Cracker by Damian Christie


Being there is everything. Having your bags is a nice bonus

“Yes, well it’s my job to educate the customer.”

Damn, and here’s me thinking it was the job of people who work at Air New Zealand baggage services to um, find my bag?

It all started innocently enough. A flight down to Palmerston North, a spot of business, then back on the plane later that afternoon down to Wellington for a bit more work and some overdue R&R. And no, despite previous protestations about the windy city, I’m not being ironic – I had actually decided to spend a few days in the capital of my own free will.

A brief summary of facts:

1. Check-in lady at Auckland airport tells me and my colleague we’ll need to collect our bags at Palmy and re-check them in before heading to Wellington, owing to the fact we’re stopping over for half a day or so.

2. At Palmerston North, our bags weren’t on the carousel.

3. A staff member took our bag claim receipts, went out the back, and confirmed our bags were there and would go down to Wellington with us.

4. We finished work early, and decided to drive to Wellington rather than wait. We went back to the Palmerston North Airport to collect our bags.

5. Our bags weren’t there. They haven’t been seen since, and that was a fortnight ago.

That’s all you really need to know. Fairly simple, although after having to explain and re-explain the situation to any number of Air New Zealand staff, you might think it was difficult. For the most part, they were fairly helpful, well as helpful as one can be when one has no freakin’ clue where my bags are. And then I encountered Ms “It is my job to educate the customer”. (The following conversation has been recounted to the best of my ability, and may differ slightly from any conversations recorded for much-needed training purposes).

This staff member – I’ll call her Milly – was about the fourth person I’d spoken to the day after our bags went missing. My colleague and I had made at least a dozen calls between us, trying to find out what was being done.

When I ran Milly through the facts, above, she stopped me at point one: “You shouldn’t need to collect your bags at Palmerston”, she pointed out, not entirely helpfully.

“Well that’s what we were told by the check-in person in Auckland,” I explained, “but anyway, they weren’t there.”

“Well that’s wrong,” said Milly, “you should know for next time that your bags will go straight down to Wellington with you.”

“With respect,” I objected, in the time-honoured code used by lawyers to indicate they have anything but, “I’m not too concerned about next time, I’d really like to know where my bag is.”

Not unreasonable, I thought. I’d already explained that my bag contained around thousands of dollars worth of clothes, jewellery, camera equipment and personal effects, the lack of which not only seriously impacted on my next few days’ holiday, but also some major issues down the line. I was, after half a dozen conversations, stranded in the same clothes I’d been wearing for two days, getting a little testy.

“Yes, well it’s my job to educate the customer. So just be aware that next time…”

The conversation didn’t go too well after that. I pointed out that whether we’d gone unnecessarily to collect our bags from the carousel or not, it didn’t change the fact they were no longer there. Or anywhere.

Milly suggested that maybe our bags were somewhere like Timaru. Why Timaru I asked? Well because they’re not on the communication network with the other airports, and wouldn’t have got the APB about our bags.

But we had tags on them? Yes, but they might have come off.

And my Koru ID tag might have come off too? Yes, it happens.

So what you’re saying is every tag and piece of ID might have spontaneously come off not one, but two people’s bags, and then they were shipped off to one of the only airports in the country (via a connecting flight, because flights from Palmy only go to main centres) and someone there doesn’t know what to do with them?

Well, I supppppppppose that’s possible.

An Open Letter to Air New Zealand.

To Whom It May Concern:

Yup, you lost my bag.

Okay. Shit happens. I would have thought shit might have happened when I was in Kabul, or Karachi, rather than on a flight to Palmerston North, but I can still see how it could happen. Either one of the airport staff nicked it when it was lying around at Palmerston North, or you accidentally shipped it off somewhere random, where someone else, a member of staff or member of public, decided to walk off with it.

Whoever it was, they did well. Somewhere in Palmerston North, (or Timaru, if Milly is right), some hillbilly is walking around in a brand new Christian Dior Cashmere Coat (it was on sale) waving my prized Nikon camera and saying “Look Ma, I’m a photogratician!”

It’s not all bad. Some of your employees have been really helpful. Not so helpful that they found my bag, but understanding. Take for instance the nice man at Auckland Airport. I went to claim the $100 cash you get when Air New Zealand lose your bags. Only he had no cash, and the cashiers had cashed up already. Unperturbed, he went off for a few minutes and came back with two shiny $50 notes. I’m not sure how he got them, he just gave me a wink and said “you don’t work here for a few years without learning some tricks.” He was great, even if it was just $100.

But by Christ, if anyone ever insists on ‘educating’ me again about a completely irrelevant matter when I’m facing a meltdown because a large number of my valued possessions have just gone AWOL on one of your flights, I will not be liable for what is said or done.

(If anyone from Air New Zealand is reading this by the way, feel free to get in touch. Feel free to make good on what has been something of a PR disaster so far. I might take a few days to get back to you, because I’m about to start collecting receipts and quotes for everything that was in that bag. That’s going to take a while, and I’m pretty sure no-one is going to compensate me for that.

Yours etc,


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