My favourite section of a newspaper is the readers’ letters page.
The letters usually present a diverse collection of people’s concerns, reflecting a refreshing view of life and developments in the country.
Sometimes the letters inform people in authority about the reality that their subordinates hide from them.
In a way, readers’ letters constitute what in commercial circles is known as a ‘mystery shopper’ strategy, someone paid by the shop or store to come in as a normal shopper, to test how the staff treat customers.
Sometimes a simple letter published in a newspaper can achieve results where other efforts have failed, especially when an organization believes that the complaint tarnishes their name. After all, many of them spend huge sums every year on advertising to enhance their image.
Earlier this week, there was a compelling reader’s letter in the Daily Graphic, about a passenger’s traumatic experience with Brussels Airlines.
More than three months after her flight back to Ghana with that airline, she is still waiting for one of her suitcases!
The following is the abridged letter, published under the unequivocal headline, “Brussels Airlines should find my missing suitcase!”
* * *
“Brussels Airlines have misplaced my suitcase, since September, and they do not seem to be serious about tracking it.
“I travelled to the US on June 26, 2018 with United Airlines. However, my return flight to Ghana on September 18, 2018, was with Brussels Airlines.
“I checked in two big suitcases for the flight, but only one suitcase arrived in Accra with me on September 19. The tag on the missing suitcase was 00 16 784628. My Boarding Pass had the number ‘ETKT 016255659378702’, SN 0277, also UA 9972’.
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“I made a formal complaint to the Lost and Found Office at the Kotoka International Airport. They took my details and promised to get back to me, but I never heard from them.
“After going to the airport a number of times, I was then referred to the Brussels Airlines Office near the Marina Mall. There, copies of my documents were made and I was told that I would hear from the Terminal 3 Manager. It is more than one month since I went there, but I have not heard from the Terminal 3 Manager. I have not heard from Brussels Airlines, either.
“I am an arthritis patient and I (use) a walking stick. Therefore, it is very difficult for me having to go to the Airport so many times on this matter.
“Brussels Airlines have shown extremely poor Customer Care; or rather no care at all!
“My plea is that Brussels Airlines should find my suitcase. How could it have vanished into thin air?
“Mrs Emma Amankwah
“P.O. Box 850
“Dansoman Estate, Accra
“Accra” (Graphic, January 28).
* * *
Very fortunately for me, in all my numerous travels, even before the present era of the awesome technological advances, I can’t remember arriving anywhere and being told that my luggage was missing.
No, I need to correct the above statement! Years ago, I had a similar experience in Stockholm, Sweden. However, strictly speaking it wasn’t that my luggage didn’t arrive. I believe that it was detained.
My luggage had consisted of one suitcase and, of all things, a big traditional Akan wooden stool (asesedwa)! It was a gift a friend had asked me to take to his friends in Sweden, a couple who had always yearned to have a Ghanaian stool in their home.
If it had been now, I probably would have refused to take it, bearing in mind the standard advice to travellers these days: don’t take a package for/from anybody because it could get you into trouble.
An Arrival stamp in an old passport confirms that the plane landed at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm. I recall that it was, for me, a freezing cold October morning, so after waiting in vain for my luggage at the baggage carousel, I was rather annoyed to be told that it had not arrived. I should go to my hotel and it would be delivered to me later, I was assured.
Luckily I had a jacket on, but I had nothing in my hand luggage for that kind of emergency, not even a toothbrush. Reluctantly, I boarded a bus into the city.
After checking into my hotel, I went to the nearest department store for some ‘emergency supplies’. But my fear was that without my suitcase, I wouldn’t even have a change of clothes for the first appointments of my one week stay.
Fortunately, both suitcase and asesedwa were delivered the next morning.
Later, it dawned on me that the stool was the cause of the ‘missing luggage’ tactic. Probably the airport security thought there was something suspicious about a visitor from Africa bringing a traditional wooden stool to Sweden. They must have subjected it to forensic examination – and must have been very disappointed to find that there was nothing questionable about my luggage.
Anyway, the recipients were elated to have at long last a fine example of Ghanaian traditional furniture to show off in their home and they couldn’t thank me enough.
Recalling how stressful even that short-lived inconvenience had been, I fully sympathize with Mrs Amankwah.
I think that with lost luggage airlines usually pay some money to the passenger, a percentage of the value, but who needs that? What can one do with that in place of a suitcase of cherished things, some carefully chosen to bring back home from a trip?
In any case, how does a tagged suitcase get lost? Even if the tag gets torn off, surely there’s a facility at international airports where luggage arriving without tags is stored? Or are we to believe that such tagless baggage is disposed of, or thrown away?
In this high-tech period, when airport x-ray machines and scanners are even able to make out what one is wearing under one’s clothes, missing suitcases should be a thing of the past!
And what is also important is that when such a situation occurs, airlines should use the same sweet talk they employ to attract passengers to fly with them, to make it less stressful for the hapless passenger.
The same cordiality should apply when there is a problem. That is when the passenger most needs a demonstration of Customer Care; supportive, high quality assistance and every effort made to find the missing suitcase.