Our travel nightmare: two missed connections and 72 hours without luggage 6

Posted by Beth | January 2, 2016

*Posting out of order for a real-time update from Copenhagen. Back to finishing up South America posts tomorrow.*

Both of us are pretty seasoned travelers and have been fortunate in the past never to run in to many problems with air travel. Of course some delays, a missed flight here or there (usually accompanied with meal vouchers or being put up overnight in a nearby hotel), or a bag arriving a few hours late, but nothing major. On our way to Europe from the US on December 29, our luck ran out and we had a whammy of a travel day(s). Because of multiple unrelated mechanical delays we ended up missing not one but two different flights on our itinerary, spending an extra 13 hours in airports and to top it off, our bags did not arrive until three days later, causing quite the inconvenience being in Copenhagen in the dead of winter without any of our warm clothes.

Original Flight Itinerary: MCI>ORD>MIA>DUS>CPH

As you can see from the flight path above, we started off with a doozy of a long travel day anyway. After going back to Kansas for Christmas, our next stop on our RTW adventure was supposed to be in Africa. It was only 10,000 extra miles to fly to Europe en route to Africa so we decided on a whim to head to Copenhagen for New Year’s.

The fireworks alone were well worth the trip!

The fireworks alone were well worth the trip!

Booking off-peak awards, we were able to redeem 40,000 American Airline miles (for two people) and only had to pay $35.80 out of pocket for the taxes and fees.

Our travel day appeared doomed from the start, when we arrived at the KC Airport to hundreds and hundreds of people in line at the airline counter because of multiple flight cancellations due to inclement weather the past few days. But luckily we were able to join a much shorter line because of priority access (thanks to AA credit cards) and breezed through security. We waited and waited at the gate and though the plane was sitting only a few feet away we boarded well over an hour late due to problems with the jet bridge. Once we arrived in Chicago another plane was at our gate so we sat around for quite some time waiting to deboard. We finally got off a few minutes before our next flight to Miami was supposed to take off, but even after an impressive sprint through the terminal we were too late.

We made our way to the Admirals Club, where a friendly agent helped to rebook us on a different flight. The good news was we would have one less flight, flying to London and then Copenhagen, but the bad news was we had over nine extra hours to kill in the airport, and we had to fly on an American plane instead of with partner Air Berlin as planned. We have lounge access thanks to the Citi Prestige card, and it definitely paid off in this case, helping to get us rebooked fairly easily without standing in long customer service lines and giving us somewhere a little more relaxing to spend our long day in the airport. We even received a few premium drink vouchers and $24 to spend on food.

New Flight Itinerary: ORD>LHR>CPH

Our flight to London was supposed to depart at 7 p.m. but because of more mechanical issues, ended up leaving over two hours late. The most frustrating part of the delay was they were not accurately updating departure times, so instead of just chilling in the lounge for a few more hours we had to stand (ok, pace) near the gate. Once we caved and walked back to lounge they made an announcement a few minutes later that the flight was now boarding, so we packed up and left again, only to wait for almost another hour at the gate again. Once onboard, we had one final delay thanks to a vent not working. When we arrived in London, there were more difficulties with our gate, so it took an extra half hour to get moved to a new gate. Those thirty minutes ended up being the difference maker in missing our next connection to Copenhagen, so we were rebooked on a different British Airways flight two hours later. Again thanks to Priority Pass we were able to visit the Aspire Lounge for some snacks.

Up to this point we were still in fairly high spirits. Despite a few frustrating delays, things were going as smoothly as possible all things considered, and we were still on pace to arrive in Copenhagen the same day (though a 4:30 p.m. arrival vs. 8:30 a.m. is essentially losing a full day of exploring). We finally arrived in Copenhagen after 30 hours of travel, but our bags did not.

Baggage delayed 72 hours:

At the Copenhagen airport we had to go to the SAS baggage service office, which  manages baggage for almost every other airline at this airport. Though our award flights were booked with American Airlines, our last flight was with British Airways so they were apparently responsible for locating our luggage. The SAS employee was nice and sneakily gave us some Star Alliance overnight kits since British Airways didn’t have any left.

Over the next three days we continually attempted to track our bags online, but it always read “Tracing continues. Check back later.” We were able to check where they were last seen by AA on their website, and learned that our bags went to Miami, but AA told us via Twitter that the bags were no longer in Miami and we had to take it up with BA.

We managed to keep pretty positive attitudes for the first about two and half days and didn’t let it stop us from enjoying New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen and taking a New Year’s Day side trip to Malmo, Sweden. The biggest issue was that Copenhagen in the winter is cold and Caleb’s coat and my hat/scarf/gloves were in our checked bags. Today was the coldest, windiest day yet and after wearing basically the same clothes for five days straight we I was on the verge of a travel meltdown, convincing myself we were never going to see our bags again. But when we walked in to our hotel room at the Radisson Blu a few hours ago, we were shocked and relieved to find our bags waiting.

We have never been so happy to see a couple of backpacks as we were today!

We have never been so happy to see a couple of backpacks as we were today!

Expense Reimbursement:

We were told at the airport that British Airways would reimburse us for any essential items we needed to purchase, such as toiletries and warmer clothes. We searched online and reached out via Twitter but could not get any confirmation on what that included, amounts, etc. The first night Caleb went out to buy contact solution and the following morning we stopped at H&M to pick up some extra outerwear and a change of clothes. I suppose that’s the reason they won’t give you an amount, because if they had told me $500 or $100/day or any set number I would have gone on a little shopping spree. But because we didn’t want to get stuck covering the expenses ourselves if not reimbursed and we basically only needed warm clothes for eight days we tried to be really frugal. Probably overly frugal, as we really didn’t get enough to be warm and we weren’t able to do much for NYE in our athletic shoes and yoga pants. The whole thing would have been a lot easier if we had known where our bags where, but the unknown of when were going to get them back made it a lot more stressful.

Because it was an award flight, my understanding is that any protection or reimbursements provided by our credit card company does not apply, since the entire cost of the ticket must be paid with that card (we used Barclaycard Arrival). British Airways told us that American Airlines would be covering the expenses, so I’m sure it will not be an easy process going back and forth trying to get reimbursed. We’ll update this post or write a new post on how that all goes down.

The last updates from American Airlines showed our bags in Miami. When they finally arrived they had been tagged through Dusseldorf by Air Berlin, so our bags followed our original route even though we did not.

The last updates from American Airlines showed our bags in Miami. When they finally arrived they had been tagged through Dusseldorf by Air Berlin, so our bags followed our original route even though we did not.

Lessons Learned:

  • Pack light! Carry on whenever possible. If I could pack all over again I would downsize even more into a smaller backpack that could be carried on. Nothing worse then just getting our bags back today and knowing we have to check them on another flight tomorrow.
  • Make sure anything you really need right away at your destination or anything that’s irreplaceable is in your carry on. Sure it’s a pain to keep your coat on your lap during the flight but it’s way worse to be cold for three straight days. We were starting to worry about what we’d do without malaria medicine when we arrive in Africa next week, so in the future I’ll be packing all prescriptions in my carry on.
  • You really need very little to live on. During this trip we have few material possessions with us—only what we can fit in our packs. But then having to go without those few things for the past few days opened our eyes even further that all we really need is one change of clothes, good walking shoes and a toothbrush. Pro tip—bring dry fit underwear you can wash in the sink that will dry overnight. At times it was actually quite freeing to not have to worry about what to wear or taking time to do my hair and makeup or having to carry our bags around.
  • You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you handle it. Admittedly by husband is MUCH better at this than me and once again I’m reminded at how lucky I am to have such a calm, cool and collected travel partner. He didn’t even flinch when I managed to lose one of our only warm pieces—his scarf—somewhere between the hotel lobby and our room during check-in. We’ve still had a great time in Copenhagen despite the major inconvenience of not having any of our belongings, and though for a split second I had “Is this worth it?” thoughts, my fun-loving husband reminds me that it is indeed.

    This guy. Lost luggage can't get him down.

    This guy. Lost luggage can’t get him down.

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