Lost Luggage, Indian Call Centres and Wayward Couriers

I spoke too soon yesterday! The lost luggage saga continued until 3:35 pm this afternoon, when my wayward bag finally arrived. But not until I had made numerous calls to Pune in India (although the airport is 16 km away, you can’t ring up BMI there, the airport switchboard is only allowed to give you the number of the Indian Call Centre). Interestingly, the only numbers listed in the UK for BMI other than their Admin HQ in Castle Donnington (switchboard closed on Saturdays) are all Indian numbers!

Actually, I received no communication from BMI at all after I left the airport on Friday, and although my bag apparently arrived at Leeds Bradford on the 6:10 flight last night, and was picked up by a courier, no-one phoned me to tell me it had arrived.

As I could not even get through to India this morning, in spite of holding on for half an hour, I travelled to the airport in the pouring rain to try and sort something out. Fortunately, the BMI customer service agent on duty, Sharron Cooke, was a can-do person (in marked contrast to the non-customer information service system operated by her company) and chased off to find out what had happened. Having discovered that my bag had in fact arrived, she then tracked down the courier company who had it and extracted a promise from them to deliver it within 2 hours. As she said, don’t ask me why they didn’t deliver it last night…

In fact, on my return to the house I did get a call from BMI at the airport to tell me that the courier had suffered a puncture so would not make the two hour promise, but eventually the wayward suitcase turned up.  

On the SITA Worldtracer luggage retrieval website (used by BMI and many other airlines) the comment is made “When baggage is mishandled, the need for timely information becomes a priority” when explaining why they set up the internet website interface to allow passengers to check the progress of their missing baggage claim.

This is a comment BMI management should take to heart. If I had received a telephone call telling me that my baggage had arrived at Leeds Bradford last night, I could have relaxed knowing that it was at least within the same country! Instead, I had no information at all, causing stress, problems as to forward planning options, and waste of time in chasing matters up. At no time was I given information as to whether I could get immediate financial compensation for short-term expenses (a £50 amount is mentioned on the BMI website) and the claim form given to me at the airport simply mentions that I should write to their claims handling agents if my bag has not been found within 10 days. 

I was lucky in that I had access to an internet connection and telephone, and knew how to use them. I also was not attending business meetings and had no immediate travel or other commitments for two days. Pity the other two passengers who has also lost bags on the same flight.

Bags do get lost or delayed for a number of reasons. But instead of operating a system that seems specifically designed to insulate their operations on the ground from direct interaction with customers, BMI management should concentrate more on providing timely and sympathetic information to the passengers they have inconvenienced.

Of course, their attitude may be “what do you expect from such cheap flights?” and perhaps those of us travelling on these tickets should indeed do so with low customer service expectations –  “caveat emptor”. Nevertheless, I found little wrong with the actual flight, and it seems a pity that some helpful individual staff members should be so badly let down by a poor incident management system that could so easily be improved. Frankly, it’s management 101.

Tony Page

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