paid. At that point I realized I was dealing in dead ends so dropped the issue.
But it would appear that Vueling is a company of dead ends.
The day of our departure we arrived at Fumicino to check-in an hour and a half before our flight. Should they ever want a picture of chaos for the dictionary the Vueling counter that morning would be a leading contender. There was no line to speak off – what line? do you see a line? I don’t see a line? There’s a line? And only because Laurent pushed ahead did we reach a counter in time to check-in for our flight. And in fine Fumicino tradition the baggage belts were jammed and not functioning to capacity. We were amongst the first on board and at departure time the aircraft was only half full. Then the expected announcement that the flight would be delayed as we were waiting for late arriving passengers. Hell I worked for an airline for 33 years I know what holiday travel can be like so a bit of a delay is no big deal. Eventual we took off, the flight was pleasant, the crew good and traveling smooth – keep in mind I take drugs to fly!
As calm and organized as Fumicino is hysterical and chaotic, Madrid Airport is a model for airports around the world. Our wait at the sleek modern baggage carousel was brief and within minutes 30 bags had appeared – then nothing. But a very pleasant young man in a Vueling uniform appeared and informed us that the rest of the baggage had been left behind in Roma. Now it is interesting that the Captain – who would have been aware of the fact from weight and balance figures and would have received an in-flight message – never mentioned it but then given his audience he may not have wanted a scene at 33,000 feet. Laurent had his – thank god as that had all our toiletry bags in it, however my 12 pairs of jockeys were amongst the missing. Surprisingly a rather orderly line formed in front of a young lady who took information and asked where the luggage was to be sent and we headed into the city having been told it would be delivered to us the minute it arrived. Ah the lies that airline people tell and the god who is rewarding me for teaching them how to tell them.
That evening I spoke with Pilar – Pilar and I were to become very close in the next few days – at Vueling’s baggage service. She reported that there was not word yet and but they would cover purchases up to E50.00 a day for those missing jockeys. So we headed out to El Corte Inglés and stocked up on a few essentials – jockeys, socks and while I was at it I could hardly resist the sale on cords and a very nice shirt. When I returned to the hotel later that night there was a message that my luggage was at the airport and could be claimed there.
The next morning I phoned and had a pleasant chat with Benjamin -Benjamin and I were also to become very close in the next few days. Benjamin assured me that he would instruct the airport to send the bag out on the first delivery that day – so high of heart and knowing I had Benjamin’s promise and would soon have fresh clothing I headed out into the driving rain to see the Palacio Real.
Oh foolish Man!
03 gennaio – Santissimo Nome di Gesù