I had been trying to decide when would be the best time to publish this story, but I suppose that since we will be in the air when this publishes, it’s as good of a time as any.
When the Verlobter and I were preparing to travel to the US for Christmas, we did our usual scrounging of the cheapest flights possible. Once I get a full-time job, I will probably put an end to this, because I feel like we are definitely getting what we pay for. Anyway, for Christmas, we ended up booking a flight through KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines). We got a good deal, but we ended up with two layovers on the way there, once through Amsterdam and once through Atlanta. We had never had a layover in Europe before on the way to the US, but we figured it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Cut to our first flight being delayed and having to run/walk (because we don’t run) across Schiphol. We had looked at a map beforehand to see where we were going, and the airport had looked much smaller on the map. Whoops! We made it to the gate just in the nick of time. Thankfully we were the only ones late, because we had to go through a second round of security at the gate, which we did not expect. I had to toss my water bottle that I got at the Frankfurt airport. An employee at the gate told us that our luggage would not make it onto the plane, and told us to file a request for it once we got to St. Louis. Fantastic.
The plane for the long-haul flight looked like it was falling apart. I was not terribly impressed with KLM at this point. The Verlobter had this god-awful box under his seat. This is why using Seatguru is important. I think we actually did look up our seats after we booked them and thought, “Oh, it can’t possibly be too bad!” We were wrong.
The cover on the seat in front of me was coming off and my pillow had a weird mystery stain on it. And the sound from the in-flight entertainment seemed crappier than usual, but maybe I was just looking for anything at that point.
I will say, however, that the KLM flight attendants were fabulous. They were incredibly friendly and helpful, and enabled my tiny water bottle hoarding. About halfway through the flight, I got really paranoid that our luggage somehow did make it on the plane and that we would not pick it up at customs.
Background information for those who have never flown into the US. After you go through your passport check, you have to get your checked luggage even if you have a connecting flight. This is not my experience with flying into other countries, and I think it is rather unusual because people frequently seemed confused. If you have a connecting flight in the US, you are supposed to walk your baggage past the customs officer who checks you customs form, and then you put it on a conveyor belt or hand it off to an employee to send to your final destination.
I was concerned that our checked baggage actually made it onto our flight, but we would leave it in Atlanta because we were told it wouldn’t be there, and because we had nothing in writing that we were told our baggage wasn’t going to make it, that once we filed a report in St. Louis, they would think we were dumb tourists who couldn’t follow directions, and they would charge us a fee to get us our bags. Isn’t it fun how my brain works?
We asked a couple of flight attendants what we should do and if they had any way to find out if our bags actually made it or not. They had no way to tell, but one of the flight attendants told us that we could ask a Delta employee once we cleared the passport check and they should be able to look it up. I was still nervous for the rest of the flight, but at least we had a plan. The Verlobter, on the other hand, was completely chill about this all, even though he would have no other clothes if our checked bags didn’t make it.
The passport check once we got into Atlanta was a little bizarre, because it was our first time using automated kiosks. We scanned our passports, answered a few questions, got our pictures taken, and the Verlobter scanned his fingerprints, I think. I assume this is to speed up the process of when you talk to a real person, but I don’t think it really did. For one, so many people were completely baffled by the computers that it was likely holding up the line even though there were a ton of them. Then when we got to the actual person, they asked us all the same questions again anyway. The only time saver was the picture and the fingerprinting (though both of our memories are fuzzy on whether or not that happened at the kiosk), but usually the employees ask you the questions while they are doing that.
We finally made it through, and I hunted down some Delta employees. I clearly told them that we had been told that our luggage would not make it, and we were still given the standard answer of having to pick up our bags even if we had a connection. I know they get asked dumb questions all day, but that’s why I started with the information that I already knew the procedure and what I was really asking about. Once we cleared up that I did understand, but again, we were told that our baggage wouldn’t make it, they kind of shrugged us off and told us that we could double check the baggage belt if we wanted, but if we were told that it wouldn’t be there, it probably wasn’t there.
The Verlobter suggested that we make one circle around the belt, and if we didn’t see it, to just move on. As we approached the belt, I saw my suitcase sliding down. While I was happy that we wouldn’t have to deal with a luggage claim, I was livid that all of my paranoia was justified. Now I will never believe anyone who tells me my baggage isn’t going to make it, and I’m going to be the crazy person who insists on having everything in writing before I move on. The KLM employee all the way back in Amsterdam didn’t even say that our luggage might be missing, she said it wasn’t going to make it. Definitively. My brain still explodes over this.
The rest of our journey was thankfully uneventful, except for spotting some parents allowing their child to play with Play-Doh on airport carpet.