Those of you following me on the book of faces may already have heard about it - I've been stateside again last week, to personally witness the end of the Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay (and to add insult to injury, my travel mate was a Cards fan). And the airline lost my bag on the outbound flight. Again
. Only this time, KLM was the culprit.
First things first - the flights with KLM were an absolute pleasure. Got PH-BFI (744M, "City of Jakarta") on the AMS-ORD leg, one of KL's oldest, in service since 1991. You can tell the age, but still, it's well maintained. And I like their old combi 744s, despite the absence of in-seat power or wifi.
I loved this one even more, as we had the friendliest crew I ever met on a flight. Funny, attentive, visible in the cabin at any time, keeping the drinks coming. When they served lunch, my mate said (in my direction, not even towards the f/a), "we should have a beer after lunch". Moments after we had finished, she showed up with 2 Heineken. "I overheard you guys planned for a beer after lunch, so here it is." Wow!
And wouldn't you just love to take an inflight tour to the cargo bay, to check out the jet engine they had loaded back there? Of course, it's not allowed. So it never happened.
What an absolutely amazing flight!
Yet, upon landing, we learned that our bags didn't make it. So here's a good opportunity to compare LH vs. KL, and how they handle such situations.Customer information
LH: kept me waiting at the baggage carousel for well over an hour, waiting for me to find out by myself that my bag wasn't there. The long wait was a result of thunderstorms at JFK upon landing, for which LH cannot be blamed. Still, it beats me why they don't proactively inform customers. Whereas...
KL: I got a text message as soon as my phone connected after landing, informing me that our bags didn't make, and asking me to see lost & found immediately. Plus, right at the carousel, there was a service employee actively looking for the affected pax (as with LH, sadly, the list was quite long, I guess around 25-30 names on it).
To add the icing on the cake, when the crew (did I mention they were attentive?) heard that we were missing our bags, they waited for us behind the immigration zone, to show us to the lost & found desk. The captain even shook our hands and apologized in the name of KLM for the inconvenience.
These people love their airline and their customers. Wish I could say the same about LH...
KL: Amenity kit
LH: After finally making it to the lost & found desk, I got a Star Alliance amenity kit. It contained all sorts of toiletries, plus a pre-washed t-shirt for the night. All in all, nothing to write home about, but certainly better than nothing.
KL: We had to ask for an amenity kit, apparently they hand it out only upon request. Skyteam kits are significantly smaller than their Star Alliance counterparts, contained a slightly smaller selection of toiletries, and no t-shirt.
KL: Bag tracking
LH: No information whatsoever. LH's US baggage hotline didn't call, and was useless when I called them. I did not get any tracking information, and had to call several times to learn if the bag had arrived with the next flight.
4 hours after landing of the next day flight, I got a telephone no. of a courier service upon request, and the information that the bag had been handed over to that courier. Which was incorrect, the courier service only received it hours later. After I had called the courier the first time, they were very helpful and kept calling me back, but that's no credit to LH.
KL: Very good information at first, a little less later on. I did receive a confirmation by text message some 3-4 hours after my arrival, that the bag would be booked on next day's flight. The lost & found desk lady had told me earlier on that they would then book it on an AA flight to Green Bay the same day, but I didn't really believe that.
The next day, I did not receive a confirmation that the bag had been dispatched with that day's flight, and had to call KL's US baggage hotline to get the confirmation for that. Also, I had to call them later that night, to find out how it would be delivered to Green Bay. But at least, the lady answering that call was extremely friendly and helpful, and did make several calls to find out the number of both the courier service and the driver who would deliver it from Chicago to Green Bay that night.
KL: Bag delivery
LH: My FRA-JFK flight had landed at 19:30. There was no later FRA-JFK flight the same day. Next day's early flight had landed at 12:30. The bag had been handed over to the courier service around 22:00 and was delivered shortly after midnight. I don't know the exact time, as they had left it with the doorman (upon my request, though). Let's assume 00:00, so the bag was delivered 28.5 hours after my landing, with me staying within 20 miles of the airport.
KL: My AMS-ORD flight had landed at 14:30. There was no later AMS-ORD flight the same day, and only one KL flight the next day, that also landed at 14:30. KL did not book the bags on an AA flight from ORD to GRB, but arranged a courier delivery by car. The courier arrived at 04:00 the next morning (had to get out of bed, as I was staying in an AirBnB). So the bag was delievered 37.5 hours after my landing, with me staying 200+ miles away from the airport.
Both could have delivered the bag a lot faster. LH has no excuse to not have it delivered the next afternoon, and KL could have gotten it to Green Bay the next evening. I had even offered to collect it from the airport there by myself.Compensation
LH: It took them ridiculously long to process my claim, but they gave me a full compensation for t-shirts, jeans, shirt + jacket, over $300 in total.
KL: I am yet to file the complaint, will update this part as soon as I have their answer. I will have to claim a little more this time, as I had to buy t-shirts, winter underwear, pajamas, jeans, sweater, waterproof winter coat, winter boots and gloves. This will add up to over $500, which is more than I paid for the ticket. I'd be surprised if they pay that much, but let's see.
KL: (pending)Final verdict
Needs to be updated after KL handled the claim. What I can say so far is that there was no big difference in how both airlines physically handled the case, only KL did a lot better in terms of communication. And while that doesn't make the lost bag arrive any faster, it still makes a huge difference in the situation.
LH is lacking in customer-mindedness. KL definitely has learned that lesson. Not just when it comes to lost bags, but they also do a lot more in terms of small details that make you feel more at home when flying with them.
I don't think that the average KLM f/a is, by nature, friendlier or more attentive than the average LH one. The onboard product is a result of training, which again is a result of management decisions.
And I honestly do think that the positive feedback the KLM flight attendants receive from passengers because of their positive attitude makes them enjoy their job more, resulting in a positive feedback loop.
For the airline, that's a huge asset. LH needs to learn that lesson, fast, and on a top management level.
I'll update this post once KL's claim compensation went through.
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)