Thursday, June 28, 2007

Back from Brussels

And oh my god. What a trip. What a mess. Well, most things were good, but one thing was very much not so. And that one thing? Brussels Airlines. Never again.

When we first arrived at the airport, we were told that we were going to be late. They had overbooked the flight and needed volunteers in order to make the plane light enough to take off. (Reassuring right there!) After an hour, we finally boarded.. and sitting there in our seats, they informed us that unfortunately, they couldn't load any of the luggage that was going to Brussels. (Those with connecting flights were fine.) That's right. No luggage. At all.

So. We obviously thought we would get it later the same day. Not a huge problem, since we had no meetings booked for Tuesday anyway. Well. That didn't happen. After standing in line for ages at the airport, they told us that it would come the following day, in the morning. (That'd be Wednesday morning, when we were due at the European Parliament, the commission and NATO.)

We also got to find out that they had NO overnight kits, but they would recommend to their customer service that we would possibly be reimbursed for purchases up to 50 euro. Maybe. This is when we remembered that the trip was paid for with an American Express gold card, yeay - and AmEx would reimburse a whole lot more, so we could go shopping for something to change into. Only problem was that it had to be paid for with that same card. Which meant Lennart got to pay for 12 people's purchases. Which we all had to make in 20 minutes before the department store closed. Why so late, you ask? Well, because our train from the airport to Brussels city broke down. Yep. We had to pile into taxies, to take us through rush hour traffic.

Stressful? You bet. I managed to grab a cardigan (Brussels was cold and windy and both my cardy and my jacket were packed in my suitcase), a tank top, a toothbrush, toothpaste, underwear, socks, cleansing cream and moisturizer. And a mascara. That was that.

On Wednesday, I was a bit grumbly. Not only did I really miss my luggage, I started to get a very sore throat and we had a lot to do. After all our meetings, we returned to the hotel about 6 pm to freshen up, and change into our hopefully now-arrived clothes for a nice dinner.

Except my bag still wasn't there. Neither were three other bags. And I started to cry. I was completely stressed out - this was just a bit too much. The luggage would arrive sometime between 7 and 8 pm - so, after our dinner then. At that point, I was about to tell them to just keep my bloody bag in Sweden, I'd be there to pick it up soon enough!

Anyway. Dinner, a taxi back to the hotel, a fairly sleepless night since my sore throat now started being followed by a stuffed nose. But at least I had my luggage.

And today, home. After a big walk around Brussels, and some shopping at Pierre Marcolini - lovely. And on the plus side for this trip, which sounds really surreal told like this, everyone seemed to have a great time except for the luggage fiasco, and we learned a lot from all our meetings.

But I'm really not in the mood for more travelling now, for a very long time. And I'm NOT checking in important luggage again! (I usually don't - but with the whole no-liquids rule and me needing copious amounts of sunscreen, it's a bit of a dilemma.) And I really don't understand how planes can be over-booked. Obviously, the air line knows that a particular plane type (and they only fly certain planes at this airport, since it's pretty small and with a short runway) can carry X number of people and their luggage. So how on earth can you book more people than that - and let them check in?? I don't get it.

Home. And I will write about food - or chocolate! - tomorrow!


Lena said...

Oh my god!!!! Poor you, what a mess!! But I think you were really brave, if it had been me I would have freaked out and either killed some airport personal or had an anxiety attack most likely the later. I am also quite impressed with your 20 min shopping, finding all that in a unknown department store with that kind of stress factor, kudos to you.

Anonymous said...

Ugh... What a nightmare! Travel these days certainly has the potential to be hellish, to say the least. I'm convinced that the motto of our national carrier (Air Canada) is, "We're not happy till you're not happy!" ;-) Thankfully our recent trip to and from Sweden (on Iceland Air) was very much pain free. Time for from Kraft Mac and Cheese, perhaps... Hope you are feeling better soon!


Pia K said...

Crazy - you know the Belgian airline Sabena (I don't think they exist anylonger, for good reasons...) was actually pronounced Such A Bad Experience Never Again...;) Sounds like Brussels Airline has been inspired there...

Yes it's a mystery too me also, why they overbook flights like that. It has happened for us some times to, both getting home from Germany and England I think it was. Checking in one was actually offered quite a bit of money plus overnight stay if one "gave away" the seats. It would have been great I suppose, if it wasn't back to work the next day... But nevertheless, lots of work that coudl have been avoided in the first place, by not overbook...

Lennart Nilsson said...

Actually, Sabena went bankrupt a few years back. But... with the people who couldn't get another job and the planes they couldn't sell they started a new airline. Guess what, they named it Brussels Airlines.


winedeb said...

I totally know what you went thru. Getting out of Key West is the same way. Always overbooking and need folks to give up seats before the plane will take off! Befuddles me! That is why now, if possible, I just drive. That way I have all my luggage, and by the time you get to the airport early, get thru security, wait till folks volunteer to give up their seat and actually fly, you sometimes can almost be at your destination within a few extra hours. If you were my neighbor, I would have brought you a glass of wine!!!!!

AnnaB said...

Sabena went bankrupt in 2001 and soon resurrected as SN Brussels, which during the latest years functioned very well, with very friendly staff and, even on short flights, hot food that was actually quite good (and always Belgian chocolate before landing!). SN Brussels later took control over Virgin Express and the two companies became Brussels Airlines in early 2007. Haven't had the pleasure of flying with them yet. My friends tell me that there always a lot of problems with lost luggage and delays when they are flying SAS to Brussels, so it seems to be a general problem.
Glad you had a good time in Brussels despite the luggage problems. Pierre Marcolini is indeed excellent, but there are also a few family run businesses with just one small shop, such as Passion Chocolat (close to Montgomery). For next time!