flights are expensive this time of year, and so when i bought my flight home for christmas i chose the cheapest flight that avoided london, putting me on alitalia through milan and into newark. i had had a disappointing experience with alitalia a few years ago, so i was nervous about flying with them again.
i arrived in newark almost two weeks ago, and my suitcase did not. and still has not. in the first six days i spent upwards of 3 hours a day on the phone and did not speak to a single employee of alitalia. in all, my entire christmas break that was supposed to be spent having quality time with my family was mostly spent on the telephone yelling at people or trying to calm down after yelling on the phone.
the problem is that foreign airlines outsource their baggage handling to third party companies or partner airlines. therefore, the people who are charged with finding your bag have no real interest in serving you because you are not their customer. with alitalia unavailable for 6 days surrounding christmas, i took stronger measures.
i filed a complaint with my credit card company, who tried to help me but couldn't reach alitalia on the telephone. i called airports in boston, newark and milan without reaching an alitalia employee. i filed a complaint with the attorney general's office of new york state. i filed a complaint with the department of transportation's aviation consumer protection division.
i wrote a news story and sent it to news outlets in new york and massachusetts. this seemed to work. after six days, using a direct phone number given to me by the new york attorney general's office, i was able to reach a person in customer relations. on the seventh day they returned my phone call after i had forwarded correspondance from a new york city television station and my complaints to government agencies. they assured me that they were doing everything in their power to find my bag. they assured me that managers were being called. they assured me that a certain employee of newark airport was reprimanded for certain things she had said to me, including "ma'am, i work for delta" and "you are at the bottom of the pile."
i felt better. i went to new hampshire for five days and relished the lack of cell phone reception and internet to disconnect and stop angering about it constantly. today i returned to new york and i resumed my daily calling: the tv station, newark airport, customer relations. again i leave messages that are never returned; phones ring and are never answered. finally a phone was answered and they told me that a bag that might be mine will be arriving tomorrow. they told me not to get my hopes up. this is difficult.
so why am i writing about this here? a few reasons.
first, to let you know what you're getting into if you fly alitalia. maybe the flight will go perfectly. but if you have a problem, you'll be in trouble. i have traveled alot and this is by far the worst customer service i have ever experienced from an airline
secondly, i've heard of companies that for a small fee can help in situations like this. they put a GPS device on your bag, so that when the italians lose it for 14 days there is some way of finding it. i would recommend this service for anybody who is flying with a foreign airline outside of its own country.
third, if you experience a similar situation, i wanted to document the steps i took to finally get service. i spent countless hours doing research into how to be an outraged consumer, who to contact and how to get noticed. i found that the local news was the most effective means, and i used this website: complaint.tv to spread my story around.
so let's hope that the bag arriving is mine. now i have the fight ahead of me to try to get reimbursed for the necessities i purchased while my bag was lost, and another fight about my return flight to madrid. i obviously don't want to fly on alitalia and they certainly will not be allowed to touch my luggage. so we'll see. for the moment my hopes are slightly bolstered...