Story of Lost
By Steve Rosenfield
On Friday, December 17, 2010, my wife Elaine and
I boarded a flight from Los Angeles non-stop to London Heathrow
for the purpose of attending our daughter Amanda's engagement
party in London. The engagement party was to take place in Loughton,
Essex, just north of London, beginning on Sunday, December 19th
at 3:30 PM. The engagement party was being hosted by our future
in-laws, Gary and Suki, and was specifically scheduled during
the Christmas holiday so that my wife and I could attend. There
were over 200 guests expected to attend the engagement party.
Our American Airlines flight was scheduled to
arrive in London Heathrow at 1:30 PM on Saturday, December 18th
where our in-laws had arranged for a car service to pick us up
and bring us to Loughton.
As the flight approached Heathrow, the plane could
not land due to poor weather conditions. After circling over Manchester,
England for an hour, we were advised by the flight crew that Heathrow
was closed and the flight was being diverted to Brussels. We landed
in Brussels at about 4:30 PM local time and sat on the plane for
about 2 hours when we were told that busses would soon be arriving
to transport all passengers to the terminal from where we would
be bused to the Holiday Inn for the night. The flight crew also
advised passengers that luggage could not be off-loaded because
there were no ground crew personnel available to do the work.
We were eventually bused to the hotel where we spent the night
and were told to return to the terminal Sunday morning to hopefully
re-board the plane around 11:00 AM and make the short flight back
to London Heathrow.
My wife and I arrived back at the American Airlines
terminal in Brussels at about 9:00 AM Sunday morning and stood
in line with many other diverted passengers to find out about
the continuing flight to Heathrow. Unfortunately, Heathrow was
still closed and the airline was handing out hotel room vouchers
for Sunday night. We were told that the luggage was still on the
plane which was still on the tarmac in Brussels.
The local time was now about 10:00 AM in Brussels
- 9:00 AM in London. My wife and I had to make a decision - abandon
any hope of attending our daughter's engagement party (which was
not a good option) or finding another way to get to London by
3:30 PM that afternoon.
When inquiring about our luggage (three suitcases)
if we were to get to London by other means, we were told by the
AA agent in Brussels that the luggage would end up at its final
destination (Heathrow) and that we could then have the luggage
delivered to our local address in the London area.
listening to other travelers, who were in a similar predicament,
trying to get onto other flights to Birmingham or Manchester,
England, or trying to get tickets for the EuroStar train from
Brussels to London (which they were told was sold out), we opted
to look into renting a car and driving to Paris, and from there
boarding the train to London. I spoke with an agent at
the Hertz car rental desk in the airport who told me that I did
not need to drive to Paris, but instead could drive to Calais,
a couple of hour drive, and catch the EuroStar from there to London.
In the interim, my wife rented a mobile phone in the airport so
that we could stay in communication with our daughter and future
in-laws as we made our way back to London.
The drive to Calais took about 2 hours in the
snow getting us to the train station by about 1:30 PM local time.
We found the train station in Calais and went to the ticket window
with the intent of purchasing two tickets for the EuroStar from
Calais to London, but were told that the next passenger train
was not scheduled to leave until 6:00 PM that evening. Obviously,
if we had waited until 6:00 PM for the train, the engagement party
would have ended by the time we arrived in London. The ticket
agent suggested that we take the next car-train which was scheduled
to leave about 3:00 PM local time, arriving in Dover, England
about 35 minutes later. With the UK being one hour behind France,
we would arrive in Dover about 2:45 PM local time which would
hopefully give us enough time to get to our daughter's engagement
party before it ended at 6:30 PM.
The train was late and we finally arrived in Dover
at about after 3:30 PM making our way to Loughton, Essex, arriving
at the engagement party about 5:30 PM, and were fortunate to at
least having been able to spend about an hour meeting our future
son-in-law, his parents and family, and all of the other guests.
The next day, I returned the rental car to a local
Hertz office and began calling American Airlines to check up on
our luggage which we assumed was still in Brussels since we were
told that Heathrow was still closed. Getting through to American
Airlines on Monday was impossible and Tuesday was not better.
We called our daughter back in Los Angeles who contacted American
Airlines in Dallas and put us on a conference call with the delayed
baggage department personnel. We filed our delayed/missing baggage
report and were told that we would receive a call (to our local
London number) once the bags were found. We were also told that
the airlines would reimburse my wife and me up to $300 US for
both to buy replacement toiletries and clothing.
My wife and I did go shopping for basic toiletries
and some clothes, but ended up borrowing clothes and cold weather
gear from our soon to be in-laws. We were hoping that our bags
would arrive and the need to purchase much of what we were missing
would not be necessary.
We continued to check the AA website for updates
and tried calling a few times, but nothing changed. Then, on Thursday,
December 23rd, we talked to an AA agent who told us that one of
our bags (the smallest one) was found and that we could arrange
for delivery as soon as we filled out the customs forms and sent
them in. The forms were emailed to us, filled out and returned
that evening. We received confirmation that the custom forms were
received and that the bag was scheduled for delivery hopefully
within two days due to the backup. The bag never arrived nor did
we hear any news from American Airlines for the remainder of our
stay in London.
Our scheduled departure from London to Los Angeles
was on Sunday, December 26th at 11:10 AM. My wife and I arrived
at Heathrow at about 8:00 AM with the intent of going to AA baggage
and trying to find any of our luggage. We were escorted to the
pen where all of the missing/ delayed bags were being stored and,
with the assistance of the AA personnel there, searched all of
the bags without finding our luggage. When we asked about the
one bag that American had told us was found and was to be delivered
to our London location, no one could tell us what happened to
that bag despite someone from the baggage department having physically
seen and touched that bag several days earlier.
As of this writing, our bags apparently have still
not been found. We are waiting for claims forms to be mailed to
us from AA in Dallas who we were told is now handling the lost
luggage claim because the bags have been lost for more than six
It is now over two weeks since we last saw our luggage in Los