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Monday, February 25, 2008

What to Do When Your Flight is Cancelled

Watching or listening to news on flight cancellation due to severe weather condition is something many people are used to, but experiencing it and knowing what to do to save your time and do something else that is more useful than waiting and keep waiting are different matters. On Wednesday the 20th of February this week, I was given "privilege" to know how it feels and what it looks like when the authority of London Heathrow airport and British Airways decided to cancel my flight. It was a big mess!

There were about 10 flights canceled on the day, including mine, which was supposed to depart for Madrid at 7.40 in the evening. I expected several hours of delay of course, as I could see the thick fog on Wednesday morning covering the Midland. But to have my flight canceled was a major surprise to me.

At around 5.30 PM the flight departure screen displayed the departure time for my flight as 21.40. Then at around 6.00 PM, it displayed my flight had been canceled. The big mess started immediately. We scrambled to the Customer Service office of BA and requested information about what to do. At the time, we're already within international zone.

The Customer Service lady (a Chinese look-a-like lady with Singaporean/Malaysian accent) told us to walk to the walk back to arrival hall, go through the immigration check point, waited for our luggages, pick them up, go to the ticket office and rebook our flights. It sounds reasonable and easy to do. I would find out later how wrong I had been.

The walking path to the arrival hall itself was not clear, no clear sign, me and my friend were lost basically. Then we found the correct way and spent about 30 minutes queuing in front of the immigration check point. Afterward we spent nearly 2 hours waiting for our luggages, kept looking for our ones and nothing came out. We finally went to the Customer Service in the baggage hall, all they told us was:

"Go rebook your flight and show the receipt of your luggages when you check in to your next flight, tell them to record exactly the same receipt number. The airline staffs will look after your luggages and help you."

If I had known that all we need to do was to rebook our flight and left the luggages to the airline staff, I would have done it quickly and found a hotel to take a rest.

So, we finally re-booked our flight and left our luggages in the airport. Then we found a hotel later and spent the night without changing our clothes. The next morning (Thursday) we checked in to our flight and arrived at Madrid in the afternoon. Having arrived in Madrid, we went to the Customer Service of Iberia (a member of BA OneWorld network) and made a report that our luggages were "lost". They received our report and then promised to send them back to Madrid in 2 days. On Saturday, I got my luggage back.

The lesson to learn is: don't spend your time waiting for luggage when your flight is canceled but you still need to travel using the same airline. Rebook your flight immediately and tell the airline staff to record your luggage number when you check in and make a report that your luggage is lost when you arrive at your destination. Easy.

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