Where in the World Are My Bags?

We paid for our bag as we were boarding the plane (if we could do this, why couldn't we have just paid at the Air France counter?) and noticed that half of the overhead bins were empty.
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My husband and I landed in San Diego late Saturday night. Our luggage, though, apparently wasn't ready to come home and remained in Paris.

This is a story about the worst part of travel -- the actual traveling -- and how nothing can bring your vacation to a shrieking halt faster than dealing with the airlines.

We had spent the week blissfully watching the world go by on a Viking River Cruise, and entered Charles de Gaulle feeling pretty Zen-like. Despite the fact that the scene resembled the chaotic traffic around the Arc de Triomphe, we managed to check our two bags and head to security.

As we handed over our passports, we were rudely told that our carry-on -- the same one we had brought on the flight to Paris without incident -- was too big and that we had to go back to Area 2 and check it. We explained that we hadn't had a problem before and we knew it fit fine. We were yelled at in French and sent away.

Now, Area 2 is not close to security, and navigating the crowds takes time -- which we were running out of, despite the fact that we had allowed three hours before our flight. We explained the situation to the Air France agent who apologized and said we would have to pay 80 euros to check the bag. 80 EUROS? For a bag we were being forced to check? We had no choice but to pay -- but, to add insult to injury, we had to go to the Delta counter to do that because our ticket had been purchased through them. Could they make this any more difficult?

The ticket agent gave us the claim ticket and assured us our bag would be on the flight. Because we were cutting it close now, we figured we could pay when we picked up our bag later and we joined the long security line, where we watched agents systematically send people back to check their carry-ons -- many of which were even smaller than ours.

We paid for our bag as we were boarding the plane (if we could do this, why couldn't we have just paid at the Air France counter?) and noticed that half of the overhead bins were empty.

I Tweeted my frustration to Air France and Delta. Air France Tweeted that they would look into it. I never heard from Delta.

When we got to Detroit for our layover, our names were called with a number of others. We approached an Air France rep who told us to go talk to the Delta rep who sent us back to an Air France rep. Ultimately, we were all informed that our bags were going straight to our final destination.

We double checked this at the Delta counter, where we were assured that our bags would be on the flight with us.

They weren't. So we went to the baggage department in San Diego, where the agent kept trying to explain that we were supposed to pick up our bags in Detroit even though we were told not to. We tried to explain that there were no bags to pick up and that Delta assured us our bags would be on our flight. She got huffy, said a new message had just come in and our bags would be coming in from Atlanta on a later flight and delivered to us in the morning.

They weren't. I Tweeted again and Air France responded that they would reimburse our 80 euros and try to find our bags. I never heard from Delta.

On Sunday, I called Delta and was told that the bags were still in Paris. I said we needed the laptop chargers that were in the carry-on they had made us check, so the rep got the authorization for us to buy new ones which Delta would reimburse.

That afternoon we got an email saying one bag would be delivered between 7:30 and 9:30. We then got another email that one bag would be delivered between 9:30 and 11:30. I called to find out what they were talking about and was told that, yes, one bag would be delivered during each of these time periods. No one showed up until 10:30 when only one bag arrived.

I called the delivery company and was told that the first bag was attempted but no one had answered the phone. The driver obviously dialed a wrong number but didn't try again because we were home, he had both our home and cell numbers, and there were no messages or missed calls on either phone. They said they'd call between 7 and 9 in the morning to tell us when that bag would be delivered.

No one called. I called Delta this morning and was told both bags would be here between 10:30 and 12:30. I asked to confirm that our chargers would be reimbursed and, of course, there was no record of that in the notes. After I calmly recounted the conversation, he said he thought he knew who I had spoken to, he went to talk to her and confirmed that we would be reimbursed. I asked if he could put this in writing to me.

He couldn't. He assured me it was all documented in the notes. I told him the woman yesterday had assured me the same thing.

I called the delivery company who assured me that two bags would be delivered by noon at the latest. It is now 11:45.

I'm waiting.

I'm trying to find a lesson in this, to learn what we could have done differently. I can't. There are a lot of lessons for the airlines to learn but I'm afraid they will dismiss this as a random incident.

As a travel writer and regular traveler, I know this is not a random incident. In fact, I would be happy to offer some suggestions to Air France and Delta to make their passengers happier -- like actually working together since they call themselves partners.

Meanwhile, my doorbell just rang and my bags are here -- with five minutes to spare. However, the chocolate gifts we so carefully packed in what was supposed to be our carry-on are broken, and I am now going to have to call Delta again because you know the form for damages is different than the form for out of pocket expenses.

But first I am going to take a deep breath and throw a load of laundry in the machine.

Because, after all this, I really need a vacation.