I flew out to Barcelona from SF on Sunday, June 29th. I had waited a bit to buy the plane tickets, and so I didn’t get the best route I had originally seen and had to make two stops – one in Philadelphia and one in London, where I got off the US Airways route and switched over to British Airways for a flight to Barcelona.
I didn’t sleep well on the plane (for some reason, I lost this ability while at Berkeley – I used to fall asleep as soon as I sat on a plane, even getting some deep sleep on a 1-hour flight to LA), but the flights went off without a hitch.
Or so it did until I got down in Barcelona.
After clearing the passport check, I made my way to the baggage claim in Terminal A, which is where we landed. After looking around for a while, I realized that there was no listing for my British Airways flight and asked around. One of the airport workers told me it had come out in Terminal B instead.
This posed a problem, as having entered the baggage claim area, I could no longer return to the post-security gate area and make my way to Terminal B. But there was no other way into the Terminal B baggage claim area. Thus, I took my boarding pass from London to Barcelona and went through the security line again! I then went to Terminal B, but while most of the bags did make it from London, mine did not. I filed my claim and then overheard another agent telling a passenger that his bag on this flight had been found in Terminal A.
I then went back with him to Terminal A, again using the invalid boarding pass to get through security. However, my bag was not there, so I was now out of my only checked bag. I decided to go to my hotel and wait for my bag to be delivered to me the following day.
The next morning, I called the British Airways office in Madrid to ask about my lost bag. They informed me that the bag had been found in London and had just arrived in Barcelona. They assured me the bag would be delivered in the afternoon or early evening. As was made clear on my claim form and on that call, they understood I was leaving on Wednesday for Benasque, and so I needed that bag pretty quickly.
I went about my normal business that day, and after dinner at Bembi Restaurant, I returned to the hotel around 10 PM. But my bag was still nowhere to be found.
I immediately called the Madrid office again and the first person I called tried to transfer me to the “Lost Baggage” Department at the Barcelona airport. But the phone kept ringing and finally I hung up and re-dialed the Madrid office. I got another person again, and this guy told me that the bag would not be delivered today and that it would probably get delivered the following day at some time before noon.
Of course that didn’t do me any favors, as my bus to Benasque was at 7 AM on Wednesday. I asked why the bag had not been delivered today, but he had no clue, even throwing out a lame excuse of maybe it took 12 hours for it to clear customs. Really now, last I checked, pants and shirts are not exactly dangerous materials. I asked him, “How is this fair to me?” and his reply was the amusing “What do you mean by fair?” And I thought Clinton was sly for asking what the definition of “is” is.
Anyways, with that delivery date, I had to go to the airport to get the bag myself. I caught a taxi to the airport, and once again, had to pull my trick with the US Airways boarding pass to get through security. This time, however, the security guy did notice that the ticket was not correct, but then I explained I needed to get to the “Lost Baggage” area and claim my bag. Why they don’t have this area outside the secured area is beyond me.
Tellingly, the shutters had been pulled down over the department’s desk, but my bag was lying outside so I grabbed it and left. The customs people gave me a bit of trouble, deciding they had to check my bag thoroughly. I had an amusing conversation with a customs official about peanut butter (he said it was not allowed through because no animal products could be let through), but I tried to explain that it literally is “mantequilla de cacahuete.” Finally, his superior came by and let him know that it was ok to let that through.
Moral #1: Don’t fly British Airways. This is the second time I flew British Airways, and the second time I got screwed. The first was when I made a tour of Europe in 2006, and flew into London but because of a mysterious 5 hour delay in SFO, missed my connection to Bologna and so had to spend the night in London. Go overseas and get overseized indeed. Sealing the deal, it looks like British Airways is the worst baggage handler of any European airline (see: http://www.flyingabroad.co.uk/News/April-2007/British-Airways-baggage-handlers-lose-most-luggage.aspx).
Moral #2: Barcelona security is pretty lax. I didn’t have anything troublesome in my bag, but I hope they would have caught that if I did. Letting people through who don’t have valid boarding passes (or even a good story) is not all that reassuring. Maybe the most troubling thing is that a family from LA decided they could just bypass security, lifted the boundary-setting ropes and just waltzed on through with nary a word from security. Odd, very odd.