By late that afternoon the bag had still not arrived and a call to Vueling put me in contact with my friend Pilar once again. My bag had missed the first delivery and could not be sent out but was in the delivery service's hands and would be delivered the next morning. Why it had missed subsequent deliveries was never explained. Pilar assured me that Vueing would cover any of my expenses up to and including a new suit if I needed it. I wondered how that fit in with the E50 a day I had been quoted and how binding Pilar's promise was. Laurent was pretty sure we could find a suit at E50, he just wasn't sure he wanted to be seen with me in it.
The next morning once again Benjamin and I had another one of our little chats and he assured me that the bag would be delivered that day without fail. It was in the care of the delivery company even as we spoke. Laurent suggested that another shirt would be needed but I had faith in Pilar and Benjamin and their promises of delivery. Sadly when I got back to the hotel I found a message suggesting that they could not make delivery on those promises of the promised delivery!
My bag had not been given to the delivery company after all but was still at the airport and could be claimed there. Once again Benjamin and I had a conversation and for the first time I lost my temper. I know how hard it is to deal with passengers - I did it and trained people to do it for 33 years. All I really wanted to know was why I had been led up and down the airport taxiway and why, since that is obviously what they wanted me to do all along, Vueling hadn't told me to go to the airport in the first place. I would have been upset but no where near as upset as I was. Then Benjamin told me the truth and I will quote from him, "Sir, you have to realize that the minute you book a ticket on a low cost airline you are getting what you pay for. We cut corners, its as simple as that. You can't expect service." Finally an honest, if perhaps unhappy, Vueling employee - side note to Vueling, you might want to get Benjamin to take that loyalty oath again! When I mentioned that actually I had paid E10 for baggage service he hung up on me. I called back immediately and was told by his friend Ana that Benjamin was on break and she couldn't help me anymore than he had - which was fascinating as I hadn't even told her who I was - obviously by now I was a known quantity at Vueling baggage call center in Barcelona.
So I packed myself into a cab - an obliging driver dodged the Madrid Marathon traffic snags and E40 later I was at the Vueling baggage counter. Wonder of wonder! Miracle of Miracles! Juan was expecting me. With soothing voice he assured me that Vueling would cover my taxi costs and generously allow me E50 a day for each day my bag was lost. So much for that snazzy suit Pilar promised me. I was too tired to argue with Juan - Vueling had defeated me, I was the enemy and they had beat me into submission. Meekly I hailed another cab and E35 later was in my room unpacking 11 pairs of jockies - note to self check what happened to the missing pair.
Now I have learned three things on this trip that you would think after years as both an airline employee and a traveller I would have known by now. First: I over-pack and that like Noah it is possible to make a four if not forty day voyage with just two of everything: jockeys, socks, pants, shirts provided your hotel has a laundry service - sorry I will not wash underwear in the same sink I shave at! Second: the airline business is no longer what it use to be if indeed it ever was. Third: For god's sake man grow up! You trained people to tell these half-truths to customers don't be surprised when they do the same to you!
I am completing this post on the flight back from Madrid - my baggage - heavier now by 2 pairs of jockeys, 4 pairs of socks, two pairs of cords and a shirt - has once again been entrusted to Vueling. I'll let you know what happens when I get to Fumicino. Then once ensconced in my home sweet home I will contact Vueling and ask for, but not expect, reimbursement for clothing, laundry and taxis. In the meantime this tale will go the rounds of colleagues, friends and even the odd enemy as a warning and I will use those words that Benjamin so thoughtfully provided me with: You are getting what you paid for. You can't expect service.
04 gennaio - Sant'Elisabetta Anna Bayley Seton