(It has taken me a while to write about this because it was just so outrageous, but here it is:)
SO, after arriving to the gate where our flight was suppose to take off, I realized that we didn’t actually have physical or electronic tickets; the email that had been sent did not include them, and from what I could tell there was no link to where to retrieve them. Lauren and I decided to wait in line and have the gate agent print them out for us – I’ve been on many rebooked flights and this has always worked.
Not this time.
THIS time: Gate agent pushes us to the side because ‘the flight is so full’; we wait until everyone is boarded; we talk to the second gate agent when she is free; she gets angry because apparently we are not checked in for this flight and therefore our bags are not on said flight. Further, this flight is overbooked by 7 people so there is no way we will get on it anyway. ME: W.T.F. Her, and her fellow gate agent, ‘well you were suppose to leave the gate area and collect your bags in baggage claim, then recheck them onto the new flight and go back through security. Everyone else from your flight did it, so obviously this is your fault for not doing it.’
Let me make this clear – NO ONE, at all, from the airline employees to the airport employees, ever told us this. The only ‘instructions’ we ever received were the single email that told us we were rebooked.
I don’t get angry. I actively avoid being mad while travelling. And I make a serious effort to always see the other side’s point of view. But at this point I am fuming; the lion’s mane is turn into pure flames. I’m surprised smoke wasn’t billowing out of my ears and nose. Or that my eyes were shooting laser beams.
The gate agent is the rudest airline employee I have ever met, and she is insisting that we are the ones at fault; the airline has done nothing wrong; we cannot get on the flight because we are not checked in and the flight is overbooked; even if we could, our bags will not be coming with us. On top of that, the airline doesn’t even know where our bags are, because we never picked them up. (Which is like, WHAT!!! I gave you my bags! You cancelled the flight, not me. So you should know where they are! And by any standard I’ve ever heard of, YOU should have transferred the bags to the new flight.) And again – we are just the stupid travellers who couldn’t follow instructions.
Finally, in my anger, I asked to speak to a supervisor. Let’s be clear here – never, in my entire life, have I ever actually asked to speak to a supervisor. EVER. It’s just not me. But I was THAT mad. Rude gate agent calls what I can only conclude was another gate agent and asks (in an extremely condescending way, like asking for a supervisor is an outrageous request) ‘she’d like to speak to a supervisor, could you talk to her?’ She hands me the phone. Thankfully the person on the other end was very kind, attempting to sooth the situation rather than enflame it by blaming myself and Lauren. (Lauren this entire time is deliriously tired and is only worried about her bag being lost forever, because it is the bag required by her job and is very expensive to replace.)
According to the ‘supervisor’ – We have two options: take the flight without our bags, and the airline will try to get them to us soon. There are flights very regularly from Gatwick to Barcelona, so this should not take more than a day. OR We could skip this flight, but Vueling (the airline) would not rebook us or pay for our hotel. We would be responsible for booking a last minute hotel (and new flight), and the airline would essentially cut ties. So it boiled down to: a) take the flight without your bags; or b) pay an obscene amount of money, and still not have our bags because – again – the airline had no idea where they were.
We chose the first option. Neither of us were happy about it, but it was the lesser of two evils. Both of us will never fly Vueling again. But what else could we do? So the gate agent begrudgingly checks us in on her computer, only to discover that we have assigned seats so we are immediately taken onto the flight so it can leave. The ‘overbooked flight’ had multiple empty seats – Lauren had one next to her. So clearly the gate agent was simply determined to be a jerk.
What we later found out: A few minutes after I had left the flight desk to go get Lauren, a random representative from the flight desk had come to collect all the passengers from our flight and take them to baggage claim, then through security again. There was no sign used to collect the passengers. There was no overhead announcement. If you were not actually at the flight desk, there was no way to know what you were suppose to do. Further, there were many bags left over on the carousel (according to the fellow passenger I learned this from), so clearly we were not the only passengers to have missed this information. And after speaking to Lauren’s parents, Lauren’s dad (who has been a pilot for 30 some years) informed us he has never heard of an airline requiring this before. So clearly it is an abnormal procedure.
When did we actually get our bags: After a series of calls and mixed messages given by the airline, I finally got my bag at 5pm the next day (after the airline had said 10 minutes before that a] it was still lost; b] it was in Barcelona, but they don’t know where; and c] it had already been delivered to the hostel. All of these were answers. During the same phone call. Vueling had no f*cking idea what was going on, clearly.)
Lauren’s bag, on the other hand, took another 24 hours to arrive. We received mixed messages with her bag too. Apparently her bag had been flown over with mine, but instead of actually delivering them together, it sat in BCN for another 24 hours before being delivered to the hostel. According to the airline, though, it was a] still lost; b] still in Gatwick; c] lost again; and finally d] in BCN, but they have no idea where. About 5 minutes after hearing the last one, Lauren went to the front desk and discovered the bag had actually been delivered hours earlier. But the airline had no idea.
SUMMARY: Do not check bags with Vueling, if you ever fly with them. And do not fly out of Gatwick airport unless you absolutely must.