Lost your luggage in Europe? Join the queue
GLIMPSING into the chaotic mountain of lost luggage at Berlin's Tegel Airport, I should have known there was little hope of my baggage being found soon.
Multiple flight delays meant our epic 31 hour journey from Brisbane to Berlin, via Singapore and London's Heathrow Airport became more like 40 hours.
When my single black bag didn't turn up on the carousel at Berlin, I was directed to the lost luggage section, conveniently located about a kilometre away.
There one very grumpy airline official was dealing with a roomful of even grumpier customers.
The heated exchanges were unfolding in rapid pace in German with many of the guests in a rush to get into Berlin for IFA 2018, one of Europe's biggest technology gatherings.
Eventually I found a young volunteer who could speak English. He kindly explained the process and I joined the queue to lodge my baggage details.
After showing my passport and giving my details, I was told to take a seat.
After about 40 minutes had passed, I checked with the young volunteer - asking how long the process normally took.
He said it could be an hour or two but they were very busy because of the number of lost bags. Yesterday it was three to four hours.
After watching a handful of the lucky ones having their bags returned, I was eventually told my baggage, which was on a British Airways flight, could not be found.
I am advised to return to the main airport section to fill out a form to officially register my lost baggage, which I do.
Arriving at my hotel, I tell the reception staff my situation. They tell me there have been about 3000 bags lost.
Berlin, you were beautiful, but I hope you're not Bermuda for lost bags. Still waiting @British_Airways @Qantas Six days with two black shirts, not great, but I'm not alone, it seems. https://t.co/Rh2hlTaZBE pic.twitter.com/8GCMuusPoH— mark furler (@furlernator) September 5, 2018
A day after arriving, I receive an automated email saying my baggage has been located and would be forwarded to my hotel address.
"Please be assured you will be contacted when the baggage has actually arrived, and we have verified it is yours."
The email provides a link to the British Airways page covering lost luggage, among which is buried the link to actually track progress of delayed and lost luggage.
I have two black shirts suitable for IFA, which I wear on alternate days, washing them, along with socks and jocks, in my hotel room sink.
"Have you got your baggage back yet,'' those travelling with me on the trip ask each morning. I point at my familiar black shirt and reply "No!"
Two days later, I get another automated email - this time asking for more details on what is inside my bag.
"If you are still waiting to hear about your missing baggage, please be assured that we are continuing to make every effort to find it and return it to you as soon as possible,'' it says.
"To help with our search, it would be useful to know a bit more about the contents of your baggage in case the bag tags were damaged or ripped off. Telling us about the most distinctive items."
I fill out another report - detailing what is inside - including a suit jacket, new shoes, and a tripod.
What I really want to write is - how about you just look at the two business cards with all of my details - which I always leave inside my bags on the top of each section!
In the meantime, both hotel staff and those who organised my trip, are contacting both the airline and the lost baggage section at Tegel to follow up on my situation.
More days pass and with my stay in Berlin almost over, I contact Qantas, asking them to ensure that my bag is not forwarded to my hotel. They advise my file will be updated.
I also update the details on my lost baggage file with British Airways.
Each morning, I had checked with the hotel staff to see whether there were any bags delivered.
On the night before my final stay, I'm told that my two bags have arrived. I am skeptical given I only had one.
When I ask at the hotel, there are no bags.
Now back home, I am still waiting for news on my bag.
I plan to burn the two black shirts I have been forced to wear for days. I am thinking I might stage a pay per view event to raise money for the homeless.
While my lost luggage was a pain, it is all put into perspective when I see a homeless bloke in Berlin wearing a pair of pants with a large rip through them, revealing most of his backside to the world.
Things could be worse, a whole lot worse.
NBD just quietly freaking out bc I've been in Berlin for over 36 hrs and still not a peep from @British_Airways abt my lost luggage. Will I see my 20 yr old @LLBean duck boots b4 we leave for Iceland?— snoe 🥞 (@S_Noe_) August 18, 2018
EUROPE THE WORST FOR LOST LUGGAGE
According to the SITA 2018 Baggage Report, the baggage mishandling rate in Europe is the highest in the world.
For every thousand passengers, 6.94 bags were lost as a result of mishandling in 2017, well above the global average of 5.57 bags per thousand fliers.
In the USA and Asia Pacific, by comparison, baggage mishandling rates were markedly below the global average at 2.4 and 1.94 respectively.
The good news, however, is the situation is getting better.
Over the past decade, mishandled luggage in Europe has dropped by 58%.
Around the world, the rate of lost luggage has dropped by 70% since 2007, even with a 64% increase in passenger numbers.
Each year, mishandled bags cost the air travel industry more than $2.8 billion.